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New England Cape Verdean's Eco Warrior Legacy

Massachusetts Cape Verdeans Have Long History of Fighting Climate Change

Brockton, just off Route 27, is a city of 100000. And it has a significant population of Cape Verdeans—30000 people descend from the small Portuguese-speaking island nation in West Africa. Most of the kids go to Brockton public schools—a struggling system that’s turned around recently! But these are not new people to the Brockton or New England area for that matter; most Cape Verdeans have an ancestral footprint that predates the Civil War. Cape Verdean heritage, culture and history in New England dates back to the 1790s, when whaling ships stopped in Cape Verde for supplies. The Cape Verdean Maritime experience reflects an illustrious history.

Many arrived on these shores aboard the Schooner Ernestina, which was aligned with Cape Verde through much of the 20th century. The ship was built in 1894 and brought many Cape Verdean immigrants to the U.S. In 1982, it was returned to Massachusetts, presented as a gift from the Cape Verdean people.

Present day Brockton was first settled in the 17th century and was originally known as North Bridgewater – a geographic area that today is comprised of the communities of Brockton, West Bridgewater, East Bridgewater, and Bridgewater. The Massachusett tribe lived in the area of the Massachusetts Bay, specifically between Salem and Brockton. Both the Massachusetts Bay colony and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts were named after the tribe. The early colonists referred to the dark skinned Massachusett tribe as the Aberginians or Aberginny-men, it was a mispronunciation of the word “aborigines” Perhaps this is why natives taught the Cape Verdeans the skill of whaling who in turn eventually taught the European. From 1616-1619, the Massachusett were hit hard by an epidemic of smallpox, that decimated their numbers.

As for the Cape Verdeans they came to this country from a miniature melting pot of their own the descendants of ethnic Portuguese and black Africans. Theirs is an ancestral tapestry shot through with threads from the Chinese (who were brought to Cape Verde by the Portuguese as concubines to lighten the population in the 1800’s, the Saphardic Jews, the Moors, and the native Americans so-called “Indians”. Kathy Sawyer of the Washington Post writes: ”The newly arrived immigrants, intent on the economics of survival, are sometimes bewildered by the raised ethnic consciousness of their Americanized countrymen. Other new arrivals are disappointed by Americanized Cape Verdeans who have forgotten their native culture altogether. Occasional outbreaks of gang violence between young blacks and Cape Verdeans occurred until the '60s focused national attention on civil rights issues. Then things began to change. "We have a lot of the same problems, a lot of talk about over a beer, you know," said one young Cape Verdean, a plant worker, who said he thinks of himself as an Afro-American. "Being a Cape Verdean is very, very complex," said Deonilda Rosa, an American-born Cape Verdean who worked in the New Bedford office of Rep. Gerry E. Studds (D-Mass.)in the 1980s "You can get a different perception from each person you talk to."

The Nation of Peaceful multi-party democracy has survived changes in leadership and its government is widely regarded as one of the most stable and democratic in Sub-Saharan Africa. Cape Verde is regarded as a safe haven for investment. It is a society based on laws that also respect human rights, and it enjoys a free press. Cape Verde’s success is the result of its own efforts, fortunately they were deemed too small to force extreme debt onto so they avoided the pitfalls of larger countries in that respect. Foreign direct investments today have become the most important sources of financing, mostly emanating from the booming tourism industry which Cape Verde has been nurturing as a way of adapting to the global economy and taking advantage of its strategic location.

Remittances by Cape Verdeans living overseas remained an important pool of resources since independence. Remittances have been boosted by policy innovations, such as an interest differential for Diaspora bank deposits relative to those in the Euro zone. Meaning they aren’t forced into banking that hurts their nation they get the same rates as Europeans. On June 15, 2022, the Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) approved a 36-month arrangement under the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) for Cabo Verde in an amount equivalent to SDR 45.03 million (190 percent of quota or about US$60 million).Unlike cape Verde countries with immense amounts of natural resources like Four sub-Saharan African economies round out the top 10 debtors: Angola, South Africa, Nigeria and Cote d’Ivoire. All four received support to address the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 despite having some of the lowest numbers of covid related deaths in the world.

