Our hero: Zakiya Harris, 33
Where she lives: Oakland, California
How she helps: Brings green job opportunities to urban youths
As a girl growing up in Oakland, Zakiya Harris was drawn to nature; in college, she embraced a green lifestyle, avoiding chemicals in her food and beauty products and devoting herself to reducing her carbon footprint. Later, teaching in elementary schools in low-income neighborhoods, she was struck by her students’ lack of environmental awareness. But she also understood. “For many communities of color, these issues often take a backseat because residents are dealing with day-to-day survival,” she says.
Harris was determined to teach children the benefits of sustainable living and in 2007 founded the grassroots group Grind for the Green (G4G), an organization devoted to educating kids about green issues as well as providing training in entry-level green jobs. She used hip-hop music as a hook. “We embraced it to make a deeper connection [with the kids],” she explains.
One early project was a free solar-powered hip-hop concert—the first of its kind—in San Francisco. Solar panels atop a mobile trailer generated all the electricity for the equipment, and the kids set up concession stands offering organic food and smoothies made in bicycle-powered blenders. The event proved successful, spawning other G4G concerts and attracting concert organizers and promoters who wanted to collaborate with G4G. “We’ve been able to tap into a demographic that other environmental groups couldn’t,” Harris says.
“Our events are completely produced by young people,” she adds. “We say, You go be the translators. Make this cool and relevant to your age group, your neighborhood.
“No one can tell me that poor folks or folks of color don’t care about the earth,” she adds. “I’ve seen communities become engaged once they’ve been empowered by education and learn a way to do something about it.”
Know a local hero? Visit American Towns to submit your nomination: americantowns.com/powerofone.
Just found the worst page in the entire dictionary. What I saw was disgraceful, disgusting, dishonest, and disingenuous.
Client: We need you to log in to the YouTube and make all our company videos viral.
My cat just walked up to the paper shredder and said, “Teach me everything you know.”
“Just because you can’t dance doesn’t mean you shouldn’t dance.” —Alcohol
@yoyoha (Josh Hara)
My parents didn’t want to move to Florida, but they turned 60 and that’s the law.
Q: What do you call an Amish guy with his hand in a horse’s mouth?
A: A mechanic.
More About Inspiring Stories
What You’re Sharing
- How Presidents Met Their First Ladies: 10 True Love Stories to Make You Say ‘Awww’
- “If You Find This Letter, Then It’s For You”: What It’s Like to Write Love Letters to Total Strangers
- Real-Life Ghost Story: Her Husband Had Been Dead For a Year. Then His Handprint Appeared on the Mirror.
- The Stranger Who Changed My Life: A Short Love Story
- 12 Short, Sweet Stories About Moms (That Will Make You Want to Call Yours)