Kari Fulton is the National Campus Campaign Coordinator for the Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative. Fulton works to support and mobilize diverse youth and organizations by building awareness of the connection between environmental and social justice issues.
Noted as a young leader to watch by Elle and Glamour magazine, Fulton was a member of the planning committee for both Power Shift 2007 and Power Shift 2009 the largest youth summits and lobby days on climate in US history. Through her work in the youth climate movement, Fulton was awarded the Brower Youth Award (Earth Island Institute) and the Damu Smith Power of One Young Professional Award (Deep South Center For Environmental Justice at Dillard University).
Currently, Fulton acts as a spokesperson for the Energy Action Coalition is a senior fellow with Young People For the American Way (YP4) and a member of the YP4 Leadership Academy. She is also a graduate of the John H. Johnson School of Communications at Howard University. In her spare time Fulton is a blogger on checktheweather.net and a member of the board of directors for the Lets Raise A Million Project and Dreaming Out Loud, an after-school program in DC.
Question: What is the hardest part of your work?
Kari Fulton: I think that what frustrates me the most is it's... it's very... I think regardless of where you're at in a non-profit sector, it is a very hard duty because the struggle starts to me the thing to be honest with you, the saddest part to me is that you watch communities, advocate and fight for people to clean up their communities and then like the best example to me is Hunter's Point in San Francisco and you work so hard to advocate to get your community cleaned up, to get a power plant or oil rig or whatever close in your community and it'll finally get done and then developer will start showing up and gentrifying the community and the people who fought for decades just to get something out, can't even afford to live there anymore.
And to me that is the most frustrating part of all these work is like, why are we fussing so hard just so you can move us out, just so that you could live in the good air and the good community that I strived so hard to get. So, in that whole strategic vision the bigger plan of things is that EJ is not just about the struggle. You know, I don't want to think that but is the most frustrating thing to me is that people think that it's just a struggle but you... I don't need comrades in the struggle, I need comrades in my bubble and we're going to blow until we pop. Because this is way bigger than a struggle, this is a strategic vision for how we can embrace and build up our communities and that's why from jump street, I was like, "We need to just clean them up," because when I went down to Gulf Coast and when I was in Gulfport I said, "Yeah, a storm had hit these houses but these houses weren't weatherized in the first place. These homes weren't prepared for a storm in the first place and now you have people who got their payment check and they got all kinds of new brand new cars and the only people who has set up shop was the dope boys," and to me that is not the way. Environmental justice is not about that, environmental justice is about reclaiming our communities, not just fighting to save them, it's about building up a real community and building up that idea of collective responsibility for your community. So, in that aspect, that is the most frustrating is that people spend so much time just fighting that they never see past that fight, they never see the day after the fight has won. So, hopefully, out of that frustration comes true action and true change so even though a lot of us have been displaced from or you know, from our communities and these urban cities like Harlem or you know, U Street Corridor of DC or all these different places, we can still build up that environmental justice issue and we can still reclaim the suburbs or wherever we're being displaced to and make it our own and make it even better.
Recorded on: May 8, 2009