Intent on spreading information about the seriousness of climate change – especially sea level rise — the South Dade Branch of the NAACP recently assembled a panel of national and local experts who urged the community to not lose sight of this menacing threat.

“As a civil rights issue, the impacts of climate change are devastating for African- American

communities,” said Pam Brown-Eyo, chairwoman of the South Dade Branch’s Environmental

and Climate Justice Committee, which sponsored the July 20 Zoom Town Hall Meeting.

“This is an opportunity to inform and update our vulnerable coastal communities on the

hazardous threats of climate change and sea level rise and how those threats affect them in a personal way,” Brown-Eyo said.

“Climate change is a global issue, an American issue and an African-American issue,” said

Dionne Hoskins-Brown, a scientist and educator who works with the National Oceanic and

Atmospheric Administration and Savannah State University faculty to educate and train more African American marine scientists.

Sea level rise, she explained, is just one aspect of climate change, but one that can have

devastating impact on African Americans.

“Communities of color have a greater vulnerability,” she said, citing factors that include a

greater risk of heat deaths, exposure to pollutants, higher energy bills that many may not be

able to afford, housing and insurance inequalities, and racism in disaster prevention and relief efforts.

Hoskins-Brown is examining the potential impact of sea level rise on Gullah Geechee coastal communities located in South Carolina, Georgia and Florida. During her presentation, she explained how sea level rise already is forcing the relocation of some black communities, a reality that could happen further south to black coastal communities in South Florida.

The online town hall, “Climate Change and Sea Level Rise Impacts on African-American

Communities,” was moderated by celebrated former TV news anchor and reporter Edwin

O’Dell, now president of O’Dell Communications.

The forum provided information on what local government and other agencies are doing to

keep communities safe, including the “Resilient 305 Initiative” to tackle the challenges of

climate change in South Florida, said Sandra St. Hilaire, resilience coordinator for Miami-

Dade County’s Office of Resilience.

Statistics on South Florida’s climate challenges are alarming, climate researchers say. Miami-Dade County has more people living less than 4 feet above sea level than any U.S. state, except Louisiana. The sea level around Florida is up to 8 inches higher than it was in 1950.

“Forty years from now water levels will be 2 feet higher,” said Katie Hagemann, resilience

program manager for adaptation within the Office of Resilience at Miami-Dade County.

“Two feet of water make a big difference,” said Hagemann, who led the vulnerability

assessment of the county’s critical infrastructure to future flood risks amplified by sea level rise.

Florida is said to be the most at-risk state for flooding by the year 2100, meaning that some

properties throughout South Florida will not be habitable.

“The history of Miami is the history of living with water,” Hagemann said, adding that current

solutions include adding landfill to existing communities, exemplified by Miami Beach, Doral

and West Kendall.

Other options are to construct buildings high off the ground as in the Keys and protect the

shoreline by expanding green and blue ways, which can help absorb the impact of sea rise,

Hagemann said.

The forum included remarks by invited local climate change activists and educators who talked

about what they are doing to promote community awareness.

“One of the goals of the presentation, Brown-Eyo said, is “to connect people with the issues

and solutions.”

The invited panelists included the following:

Zelalem Adefris, vice president of policy & advocacy, Catalyst Miami. Catalyst Miami’s

mission is to identify and collectively solve issues adversely affecting low-wealth communities throughout Miami-Dade County.

Brad Brown, NAACP Florida State Conference, has been involved in major conferences on

coastal zone management under climate change in the Caribbean and in Benin, West Africa.

Zachariah A. Cosner, climate and energy policy advocacy program director, Florida

Conservation Voters. The Florida Conservation Voters is a tax-exempt advocacy organization that focuses exclusively on Florida environmental issues.

Scot Evans, associate professor, Department of Educational and Psychological Studies in the School of Education and Human Development at the University of Miami, and a community-engaged researcher.

Joanne Pérodin, climate justice program manager, The New Florida Majority, an

independent organization working to increase the voting and political power of marginalized

and excluded constituencies.


Here are Resources and References shared by presenters and panelists during the seminar.

• NOAA Sea Level Rise Viewer:

• Unified Sea Level Rise Projection from the Southeast Florida Regional Climate Compact:

• Find your zone here:

• The Army Corps of Engineers has proposed a draft plan that includes concepts for

reducing flood risk. Most of the project is focused on the northern part of the county,

but everyone is encouraged to comment and weigh in

• CLEAR Miami Advocacy Grassroots Leadership Program:

If you’re interested in sharing your story to fight utility shut-offs email or or, zcosner@FCVOTERS.ORG

Make your voice heard on a $5B federal investment in flooding infrastructure.

More information and instructions here:

If you’re interested in any of this or more from Catalyst Miami or the Miami Climate Alliance,


Or Email: ,

For more information on the South Dade Branch of the NAACP

305-209-0195 | | South Dade NAACP, P.O. Box 971515, Miami, FL 33197.

Follow us on Facebook: @SouthDadeNAACP



Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its mission is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons.