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She was cropped out of a photo of white climate activists. Now, she says it’s time to stop erasing African voices

Written by on February 6, 2020

When Ugandan climate change activist Vanessa Nakate attended the World Economic Conference in Davos, Switzerland, she was excited to share her message with the world.

Instead, she ended up at the center of a fierce debate over race and representation in the media.
Nakate, 23, had been invited to attend a youth climate science event. When news coverage of the event emerged, she noticed she had been cropped out of a photograph, where she appeared alongside activists Greta Thunberg, Isabelle Axelsson, Luisa Neubauer and Loukina Tille.
Nakate told CNN that the incident points to a wider issue of erasure of African voices in climate action conversations.
“Africans have truly been erased from the map of climate action,” Nakate said during an interview at her home in Uganda.
“Very many African activists have been doing a lot of work, putting in a lot of effort, trying to get their message heard and listened to,” she added.

‘Sad and worthless’
The cropped photo was taken by a photographer for The Associated Press, and Nakate confronted the agency about the incident on Twitter, writing “Why did you remove me from the photo? I was part of the group!”
She added in a video statement: “It was the first time in my life that I understood the definition of the word ‘racism.’ ”
The AP apologized in a statement Friday saying it regretted publishing the photo.
The incident prompted soul searching within the organization, according to an AP news story. The story reported that the AP intended to expand diversity training for employees.
Nakate says the experience left her feeling “sad and worthless,” because not only was she initially cropped out of the AP image, her presence was also not reported in initial versions of an article on the conference.
“My reaction was more of a feeling of sadness and a feeling of being worthless and having wasted my time at the press conference. Because I did not just see the photo, I went ahead to read the article. And, in the article still, I was not introduced as one of the activists who were at the press conference,” she says.
Her name appeared in later versions.


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