Young Activist Promotes Environmental Justice Through Art and Storytelling

Shining light on the advocacy and sustainability work of young environmental leaders working to make their communities safer and cleaner. As part of our commitment to youth engagement and equity, we are holding an ongoing series of interviews with individuals and sharing their stories to spread awareness.

Pictured here is N’Dea Tucker, an activist, illustrator, and aspiring animator.

N’Dea Tucker sees her art as a means of storytelling. At 23, Tucker is a freelance illustrator and aspiring animator, developing a science fiction graphic novel where environmental destruction is propelling interplanetary life toward extinction. She explained, “Animation allows you to suspend your disbelief. Viewers can immerse themselves and absorb themes to which they might otherwise be resistant. The medium supports storytelling that can communicate diverse issues to diverse audiences.”

Tucker’s first experiences with activism occurred during her time at the University of Rochester, where she studied art and chemistry. As a member of the Black Students’ Union and Douglass Leadership House, Tucker helped organize sit-ins, marches, and other events for social justice: “I was behind the scenes and even literally center stage when advocating for social change. From town halls and sit-ins for racial justice to performing at vigils for the victims of climate disasters, I tried to make the most of the brief time at my university.”

Pictured here is a promotional cover by N’Dea Tucker for her graphic novel, Quinta-VI. The work is set against the backdrop of a looming interplanetary crisis—an allegory for climate change.

During her sophomore year of college, she began to develop her graphic novel: a science fiction about worlds in peril because of environmental destruction. The work, entitled Quinta-VI, follows galactic protagonist Quinta as she embarks on a quest to find out who she is. In the meantime, a black hole is swallowing up moons, planets, and “pollinets”— a term Tucker uses to mean overburdened planets that lack sufficient means of interplanetary travel. Whole populations are forced to relocate to unwelcoming new worlds, where industrialists are exploiting the natural resources, rendering the galaxy nearly unlivable. Quinta sets out to unearth the corruption, close the black hole, and discover her purpose. “Much like our own world, Quinta-VI’s is marred by greed, resource exploitation, and systemic indifference. A black hole at the galaxy’s edge is consuming planets, allegorical of how we deplete our own planet, and how that consumption devours our future as well. It’s a story about how boundless hope, dogged perseverance, and strong community can help the oppressed reclaim their voice and help the world solve our climate crisis,” Tucker explained.

Pictured here is Quinta-VI storyboard entitled “Arrival on Planet Minthe” by N’Dea Tucker, 2022, digital. Quinta and her friends set out for a lush, new planet and discover that it has become an industrial wasteland.

Tucker’s main climate priority is environmental justice for black and brown communities. She has deep roots in Yonkers and the Bronx, areas known both for racial diversity and high rates of air pollution. Bronx residents are hospitalized for asthma at rates five times the national average. “As our world spirals further into environmental decay, we will carry the burden of this planet’s destruction. From non-Western countries to urban neighborhoods choked by pollution, BIPOC will be forced to endure worse environmental conditions,” she commented. This theme is also prevalent in Quinta-VI.

Tucker supports the idea of loss and damage funding—a focus of COP 27, the United Nations climate summit—because higher-GDP nations produce disproportionately high amounts of GHG emissions. Meanwhile, islands and lower-GDP nations face the brunt of the climate crisis. Tucker is a second-generation American and the daughter of a Jamaican immigrant. During her visits there, she has seen firsthand the impact of climate change. Jamaica faces a significantly higher risk of droughts, tropical storms, and rising sea levels, despite contributing to only 0.02% of global emissions—a compelling example for proponents of loss and damage.

Pictured here are storyboard panels by N’Dea Tucker entitled “A World of Decay” for an upcoming animation, EXI, in pen and marker. The panels comment on humanity’s connection with the natural world. In the second panel, life decays with the earth.

To those seeking opportunities in climate action, Tucker suggests incorporating advocacy into their passions. She sees art as a means of social commentary and encourages creative individuals to tap into activism through their craft. By incorporating the theme of climate change into her story, Tucker entertains readers while relating them to the real-world problems posed by the crisis. “I’ve written Quinta-VI in the hopes that her story might inspire a generation inheriting a dying planet,” she explained. She hopes to see more artists use their mediums to speak on societal issues.

Tucker is currently working as a freelance illustrator while developing her graphic novel. She is looking to apply to graduate school for a Master’s in Animation to expand her career as an artist.

A deeper view of N’Dea Tucker’s artwork and animation process is available on her website.

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