For the past decade, Hip Hop Caucus founder Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. has made consistent efforts to educate the African-American community and younger generations on climate change through several initiatives.
The White House honored him for his work in the environmental sector, along with 11 other people of faith who are leading the charge on green issues, this week with the "White House Champions of Change Award." Yearwood said it felt great to receive the accolade, especially as a former White House intern, but that the special moment was not only about him.
"It was really for the hip hop community," Rev. Yearwood told BET.com. "I was just really standing in that position as the president of the Hip Hop Caucus because I think it was just the evolution ever since Hurricane Katrina that young people have been organizing around trying to green their communities. Everything from green jobs to dealing with pollution."
His award-winning Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign is a coalition that advocated for the rights of Hurricane Katrina survivors. Most recently, the Hip Hop Caucus launched People's Climate Music by bringing popular recording artists Common, Elle Varner, Ne-Yo and more together for the HOME EP, which is an acronym for "Heal Our Mother Earth."
He added that moving forward, initiatives must recognize "that climate change is also a civil rights issue." "We have a right to clean water. We have a right to clean air. And we gon' get it," he said.
Moving forward, Yearwood said he would like to see society transition from fossil fuel to clean energy and the use of wind, solar and other renewable elements for power.
"The Clean Power Plan that President Obama and the Environment Protection Agency are putting forth is crucial," said Yearwood. According to Energy Justice Network, 68 percent of African-Americans live within 30 miles of a coal power plant, which puts them at risk for respiratory diseases.
For more information about the Hip Hop Caucus's music project tackling environmental issues, visit People's Climate Music online.
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