That being said, the archipelago of Cape Verde has supported the efforts of climatologists to stop global climate change without hesitation since 2015 with its pledge to the World Wide Views Alliance’. Cape Verdeans joined other citizens of the World to make their voices heard to global politicians on energy and climate long before it was popular to do so. The persistent drought – derived from an arid climate – and the specter of hunger, which once devastated the population of Cape Verde, set the tone for island residents to align in the debate over 600,000 souls who live in 9 of the 10 islands that form the archipelago. Situated on the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape Verde archipelago of volcanic origin, is 500 kilometers from the African coast and is made up of 10 islands (9 of them habited) – and five major islets. With regard to the trade winds, the archipelago is divided into two groups: Sotavento (leeward), where the capital is – the city of Praia, and Barlavento (winward). Both regions suffer from the marginality of the Intertropical Convergence Zone and consequently receive irregular rainfall. If the rains are abundant and well distributed farming is assured. Their lack or shortage leads to misery, crises and hunger.

Cape Verdeans were born struggling to improve the environment of their harsh ‘habitat’ to build a well-being that seemed unreachable. This tenacity gives them a shield to address climate changes that are already happening. The poor and marginalized in the Cape Verdean society are the ones who suffer most with the consequences of climate change. Cape Verdeans have always and will always, continue to experience extreme weather and challenging environmental conditions. They learned to adapt to these events, by taking a national commitment to action in multiple areas of economic and social activity In short, it takes a joint effort between the people, government, and the natural surroundings to achieve environmental resilience. That means efforts to counter the imbalances resulting from industrialization, intensive agricultural development and use of chemical fertilizers, or whether it be the extreme conditions delivered by the fury of nature as drought or in the “spitting” of the volcano. This constant restlessness of Cape Verdeans about their adverse natural environment, led to this deep interest as a part of the World Wide Views on Climate and Energy dialog. Based on their long migratory experience, the concerns of Cape Verdeans are not confined to their insular world. They are aware of environmental problems that rage in other latitudes, not least the Sahel drought effects that they share with the other people of West Africa.

The Cape Verdean Association of Brockton (a non profit reports)Cape Verdean students in Brockton MA.are invited become participants of one of nine projects funded by National Oceanic Atmospheric Association’s Environmental Literacy program, the new Brockton Kids Lead the Way NOAA funded program to boost climate resilience and environmental stewardship in Brockton, Massachusetts, an incredibly diverse but impoverished city and designated Environmental Justice community with a rich history. Brockton is highly vulnerable to flooding, pollution, and water supply disruptions related to climate change. Brockton is also a city with a long history of resilience in the face of economic challenges and a thirst for empowerment and opportunity.

By increasing access to nature, encouraging students to become environmental stewards through outdoor learning, and building climate resilience literacy, Manomet aims to empower the next generation of conservationists to help solve today's complex challenges. In partnership with Wildlands Trust, Connecticut Sea Grant, and TERC, Manomet will: 1) develop environmental stewardship by creating outdoor learning spaces on school grounds and providing teachers with curricular tools and training for use; 2) empower elementary students and teachers through outdoor environmental education, engaging in stewardship action to build green infrastructure, and civic engagement, and; 3) build climate resilience literacy in elementary school children, teachers, and community members through education, civic engagement, and collaboration. Brockton Kids Lead the Way envisions elementary students and their teachers as community leaders and ambassadors for environmental stewardship, during a time of increased civic investment and interest across Brockton in green spaces, public health, and community resilience.

Manomet and its partners will use the funding to design and build outdoor learning spaces in collaboration with teachers at three elementary schools in Brockton, a diverse but impoverished city in Massachusetts. Once the learning spaces are built, students at participating schools will receive a year of outdoor education programming. They will also participate in environmental monitoring at their school, contributing to community science at a local level and fostering a connection to the natural world.

“This program is about helping students feel connected to the outdoors and empowered to take action as environmental stewards in their own communities,”

Teachers will receive resources and materials to support use of the outdoor learning spaces long after the program concludes. At the end of the academic year, Brockton Kids Lead the Way will culminate with an outdoor learning celebration at each school, where parents and community members will be invited to visit the space and learn about students’ work.

Manthala George Jr. Global Studies Elementary School will be the first school to participate in the program.

“This program looks at the bigger picture and sets teachers and their students up for success for the long haul,” adds Jacobs. “Instead of just providing educational programs and reaching one set of students in one year, we’re investing in outdoor learning and environmental education. This amplifies our impact to reach a whole generation and creates climate resilience in Brockton for years to come.”


Emily Renaud

Senior Manager, Communications, Manomet, 401-829-7094


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