Greenhouse Pioneer: Zakiya McKenzie & Jasmine Ketibuah-Foley


Sustainable Bristol

The very first ‘Green & Black’ show was broadcast on Bristol’s Ujima Radio in October 2014, as the city geared up for its year as European Green Capital 2015. A panel debate examined the absence of BME leaders within the sustainability sector and explored ways to engage ethnic minorities in the city’s green endeavours.

Ujima continued the Green & Black series and in 2016 a pilot project was launched in partnership with the Bristol Green Capital Partnership and the University of Bristol, which aimed to make the city’s sustainability movement more inclusive.

Believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, the project was spearheaded by two ambassadors, Zakiya McKenzie and Jasmine (Jazz) Ketibuah-Foley, who received training and support to empower them to conduct research, encourage engagement, showcase best practice and champion inclusive projects on local, national and international platforms.

An evaluation report was published last month, sharing the successes and learnings of the pilot project, which will hopefully attract sufficient funding to extend it to a longer term programme.

We caught up with Jazz and Zakiya to find out what worked and who they look to for inspiration.

  1. Tell us, in 20 words or fewer, about the Green & Black ambassadors – what’s your mission? 

[JK-F] The Green & Black ambassadors is an initiative aimed at achieving a more diverse environmental community by challenging, engaging and empowering.

[ZM] Our mission is to act as a bridge between corporates and grassroots organisations working towards environmental sustainability.

  1. What drives you? 

[JK-F] I have always been driven by others. Wanting to hear people’s stories and just listen has been at the heart of my career as a broadcast journalist and researcher. Being able to give people a platform to have their stories heard is very rewarding.

[ZM] The desire to see a better quality of life in our natural and built environment for people from different backgrounds, not just those of us that can afford better. I have the privilege to be heard and the opportunity to speak up, so I do.

  1. What are your greatest achievements to date? 

[JK-F] The greatest achievement has been our Photovoice project which is still live, as well as the radio shows we produced, inviting conversations on inclusivity and diversity in environmentalism.

[ZM] We’ve received a lot of interest from people both inside and outside of the UK who have taken on board some of the methods from our project and used them in other cities.

  1. What challenges did you face?

[JK-F] A constant challenge is getting the message out that everyone is interested and concerned with environmental issues. We just do our bit in different ways, some less obvious than others. The notion that people who don’t have lots of money or are from diverse communities don’t engage in sustainability is simply not true. We just need to be having those conversations in different communities. Not just in the usual spaces.

[ZM] Funding is always a major problem. The pilot project was realised thanks to seed funding from the Bristol Green Capital Partnership and the University of Bristol (through their Cabot Institute Innovation Fund and PolicyBristol) with support from Up Our Street who hosted us for two months, but there was a lot more that could have been achieved with more resource.

  1. What are you working on now that’s getting you fired up and excited?

[JK-F] Really excited to finish the photovoice ‘Through My Lens’ project. We are working with students from UWE and as it is a photography-based project, we are making plans to exhibit our findings around Bristol.

Green & Black

[ZM] I’m currently studying a PhD in Caribbean Literature. My Green & Black experience has given me some very relevant insights, particularly the interaction with academics and ethnic minority communities.

  1. Where do you want to take the ambassadors project next? 

[JK-F] We will soon be looking to appoint new Green & Black ambassadors. This will be exciting times, making the team bigger and bringing in new ideas for community engagement and research!

[ZM] We’re applying for funding to recruit more ambassadors – ideally a new cohort every year or two – who can be supported over an extended period of time.

  1. What can we, as individuals, do to make a difference?

[JK-F] Just listening to others and finding out what concerns them the most! If we want to start conversations on issues within our environment and sustainability, we need to be able to listen first. People can be surprising. Maybe you’ll find out your neighbour does something innovative to save energy or reduce waste.

[ZM] One of the easiest things each of us can do is sort our rubbish and recycle. There’s so much waste and so much unnecessary packaging that can be re-used.

  1. How is what you are doing inspiring change in others?

[JK-F] When you approach people to talk about environmental issues, everyone has an opinion but these conversations in Bristol tend to happen in certain spaces which can make people feel excluded. We have been bringing these conversations to people in their communities which has been met with a really positive response.

[ZM] I’m not sure that we’re inspiring change so much as proving that there are lessons to be learned from many different places. I think we’re good at highlighting different stories and different ways of doing things, and I think it’s always good to share ideas and experiences.

  1. Can you recommend a life- or game-changing book for our readers? 

[JK-F] Wild: An Elemental Journey by Jay Griffiths.

[ZM] Guyana, Fragile Frontier by Marcus Colchester.

  1. What do you listen to when you’re cooking dinner?

[JK-F] Sudan Archives – Water

[ZM] Anything by Kabaka Pyramid, one of the leaders of the new school of roots reggae.

  1. What’s the best advice you’ve ever been given? 

[JK-F] To be patient always and brush your teeth in the shower 🙂

[ZM] My mother always repeated a Jamaican proverb – ‘one day feeding can’t fatten horse’ –which is basically a call for sustainable practices and resilience, by planning for tomorrow today.

  1. Can you leave us with who’d be your Eco Hero? 

[JK-F] My friend Tandy. I share an allotment with her. She has issues with mobility so we share the load at the allotment and she is always eager to get stuck in. Her motivation is super inspiring to me!

[ZM] My Uncle Keith in Portland in Jamaica. He farms, he cooks, he lives in harmony with the land and there’s no pretence, it’s just everyday life.

To find out more about Green & Black, download a copy of the or listen to the radio shows.