Naadiya Hutchinson speaks at a climate rally in front of the Supreme Court building in D.C. on July 6. (Kayla Benjamin/The Washington Informer)
Naadiya Hutchinson speaks at a climate rally in front of the Supreme Court building in D.C. on July 6. (Kayla Benjamin/The Washington Informer)

$20,000 and a one-on-one mentor: Tom’s of Maine launches incubator for BIPOC climate leaders

Ciara Imani May, 28-year-old CEO of a brand-new natural hair extensions company Rebundle, says building her business has meant relying on a network of mentors. Now she’s flipping the script—May will be one of several mentors with the Tom’s of Maine Incubator, a new program aimed at supporting young Black, Indigenous, and people of color entrepreneurs and activists in the climate space. 

“This incubator is being intentional about providing value by matching [participants] up with mentors,” May said. “This is a well-rounded program that is meant to support them at whatever stage they’re at.”

The seven-month incubator will offer five BIPOC climate change leaders $20,000 in funding alongside opportunities for amplification, workshopping, and mentorship. Applications are open until October 19 at 11:59 PM. 

“There is such a disparity, and a lack of resources for Black, Indigenous, people of color in the environmental space,” said climate activist Kristy Drutman, founder of Green Jobs Board and another one of the program’s mentors. “Having a brand actually redistribute funds and opportunities to communities who need it the most, I think is the way that brands, moving forward, need to take action tangibly to address the climate crisis.” 

Environmental and climate-related harms—including air pollution, extreme temperatures, and severe weather events—disproportionately fall on Black Americans. Yet people of color remain severely underrepresented in established environmental institutions, according to a 2021 report from environmental justice researcher Dr. Dorceta Taylor. 

The Tom’s of Maine Incubator aims to provide both financial resources and community support to young BIPOC leaders focused on environmental solutions. After the October 19 deadline, a panel will evaluate the applications; recipients will be announced in November. The program will start with a 3-day summit in Kennebunk, Maine, where the cohort will spend time with mentors and leadership at Tom’s of Maine. 

“People who are curious, hungry for answers, have a very clear program or initiative in mind and want to be a part of a bigger community to give back to their own communities—I think that’s the ideal candidate that we’re looking for,” Drutman said. 

Green in the DMV: Upcoming environmental events

The Green Fair at Oxon Run

  • When: Saturday, October 8 from 10 AM to 6 PM
  • Where: Oxon Run Park along Valley Avenue
  • What: Appreciate outdoor space with a county fair-esque celebration hosted by Friends of Oxon Run Park, The Well, and DC Parks and Recreation. The family-friendly event will include vendors, art displays, and entertainment with a theme: “think green, grow green, eat green.”

Poplar Point Listening Session

  • When: Wednesday, October 12 from 6 to 7:30 PM
  • Where: Virtual, register here
  • What: Poplar Point is a piece of land along the Anacostia, next to the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge, that has been ignored and polluted for decades. A group of passionate citizens, some of whom have been advocating for Poplar Point’s rehabilitation for years, is pushing DC government to do something with the spot—and they want to hear from you.

Hot topic: local transportation legislation matters for our health

D.C. Council passed a bill banning right turns on red for drivers and allowing cyclists to treat stop signs as yield signs Tuesday, Oct. 4. The second measure, when implemented in other states, has been shown to reduce bike crashes and injuries. The Safer Streets Amendment Act would go into effect in two years.  

It’s not the only transportation-focused bill to come before the council recently: D.C. Council’s Committee on Transportation and Environment voted late last month to move forward with a bill that would give all District residents $100 a month for Metro and provide $10 million to improve bus service, especially in underserved areas. Though Chairman Phil Mendelson hasn’t set a date for a vote, GGWash reported that council staffers think the legislation is likely to get through before the end of the year. 

Why does this matter? Making it easier to get around without a car is a vital part of fighting climate change and reducing air pollution. Last year, the American Lung Association gave D.C. an ‘F’ for ozone pollution, or smog, which is created mostly by vehicle traffic and causes breathing issues, especially for children and people with asthma. 

Air pollution in D.C. disproportionately harms Black residents, and the more the city can do to get cars off the road, the safer all families will be. 

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