Vanessa Nakate, the 23-year-old Ugandan activist who was cropped from a photo with white climate activists by news agency AP, is turning a negative experience in to a positive one by using her now raised profile to “help amplify unheard voices”.
The Kampala native had appeared at a joint press conference in Davos with other climate activists, including Greta Thunberg, Loukina Tille, Luisa Neubauer and Isabelle Axelsson.
But when the news agency published a photo of the event, Vanessa Nakate had been cut from the image – which showed only the four white activists.
Speaking out via a video posted on social media on 24 January, Vanessa Nakate, who founded climate action groups Youth for Future Africa and the Rise Up Movement Kenya, said: “We don’t deserve this. Africa is the least emitter of carbons, but we are the most affected by the climate crisis. You erasing our voices won’t change anything. You erasing our stories won’t change anything.”
Naturally her video response went viral and she gained hundreds of thousands of followers across her social media platforms, giving her a far larger platform to advocate for change than she had before Davos.
The 23-year-old is now using the AP photo cropping incident to her advantage. She took to Twitter to say: “Now that I can reach a larger audience, I am going to use my platform to help amplify unheard voices!”
AP has since apologised for the cropped photo claiming it to be an “honest mistake” but Vanessa Nakate expressed the truth of the matter. She said: “They changed the photo to where I was in the middle. That means they had other photos and chose to use that one. So no, I don’t believe their statement or their apology.”
Vanessa Nakate, who described AP’s cropping of the photo as her first experience of racism, pointed out that while white activists are often celebrated, black activists are often ignored, and their efforts largely go underappreciated.
Yet, African nations are the ones that are boldly leading on climate solutions including the Great Green Wall, the planting of trees across an 8000km cross-country stretch to combat the effects of climatic change and desertification, and leading on green energy initiatives throughout the country.
While other countries look to “climate scientists” and “innovative solutions” to solving the climate crisis, African countries are putting into action very real and very practical solutions that work in harmony with Mother Nature.
Vanessa Nakate got involved in climate activism in 2018 because of the unique threats facing her country. In an interview with Democracy Now, she said: “My country heavily depends on agriculture, therefore most of the people depend on agriculture. So, if our farms are destroyed by floods, if the farms are destroyed by droughts and crop production is less, that means that the price of food is going to go high.”
She has also led strikes outside the Ugandan parliament to protest against climate inaction and rising temperatures, and campaigned for climate initiatives across the continent, including protecting rainforests in Congo.
Rosa Medea is Life & Soul Magazine’s Chief. She writes about lifestyles including sustainable and green living. She also offers content services to businesses and individuals at Rosamedea.com