Spotlighting advocates for environmental justice: LaTricea Adams with Black Millennials for Flint

LaTricea Adams credits her background as an educator with motivating and shaping her community advocacy work. For five years, Adams taught Spanish to middle and high school students in Nashville, Tennessee.

Now, she’s the Founder Chief Executive Officer and President of Black Millennials for Flint (BM4F) – a grassroots, environmental justice and civil rights organization with the purpose of bringing like-minded organizations together to collectively take action and advocate against the crisis of lead exposure specifically in African American and Latino communities throughout the nation.

Last month, we sat down (virtually) with Adams to learn about her experience advocating for environmental justice.

“Something about Flint hit me in the gut.”

That’s how Adams remembered seeing the coverage of the Flint tragedy in 2015. Originally from Memphis – a city she recalls having pristine water from a natural aquifer, though it has its own set of lead pipe issues – she realized how much we take clean, safe water for granted. She wanted to take action.

What started as an initiative with Adams’ former role as President of Thursday Network Greater Washington Urban League Young Professionals to ship clean water to Flint, soon became something much larger.

“It wasn’t my goal to start a nonprofit”

Struck by the impact of lead exposure across the country – not only in the city of Flint – Adams organized a national call with other advocates and leaders in early 2016. During that call, BM4F was officially formed, and they developed the movement’s action plan, which is still implemented today.

The group does it all – raising funds for impacted communities, advocating to prevent lead exposure, conducting public outreach and education, coalition-building, political advocacy, and more. But Adams specifically highlighted three initiatives that she “takes absolute pride in.”

The first is the Young Gifted and Green Summit – held annually during the Congressional Black Caucus week in Washington, DC, that grew from a 30-person event to nearly 2,000 for the virtual one in 2020.

And the second is their Lead Prevention Ambassador Program and Flint EJ Griot Program, leadership programs designed to train millennials and Gen Z leaders in advocacy for the eradication of lead and dismantling environmental racism. Adams explained that the program is designed with the model that “you don’t have to be a traditionally-trained environmentalist.” The ambassador cohorts have included attorneys, faith-based leaders, and more.

Adams also has made waves in her hometown of Memphis, TN where she partnered with the local county Mayor’s Office to establish the Shelby County Lead Prevention and Sustainability Commission – which is community-led and makes recommendations to local, state and federal elected officials and government agencies on how to best solve the National Lead Poisoning Crisis. The long-term goal is to replicate this commission as a national model.

New opportunities with the new administration

Adams, more recently, has been working to help “connect the dots” between intersectional issues in the environmental sphere, like climate change and lead exposure, and environmental justice and maternal health.

Last year, BM4F partnered with others to introduce a bill on Black maternal health that seeks to end preventable maternal mortality and close racial and ethnic disparities. Vice President Kamala Harris was instrumental with the bill, and the organization plans to push the administration for progress on the issue. In 2020, BM4F launched “The Black+Brown Alliance” which is a coalition of Black and Latina Women who work at the intersection of maternal health, reproductive justice and environmental justice.

BM4F will also be pushing for momentum on green workforce, infrastructure, and economy initiatives. Last June, an infrastructure package passed in the House that BM4F and EDF advocated for which included funding for full lead pipe replacement across the country. Adams says she hopes to see momentum on this issue – “making sure it focuses on the people” – with the new Congress and administration.

Above all else, Adams emphasized, “we need to be forward thinking about the implications of our actions for our children, who will eventually be adults in this world.”

Learn more about BM4F and follow them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.  You can also support one of their urgent causes to seek justice for the residents impacted by the Flint water crisis.

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