Credit: Contributed

Asantewaa Harris, “a great grandmother in action,” has played one of the key roles in making essential changes within the community. Her relentless and loving presence in the call to actively turn back the damages of climate change started around 2004 and involved becoming a delegate at the United Nations and attending several meetings.

“Showing up is what I do,” says Harris, who also in 2005 had the first USDA authorized farmers’ market in Bushwick. The market became the community center for bringing direct relief to Louisiana’s Baton Rouge, Lafayette and Slidell after Hurricane Katrina hit. The market also attracted many visitors who took an interest in eating and living healthy.

As part of the Sisters Health & Wellness Collective, Harris says that change can happen even in the little things that we do, especially when it comes to the younger generation taking action. Joining the three days of activism earlier this year in April to support and salute the 50th Earth Day anniversary, a virtual campaign also took place alongside with Black Lives Matter who “also believes in living inside a healthier world too.”

“Marching is not necessarily going to get us results. It won’t get the job done,” says Harris, who believes we must actively change our routines. “There’s some things we have to get right. It helps with visibility and numbers but given where we are with a pandemic, social distancing is important.”

Small changes that will lead to huge progress in action against climate change include recycling, not using single-use plastics, using less energy and wasting less. Changes such as prohibiting the use of plastic shopping bags at retail and grocery shops are a start that will also positively help in the fight against climate change.

No stranger to change, Harris notes that COVID-19 and its effects are not the first pandemic that she witnessed just as climate change was not the first chance she took to fight for transformation. She was the project director of an organization during the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s that focused on meeting the needs of women as well as addressing issues and health concerns. This push is what led to an office of women’s health finally being established.

Harris also works behind the scenes contacting international leaders, making them aware of the racism and lack of Black representation that continuously happens here in the states as opposed to other countries where Black people are represented. “The USA boycotted the world conference against racism in September 2001,” she recalls. She states that America does not want to acknowledge that racism is here and that there needs to be a change.

Harris advises that everyone should pay more attention to the U.N. as she also urges people to get involved in changing things that are detrimental to the earth by simply doing things differently.

Asantewaa Harris and the Sisters Health & Wellness Network can be contacted by phone at 917-544-1095 or by email at ahgatnet@gmail.com.