words by willow defebaugh

photograph by al j. thompson

Welcome to The Overview, a weekly newsletter in which Editor-in-Chief Willow Defebaugh offers an expansive look at the latest events in climate and culture—and how it all fits together.

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In order to continue to #amplifymelanatedvoices, we are using this week’s newsletter to provide a list of important stories and perspectives published this week by Black journalists, writers, and thought leaders. I encourage you to read, listen to, and share each one.


“I’ve been raised to be wary. I’ve always been scared of the cops—the fear was passed like a name. Not scared, or not showing it, are the Black women on the other side of the police from me. Their voices are shred to ribbons of yell. Who fights for Black people more than Black women? Warrior matriarchs of our fed-up kingdom. Ribbons of chant, ribbons of no justice and fuck you. I’m a little braver next to them. I follow. Rattled and eyes stung, we make it home. Who is checking in on Black women? Who is fighting for them, their peace?” —Danez Smith, “Crying, Laughing, Crying at the George Floyd Protests in Minneapolis,” The New Yorker


“It’s such a strange experience to me to have white people come to me to tell me it’s not the time to talk about climate because we need to be worried about Black people…I don’t have to suddenly care about Black lives because I liveone. I always care about Black lives. And the two things are not extricable from one another. What I hear when I hear people saying that they can’t talk about climate and talk about racial justice at the same time is that I feel like you don’t understand either one, and also just you are less invested in one than the other.” —Mary Annaïse Heglar, Hot Take Podcast


“As a marine biologist and policy nerd, building community around climate solutions is my life’s work. But I’m also a Black person in the United States of America. I work on one existential crisis, but these days I can’t concentrate because of another…how can we expect Black Americans to focus on climate when we are so at risk on our streets, in our communities, and even within our own homes?” —Dr. Ayana Eliza Johnson, “I’m a Black Climate Expert: Racism Derails Our Attempts to Fight the Climate Crisis,” The Washington Post


“Tired isn’t even the word…And for Black LGBTQ+ people, the exhaustion compounds when the conversation isn’t inclusive of the ways that Black queer, trans and gender-nonconforming people experience violence from a confluence of police officers, bigots, and even people within our communities who see our dual identities as a liability rather than as causes for love and celebration.” —Derrick Clifton, “Racism is Exhausting Black People. Here’s What We Need,” them


“Just as neutrality won’t put you in good stead with the cause of righteousness, neither will claims that you’re ‘not racist.’ The notion is a myth; certainly 400-plus years of deeply ingrained social programming didn’t simply skip over you, regardless of your good intentions. Racism lives within all of us. Your active allyship work begins with letting this realization sink in, and then taking steps towards becoming anti-racist.” —Roxanne Fequire, “What We Want: Allies Who Do More than Instagram,” Vogue


“It’s important for us to understand which levels of government have the biggest impact on our criminal justice system and police practices. When we think about politics, a lot of us focus only on the presidency and the federal government. And yes, we should be fighting to make sure that we have a president, a Congress, a U.S. Justice Department, and a federal judiciary that actually recognize the ongoing, corrosive role that racism plays in our society and want to do something about it. But the elected officials who matter most in reforming police departments and the criminal justice system work at the state and local levels.” —President Barack Obama, “How to Make this Moment the Turning Point for Real Change,” Medium


“It’s going to take more than just a handsome donation to the NAACP or an empty vow to hire more black storytellers behind the scenes without actually doing so or an equally hollow apology castigating your own actions without a full understanding of why. It needs to be a complete overhaul of your way of thinking and doing today and every other day that follows. One of the most urgent things that these daily protests have made crystal clear is that what was once passable can no longer be tolerated. Accountability is not merely a suggestion but a mandate that has similarly merciless impact if not adhered.” —Candice Frederick, “The Brands Rushing to Defend Black Lives Used to Silence Us. Does It Get More Shameless?” The Guardian

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