Many social activists and critics of the past believe young people of color in this generation have no motivation to create social transformation. Environmentalist Charles Orgbon III has graciously stepped up to the plate.
The 18-year-old senior at Hoschton, GA’s Mill Creek High School is the CEO and founder of the eco-friendly nonprofit organization, Greening Forward. Orgbon’s brainchild seeks to mobilize other youth to get involved in green initiatives globally.
Greening Forward is responsible for global youth service days, an annual youth summit, a service day honoring the victims of 9/11 and a mentorship program in Berkeley, CA. “An environmental movement is gonna have to find creative ways to knock down those barriers to bring in young people of color, people with disabilities or young people in general. When we can catalyze all of that energy, we build more effective campaigns and more effective change,” says Orgbon.
What originally started as a service project for Orgbon in 2008 to pick up litter on his school’s campus has evolved into a crusade to encourage his peers and elders to take action. Seeing the work that needed to be done, Orgbon decided to take matters into his own hands. “It’s not about empowering young people. Young people already have the power. It’s about giving young people the opportunities to show that power,” says Orgbon.
The eco-savvy board member of both Earth Force and Youth Service of America uses his interest in the environment to further educate himself. Orgbon remembers learning how to draft press releases, develop succession plans or even carbon copy emails just to handle his business. Sighing and pausing momentarily in between responses, he doesn’t necessarily encourage people interested in making a difference to organize a charity. It’s extremely hard work, physically and mentally.
For example, in the African American community, going green, according to Orgbon, is often perceived as being exclusive or elitist. Even when Orgbon has conversations with his immediate family about organic food and products, he says the first thing they point out are the retail price points. Making a change is not always about changing behaviors, it is also about changing attitudes. Luckily, the entrepreneur is up for the challenge, dealing with all types of people.
“I am a people lover, and that’s what makes me an environmentalist. When we work together and we bring all of these communities together for positive change, then transformative things can happen,” says the Florence, SC native who now lives in Dacula, GA.
Periodically looking away as he speaks, Orgbon, with his boyish smile, adds that teamwork, conducting research and finding mentors are key to his success. “You have to be so determined. The information that you don’t know, you have to be able to learn that. Recognize the areas where you’re weak and build a team around you that can support that weakness,” says Orgbon.
This month, Orgbon, dressed preppy in a paisley bow tie, khakis and gray dinner jacket, received the Captain Planet Foundation’s Young Superhero for Earth Award. He accepted his accolade alongside other high cotton environmentalists Erin Brockovich, David Suzuki, Tara Cullis and Tom Szaky.
Orgbon knows his visibility inspires a generation of new leadership. The Huffington Post contributor doesn’t consider himself a “superhero.”
Humbled by the honor, Orgbon simply states his objective. “I want to bring young people to the table to solve global issues. This award being given to a young person can show the power to create change in anything. We can create more meaningful, impactful and substantial things,” says Orgbon.
This post was written by Christopher A. Daniel, a pop cultural critic and music editor for The Burton Wire. He is also a contributing writer for Urban Lux Magazine and Blues & Soul Magazine. Follow Christopher @Journalistorian on Twitter.