Meet 16-year-old daughter of Ilhan Omar who is leading the fight against climate change

Theodora Aidoo Sep 27, 2019 at 08:04am

September 27, 2019 at 08:04 am | Success Story, Women

Theodora Aidoo

Theodora Aidoo | Staff Writer

September 27, 2019 at 08:04 am | Success Story, Women

Isra speaking at First Universalist Church in Minneapolis. Pic Credit: Vice

In recent times, young people have been leading the fight to save the planet and the daughter of Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar is one of them.16-year-old Isra Hirsi is a climate change activist and co-founder of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike.

In the same month her mother took office as the first Somali-American elected to legislative office in the U.S., Isra organized the launch of the U.S. Youth Climate Strike to lead the charge for climate action.

Ilhar Oman became one of the first Muslim women elected to Congress last November. Pic credit: The Intelligencer

Recently, Vice profiled the 16-year-old, who said “climate change is persistently framed as a “White issue”.

Isra is drawn to the issue for how it disproportionately affects communities of colour even though she expressed coming into climate issues “really really late in the game.”

“Gun control and climate change are considered white issues,” she said.

She’s been reportedly active in local social justice movements ever since she attended her first protest at six years old. In middle school, she was mainly focused on the Black Lives Matter movement.

At age 12, alongside her family and thousands of organizers, she helped shut down the Mall of America to demand justice for Jamar Clark, a 24-year-old Black man who was killed in 2015 by two Minneapolis police officers who were never charged with his murder.

The fight to end gun violence had Isra’s attention, particularly, in the aftermath of the Parkland shooting while in high school.

Along with 12-year-old Haven Coleman and 13-year-old Alexandria Villasenor, Isra organized the U.S. component of Friday’s International Youth Climate Strike, a protest in which students from around the world are walking out to demand urgent action on climate change.

Isra Hirsi, “We need a future, not a pipeline.” Pic Credit: mspmag.com

“I think that young people sense the urgency.”

“These adults don’t really have to live with the problem of climate change, and young people have to deal with it for the rest of our lives,” Isra told The Cut.

“It’s important for people to step back and realize that they’re not the only people. Environmental racism is a really big thing. The environmental movement is still predominantly white; how do we change that conversation? Having women of color leading is one way to do that,” she told The Grist.

After speaking directly to Senators Amy Klobuchar and Andrew Yang, she was able to get the candidates to agree to a climate change debate.

However, the Democratic National Committee refused to host such a forum. The young climate organizer’s efforts would bear fruit later when CNN held a climate change-specific debate for the Democratic presidential candidates in September, according to Vice.

Isra Hirsi, “We need a future, not a pipeline.” Pic Credit: mspmag.com

Despite the victories and disappointments in her fight for climate change, Isra will like to see climate change at the forefront of the presidential candidates’ agendas by 2020.

For those wondering how Isra shuffles between being a politician’s daughter and an activist, her last month Medium post explains it: “I live 2 lives- that of a climate justice organizer and that of a politician’s daughter.”

“Throughout my attempts to keep my two realities separate, many conflicts arose — especially in activist spaces. I now know that I can’t create a middle ground and the 2 lives don’t need to be separate.”

“As a teen who yearns to learn and grow as a person, it’s been really frustrating to have people not feel that I’m approachable because of the prominence of my mom.

“I want to create a space where I am easy to talk to and not seen as surrounded by some elitist bubble. I want to find ways to recognize this new privilege as a net positive in the spaces that I exist in, while at the same time learning when it’s my time to step back and pass on the mic,” she wrote.

Just as many would think of her, she’s aware of being seen only through the eye of her mother. “I have to prove to the world that I’m not doing what I’m doing because of her,” she said.

“Knowing that I have the power to inspire so many other young black girls and so many Muslim girls within the movement… gives me the motivation and the joy to keep doing the work that I do,” Isra told Essence.

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