Rolling Out

How Kearni Warren is fighting for your health and environment

The activist is fighting for the planet and her peers

This Sisters with Superpowers story is sponsored by Chevy.

How Kearni Warren is fighting for your health and environment
Kearni Warren. (Photo courtesy of Anthony Winters, Photographer)

Kearni Warren always knew there was more to life than just landing a good job. When natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the Haiti earthquake occurred, she was at the front of relief efforts. She was the chairperson of Chester Friends of Haiti, a group out of Pennsylvania that delivered over 100 bags of luggage filled with food, clothing, medical and school supplies.

She has also worked as a substitute teacher and mentor to young girls in Pennsylvania.

What are your professional responsibilities and why did you choose that career?

I am a healthcare equity and environmental justice advocate and organizer. My career path has been unexpected. I have participated as a volunteer and a concerned-community resident, family caregiver and advocate, which has turned into my profession. I have been on assignment, and realized God had a calling on my life. I am the Philadelphia region organizer for Energy Justice Network. I assist communities fighting environmental racism, incineration and the move towards zero waste. My responsibilities are educating, organizing and activating residents to fight against the harmful industries in their communities. I sit on state and county committees, testify at local municipality, county [and] government meetings, as well as federal government agency meetings. I speak at rallies, conferences, universities and host community engagement events. My current role chose me. The dots throughout my life, and my passions, have been connected.

As a Black woman, what do you consider your superpower to be?

My superpower as a Black woman is grit. I have faced tremendous obstacles and pain in my life; however, I continue to persevere despite the difficulties that come. I have learned that hardships in life will happen. My grandmother would say, “live long enough and you will see.” But what I also know is, after every Good Friday there is a Resurrection Sunday. Studying and working hard to achieve your goals are important, but the real work and test is how you manage to press forward when the punches of life hit you.

What advice would you give your younger self?

I would tell my younger self life does not have to be hard, use the resources in front of your face and not to be a people pleaser. [Not] everyone does not deserve your kind acts. Also, when people show you who they are, believe them the first time.

If you could thank any Black woman for her contributions to history and society, who would it be and why?

My mother, the Rev. Bernice Warren because she is the reason I have received this honor. In her profession, she made history as being the first Black woman to be ordained in the Philadelphia Presbytery – where the first Black Presbyterian Church was founded – and being listed among the top 10 Black women to be ordained as a Presbyterian minister. I learned how to never give up, fight for what is right, and how to support and give back to my community by her example. She was my strongest educator, protector and supporter.

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