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HBCU Graduate Student Researchers Lead Development of BSI's 1st State of Black Sustainability Report

Updated: Jun 4

It is the young trees that make up the forest. - African Proverb

Due to an absence of community-owned data related to the impacts and solutions around climate and environmental challenges in the Black community, Black Sustainability, Inc. is developing a State of Black Sustainability Report (SBSR), FOR us, BY us. We were intentional in our outreach to identify student researchers, from HBCU’s (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), AU’s (African Universities) and MSI’s (Minority-serving Institutions) to support the research and report development.

The State of Black Sustainability Report will:

Address a gap in the knowledge sector about where Black people stand in regard to sustainability issues and building resilient communities. This report will also offer members a foundation of understanding of the current State of Black Sustainability while informing the strategies that we should take collectively to create a sustainable and wholly-fulfilling future, created for us, by us. In addition this report will offer a baseline on which to build our work.

The selected students are joining our Executive Director & Co-Founder, Raina Turner-Greenlea and BSI Research Committee Lead, Nene Igietseme, Ph.D. in the development of our first comprehensive State of Black Sustainability report to ensure our research is community-owned and controlled. The report will be released in Black August AND feature and immersive in-person experience at the 9th Annual Black Sustainability Summit!

Since 2000, there has been a State of the Black Union in the United States to consider issues of particular relevance in the African American community. Recognizing that people of African descent disproportionately face similar challenges around the globe as a result of anti-African/Blackness, the State of the Black World started in 2001 to enhance the capacity of Black communities in the U.S. and globally to achieve cultural, social, economic and political equality and an enhanced quality of life for all marginalized people.

The Gap

Sadly, neither of these events have addressed our climate/environment/connection to the planet as a major theme/focus until this year. Black Sustainability's goal over the past 7 years has been to hold space to convene frontline Black and Green leaders and solution providers that focus on the gap mainstream Big Green Organizations and our Black leaders have missed. It is in this complementary spirit that we are developing a State of Black Sustainability to address our ability to truly enhance our global communities with practical skills and affordable solutions so we can thrive in line with nature by applying indigenous wisdom to modern day challenges. Our deepest hope is our State of Black Sustainability Report is able to inform the masses and complement the longstanding State of the Black Union/Black World so we can collectively move forward.

Why HBCU's

This cannot and should not happen without input from the rising generation so we are intentionally seeking researchers from HBCU's + MSI's across the nation and African Universities/Institutions to support our effort.

Our Approach

Researchers will use mixed methods approaches including surveys, expert interviews, focus groups, literature reviews, as well as quantitative data analysis. Key duties of student researchers include:

  • Survey development and deployment. Researchers will design and execute a deployment strategy to achieve baseline responses to an initial survey to BSI’s membership of over 2000 experts, entities, and enthusiasts.

  • Data collection and analysis. Researchers will ensure statistically significant responses to the survey, providing edits as needed; and triangulate responses using qualitative research methods to supplement understanding of the data.

  • Provide support for BSI’s ad hoc and interim research and development needs

  • Participatory action research. Researchers will directly connect with members of the BSI network and experts in their region to contribute to and answer the questions in the survey, with a focus on how the information gathered could be useful to them as well.

  • Identify and co-develop new scientific concepts, technologies, and/or products that provide solutions to global challenges

  • Enable organizational decisions by providing clear communication of results to technical teams, management, and members

  • Data visualization and report co-authorship. Researchers will contribute to the development of the report through the design of tables, graphs, maps, and other innovative (simple and effective) data visualization methods.

