#TerraChamps: Political Science and Environmental Justice with Jordan Chatman
“That was the moment I knew I needed to get more politically engaged and fight for the forgotten and downtrodden.” That’s just a snippet from our conversation with Jordan Chatman, but it demonstrates why we’re honored to feature him as our next #TerraChamp!
Jordan’s political engagement likely stems from his Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science, but where he completed his studies was likely more impactful. Until he graduated in 2015, Jordan was a student at Tuskegee University, one of the highest-ranking Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).
Fellow alumni include Lionel Richie, Alice Coachman, Keenen Wayans, Amelia Robinson, Tom Joyner, Al Green, and many more Black men and women who would go on to become military leaders, American Civil Rights activists, esteemed authors, radio hosts, inventors, and athletes—to barely scratch the surface of their accomplishments.
As an interpretive guide at Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, Jordan was able to share the stories of some of America’s other great leaders—George Washington Carver and Booker T. Washington. In fact, drawing upon some of their experiences and countless and tireless work to create a better world is where Jordan finds some of his inspiration to do the same (see above quote).
He’s used his passions and storytelling and sustainable living to fuel his political activism, a political activism that also sheds light on Black history and brings a consideration of diverse voices and influences to the table. And quite the political activist he is! In addition to working as an event producer (including for the 59th Presidential Inauguration(!!)), he’s also rubbed elbows with many other environmental and social justice leaders—including the CEO of Patagonia and the newly-elected Georgia senator, Jon Ossoff.
Additionally, Jordan was a member of the Greening Youth Foundation and is currently a Council member for the Intersectional Environmentalist (along with another #TerraChamp, Isaias Hernandes!). We could go on and on about Jordan’s accolades, but recommend that you check them out yourself by reading our full interview with him and following him on Instagram (@jhaichat).
Hi Jordan! How do you think the Ossoff and Warnock’s Georgia Senate victories will impact climate change?
The Ossoff and Warnock elections represent a new paradigm of conscious thinkers and voters. Their victories should have a positive impact on climate and social justice policies for at-least the next two years. Once the Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris breaks the tie in the Senate and gives the Dems the majority, President-Elect Biden will have the ability to pass progressive legislation and reverse the detrimental policies put forth by the previous administration. Climate change has been ignored the last four years but with a Democratic majority in the House and Senate, the next Congress will have the ability to reverse the previous administration’s climate deregulation and steer us on a path towards healing and hopefully preventing future disasters. I’m not sure if that means passing the Green New Deal will pass within the first 100 days, how soon we’ll rejoin the Paris Agreement or immediately preventing oil drilling in the Arctic but we are in a much better position to implement sustainable environmental policies and critical social justice reform.
Can you remember the moment you began a career in political activism? Do you have any other passions that tie into it?
When I was a student at Tuskegee University I had the privilege of working at the Tuskegee Institute National Historic Site, which includes the Selma-to Montgomery National Historic Site, The Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site, “The Oaks” home of Booker T. Washington, and the George Washington Carver Museum. As I learned about the valiant efforts of the men and women who served as Tuskegee Airmen, the tireless work and countless inventions of Dr. Carver or the hundreds of courageous individuals who were beaten and bruised on Bloody Sunday, but would rise to march across the Edmund Pettis bridge in the name of freedom and justice, I asked myself, “What can I do to build upon their legacy?” That was the moment I knew I needed to get more politically engaged and fight for the forgotten and downtrodden.
Other passions that fuel my political activism are storytelling, sustainable living and learning history, especially black history. When Dr. Carver arrived at Tuskegee Institute; he didn’t have a sophisticated office with the latest tools and gadgets a scientist of his caliber would garner, instead, he went to the trash pile and started his laboratory with empty bottles, old fruit jars and anything else he could find. Similarly, he would use the “alluvial clay” native to Alabama and natural dyes to create natural dyes and paints as a cheaper, more sustainable option because he knew most under-resourced rural farmers didn’t have the wherewithal to beautify their homes and garments. As an interpretive guide at Tuskegee Institute National Historic site I had the privilege of bringing those stories to life by sharing them with individuals from around the world, implementing lessons that I learned and inspiring people to share the stories with their communities.
What is the one impact most important to you, to leave on the planet?
Learning to live for others - being selfless. So often, and I’m guilty of this, we don’t think about the impact that our decisions have on others, including our planet, and we make decisions based on self-preservation. For me, my mindset didn’t change until I began to recognize my own privilege and saw the impact of my decisions. It started with examining my plastic usage and has since evolved to realizing that I have been blessed with certain things that others may not be as fortunate to have or experience. So I decided to become more environmentally conscious in my day-to-day decision making and be intentional about sharing the privileges that I have been afforded.
Who have been your biggest #TerraChamps aka supporters or inspiration in your life?
I have a long list of #TerraChamps, but I’ll try to group them together. First, I would say my family has been the biggest supporters in my life. They are always there for me and have made tremendous sacrifices to make sure I have everything I need in life. Second, my friends, colleagues, and mentors have been inspirations to me. Whether it was my 5th grade teacher who inspired me dream big and be the best that I can be, brilliant friends who were able to accomplish amazing things despite challenging situations, or colleagues that took the time to teach me about composting, how to surf, or even how to repair a rip in your pants, it was through their efforts that I am who I am today. I firmly believe it takes a village to raise a child, and I’m a product of that philosophy and I hope to be an inspiration and supporter to someone else.