Climate activist Vanessa Nakate said she felt like her voice and message was erased after she was cropped out of group photo published by the Associated Press that only featured the white activists who were standing beside her.
Nakate, a 23-year-old from Uganda, participated in a news conference about climate change in Davos, Switzerland, on Friday, alongside Luisa Neubauer, Greta Thunberg, Isabelle Axelsson and Loukina Tille.
Later on Twitter, Nakate shared an emotional video, expressing her disappointment that she was excluded from a news agency photo that was circulated online.
Nakate said her participation in the conference was a “privilege,” describing it as a “good experience,” but called the photo crop racist and “so disappointing.”
“Does that mean I have no value as an African activist?” she asked in the video. “Or the people from Africa don’t have any value at all?”
Nakate noted that African nations are “most affected by the climate crisis.”
“You erasing our voices won’t change anything,” she said. “You erasing our stories won’t change anything.”
The photo sparked discussions on Twitter, with many expressing concern that it represents the media’s pattern of disregarding Black activism.
The AP has since replaced the photo with an image that includes Nakate, according to the Guardian.
Sally Buzbee, the AP’s executive editor, issued a statement on Friday, calling the situation an “error in judgement.”
“We regret publishing a photo this morning that cropped out Ugandan climate activist Vanessa Nakate, the only person of color in the photo,” the statement read. “As a news organization, we care deeply about accurately representing the world that we cover.”
The statement continued, “We train our journalists to be sensitive to issues of inclusion and omission. We have spoken internally with our journalists and we will learn from this error in judgment.”
Nakate’s fellow climate activists have also spoken out about the cropped photo.
Thunberg tweeted to Nakate that she was “so sorry,” adding, “We are all so grateful for what you are doing and we all send love and support!!”
Axelsson wrote on Twitter that the photo was “unacceptable,” and Neubauer called it “outrageous.”
In December, Nakate, who led Fridays for Future climate strikes in Uganda, appeared on Democracy Now to discuss the impacts climate change has on agricultural communities in her country.
“If our farms are destroyed by floods, if the farms are destroyed by droughts and crop production is less, that means that the price of food is going to go high,” she said during the segment. “So it will only be the most privileged who will be able to buy food.”
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