  • Timely documentation and generation of intellectual property

  • Manage and lead projects to accomplish organizational objectives, including but not limited to the release of the State of Black Sustainability Report by coordinating with other professionals

  • Engage with others to achieve superior results and execute value-driven outcomes


Omotola Oladapo, 2023-2024 BSI Research Intern

School: Georgia State University (Minority-serving institution - MSI)

Focus: Masters in Public Policy

"I was inspired to apply for the Black Sustainability Student Research position due to my deep-rooted passion for sustainability and a strong belief in the significance of addressing environmental and social issues. With over 10 years of volunteering experience and visits to marginalized communities in my home country, Nigeria, I have witnessed the pressing need for improvements to create livable conditions. This firsthand experience has fueled my determination to be part of the solution.

I am enthusiastic about the opportunity to engage in meaningful research that not only advances our understanding of sustainability but also addresses the unique challenges faced by Black communities in this context. I firmly believe that this position aligns perfectly with my academic and personal interests, enabling me to make a meaningful contribution to the field of sustainability while advocating for social and environmental justice."

Omatola's academic concentration in global affairs covering education, urban planning, conflict management, and fostering alternative economies, closely aligns with the mission of Black Sustainability, Inc.

Aliyah Hamer, 2023-2024 BSI Research Intern

School: Clark Atlanta University (HBCU)

Focus: Masters in Business Administration

"I wanted to apply for this because I felt a strong desire to try something different and embark on a new learning journey. Getting involved in the community and contributing to meaningful projects were essential aspects of my motivation. By participating, I hope to expand my knowledge, develop new skills, and make a positive impact on my community."

Aliyah has shared that she feels her MBA isn't just a business degree, it's a tool to tackle Black sustainability head-on. From starting her own eco-friendly business to advising green investments, shaping impactful policy, or driving change within companies, the possibilities are endless. With her skills and passion, she is ready to create a future where Black communities and the environment thrive together.

Autumn Dancy, 2024 BSI Research Intern

School: Florida Agricultural Mechanical University (HBCU)

Focus: B.S. Environmental Science

Autumn Dancy is a Florida native who fell in love with identifying environmental hazards and tackling responses to them. She has seen first hand the degradation of her local lagoon since childhood and has become an active student at FAMU. Autumn started a campus composting program in the absence of a university led initiative and has even taken action in her local city to prevent the expansion of a boat marina by getting enough signatures to get it on the ballot.

With a strong passion for environmental communication, animal activism and environmental justice, Autumn brings a powerful, confident energy to the team.

Kandake Wallace, 2024 Lead Graduate Student Researcher

School: Florida Agricultural Mechanical University (HBCU)

Focus: Ph.D. Candidate, School of the Environment

Kandake May Wallace is a Ph.D. candidate at Florida A&M University’s School of the Environment. Sister Kandake's research is focused on environmental justice and political participation. She joins the BSI team as the Lead Graduate Student Researcher guiding the next phase of our State of Black Sustainability Report.

She shared what led her to join our team was, "Because of my passion for, and commitment to, sustainability and utilize my scholarship, skillset, and service in environmental justice and science to educate and empower my community."

As a first-generation doctoral student with a lineage from the Global South, Wallace comes from a working-class blended family that taught her the values of hard work, compassion and resiliency, which have shaped her identity as an academic and activist. A two-time HBCU scholar, she graduated from Howard University with a B.S. in Chemistry. She is also investigating the relationship between air pollution exposure and voter turnout in Florida, with an aim to inform policy and funding decisions surrounding environmental justice efforts.


Rest assured, you will be hearing from them soon as they ground truth the State of Black Sustainability Report with each of you at your Industry House Meetings!!!

If you feel your institution is committed to sustainability and climate solutions that will positively impact Black communities, we invite you to ask your institution to match our funding, sponsor at least 1 student researcher/graduate research assistant or offer credits to additional students interested in contributing to this inaugural report. If you know of any students that would be a good fit, we would LOVE to have you encourage them to apply.


We would be remiss if we didn't extend additional gratitude and major thanks to BSN Member Blythe Coleman-Mumford for her leadership and commitment to support HBCU student education. Through her challenging her mainstream organization to invest in opportunities for the next generation, we received a portion of funding for our researchers!

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