A 23-year-old climate activist, Vanessa Nakate from Uganda was excited to participate in the world economic conference in Davos, Switzerland. She was invited to attend a youth climate science event.
After participating, the young activist was happy to share her experience but got heartbroken after seeing a group photograph, she took alongside climate activists, Greta Thunberg, Isabel Axelsson, Luisa Neubauer, and LoukinaTille. It was shared that the media house who published the news had cropped out Nakate from the group photograph.
After the incident, Nakate tweeted, “You didn’t just erase a photo, you erased a continent, but I am stronger than ever”.
Nakate revealed in an interview that, “Africans have truly been erased from the map of climate action. Various African activists have been working tirelessly putting in a lot of effort trying to get their message heard and listened to.”
A photo journalist who works for the Associated Press took the picture and released it with Nakate cropped out of it. The climate activist took the bold step of questioning the media’s actions on Twitter, why they removed her from the photo; “I was part of that group photo,” she wrote. In a video release. She further said It was the first time in her life that she understood the true definition of the word racism.”
Although the media agency released a statement, the AP apologized and said it regretted publishing the photo. According to an AP news story, the incident propelled soul-searching within the organization, which they also intend to expand diversity training for their employees.
Also, Nakate was not just cropped out but was omitted from the news on the press conference. “My reaction was more of a feeling of sadness and a feeling of being useless and having wasted my time at the conference. Because I didn’t just see the photo, I read the article, and, in the article still, I was not introduced as one of the activists who were at the press conference”, she said.
The Ugandan activist has, however, received loads of motivation and commendations on social media. Fellow activist, Greta Thunberg, posted saying, “I’m so sorry dear that they did this to you… you are the last one who would deserve that! We are all so grateful for your response to the situation, and we all send love and support!! Hope to see you soon again!!”
In response to the support she has received plus a newly verified Twitter account and thousands of followers, Nakate said: “The online response has been so powerful and very supportive.”
“Despite all the pains and the depression, a lot of people came out and supported me,” she said, “People have been sending out all kinds of support and speaking against any kind of discrimination or injustice towards African climate activists.”
Fortunately for Nakate, the incident turned out to be a “blessing in disguise”, according to a twitter follower. Nakate has not only set the record straight, but she now has a stronger voice, and she is globally recognized.
According to Nakate, she isn’t the first or the only one who have experienced this racial act; she just happens to be the only one to speak out against the injustice confidently. “Many of those African activists have been experiencing these things, but they are not just bold enough to voice them out,” she said, “now is the time to put an embargo to it.”
Nakate who was inspired by Greta Thunberg to join the climate activism was born in Kampala, Uganda. She joined due to unusually severe temperatures in her region. She was among the solitary protest against climate inaction and rising temperatures outside Uganda’s Parliament.
“Oftentimes, when I go to the Parliament, a couple of policemen would check my placard quite a number of times, trying to look if am plotting a treason against the government,” she said
Nakate, who returned from Davos same week after the incident to her home in Kintintale, Kampala, Uganda, says the incident she believes has drawn a report that will change the “framing of African climate change activists.” According to her, “Everybody is speaking against the Erasure of African activists and the world has set their eyes on this African activist I strongly believe that now is the time for them to be allowed to voice out and to be listened to.”