Black History Month

Black History Month 2020: Rev. Mariama White-Hammond fights climate change with fellowship

BOSTON — From the pulpit at the church she founded in Dorchester, to leading statewide rallies for environmental justice, New Roots AME pastor, Rev. Mariama White-Hammond’s work centers on combining spirituality with science.

“We live in a world where a lot of things are separated into separate boxes, and I kind of ignore some of those boxes and do what I feel called to do,” she explains while sitting in the church’s greenhouse at the Epiphany School.

White-Hammond comes from a family of well-known Boston community organizers who encouraged her activism. Her father is Rev. Ray Hammond, founder of the Ten Point Coalition Against Youth Gang Violence, and the former chair of the Boston Foundation. Her mother, the Rev. Gloria White-Hammond, is a trustee at Tufts and a leader in the movement to save Darfur.

“I remember in the 7th grade I boycotted Coca Cola because of their engagement in South Africa, “ she says. “And I went to a camp where everything was Coke products. So, I remember drinking water every day and like kids would come up to me and be like, ‘don’t you want some of this soda?’ I’ve always been trying to figure out, ‘how do I live out what I believe’.”

But White-Hammond didn’t always want to be a minister. She studied agricultural policy and human rights law in college. In 2005, she was the director of “Project Hip Hop," a youth arts program for students of color, a position she held for 11 years. In one year, five of her students were shot and two of them died. When Hurricane Katrina hit, she says she got on a plane.

Volunteering at church, she was asked to lead bible study, and that’s when she got her calling.

“I remember afterwards two women who were in the bible study said, ‘you know, you should think about going into ministry.’ And I was, like, they’re traumatized, they don’t know what they’re talking about. And a few months later, I was at another gathering around juvenile justice and two people I had known less than 24 hours, both said to me, ‘when are you going to accept your call to ministry?'” she said.

White-Hammond answered the call, and the rest is history, woven into Boston’s progressive movements. Reverend White-Hammond is an active racial justice and climate justice activist. She is currently a leader in the MA Interfaith Coalition for Climate Action, Green the Church, and other grassroots efforts. She has been active in Attorney General Maura Healey’s racial equity advisory council, and has been an outspoken advocate for issues ranging from immigrants rights to the fight for a statewide $15 minimum wage.

Reverend White-Hammond was arrested along with 22 others in 2017 while protesting the installation of a natural gas pipeline in West Roxbury. Her latest work involves lobbying for the passage of Senator Ed Markey’s federal climate plan -- the Green New Deal.

Reverend White-Hammond admits she’s very busy, but completely energized by her work. She quotes Howard Thurman, mentor to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., saying, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”