Anti-racism campaigner Mumbi on interconnected struggles, the energy of collective power at COP26 and campaigning with their community

Campaign Bootcamp trainer Nim catches up with Bootcamp community member Mumbi on climate justice being at the heart of anti-racism work, finding your local community and more

Tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to COP26

I’m an anti-racism campaigner and organiser, and member of Black Lives Matter UK.  I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by people who have taught me so much about how climate justice is absolutely at the heart of anti-racism work, and challenging the legacies of colonialism. 

I’m here as an anti-racism campaigner who understands that we have to connect our struggles.  [At Black Lives Matter in 2016] we did a big action around the expansion of London City Airport, in one of the poorest boroughs in London. We wanted to highlight how the pollution the airport would bring would directly impact impoverished working-class people.

Being able to come to Glasgow, I’ve also been able to reflect a lot more and understand what’s going on right here in Scotland in terms of climate change. I’ve been exploring questions like: where are the places in Glasgow like the South Circular in London, which is one of the most polluted areas in the whole of Europe? We’re talking to and working with people who’ve been completely screwed over in and around Glasgow. 

After the [Global Day of Action] march in London, I went online and saw that there were actions all over the world, and I really felt in that moment a sense of collective power…it was Black and brown and racialised communities that were leading many of the marches and protests.

I’m also here because I think some amazing migrant rights is organising happening in Glasgow, both around COP26 and outside of it. How those connections are being made is really important. From the talks that I’ve been to, there’s people from places as far as Oakland and Miami talking about the floods and hurricanes that have happened there. I’ve heard about how people on the frontline of defending their communities from climate change are often women, and are more often criminalised for that work – incarcerated alongside indigenous people who doing vital work protecting waters and rivers from pollution. 

All of these stories are exactly the things that we have to be connected to right now. There’s an amazing set of people here, who can be in dialogue in a way that we normally can’t in our everyday lives.

What’s been your highlight campaigning around COP26 so far?

On Saturday [6th November], there was the Global Day of Action with hundreds of different protest marches and demonstrations happening across the world; I was in London at Trafalgar Square. 

When we have these moments, which are often really hard to organise and can feel a bit pointless, it’s important to think of who’s hearing these messages. After the march in London, I went online and saw that there were actions all over the world, and I really felt in that moment a sense of collective power. Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people coming out. I feel really energised by that! It was Black and brown and racialised communities that were leading many of the marches and protests. The speeches I saw were incredible. 

In Glasgow the police showed up in the ways that they always do, trying to crack down on protesters. But there were so many groups ready to support those being harassed and arrested. People were talking about how abolition is so important when thinking about the climate, as well as people expressing grief for all of the frontline defenders and environmental workers who’ve been murdered by the state or people with power.

The action focussed against policing was particularly important and really powerful. The images I saw were incredible and left me feeling super energised.

What’s the one thing you would tell people who are passionate about climate justice but don’t know how to start campaigning on it?

I would tell them what has been true to my experience, which is, go outside, go into your community, find out what’s going on there. I am from Zambia but left when I was 6 years old. For most of my life, I’ve lived in Lewisham in South London, right by the South Circular, where Ella Kissi-Debrah died when she was nine years old.

Ella was a young Black girl who had severe asthma and is the first person to have written on her death certificate that she died as a result of air pollution. That is where I grew up. I also have asthma and so do loads of people around me, as well as other medical conditions connected to where they grew up. 

That’s where I’ve learned about climate justice. I’ve experienced the impact of pollution, of climate change. I’ve just tried to understand what is going on locally, how I’m affected, and how my family and my community are impacted. I’ve also tried to connect that to how my families and community are impacted in Zambia. Then connected that to a broader struggle of my indigenous families, my communities and chosen families – my queer family, my working-class family. I think starting small is absolutely fine. Ask questions and do not be afraid.

Thanks, Mumbi!

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