Sean A. Watkins

By
Photography Gregory Harris

Published March 24, 2016

TRENCHCOAT: GUCCI. SWEATER: RAF SIMONS. SHIRT: HERMÈS. JEANS: OFF-WHITE. EARRING: WATKINS’S OWN. TIE: THE TIE BAR. BELT: VINTAGE. AGE: 26.STYLING: ELIN SVAHN. HAIR: TOMO JIDAI FOR MOROCCAN OIL/STREETERS. MAKEUP: SALLY BRANKA/LGA MANAGEMENT. MANICURE: GINA EDWARDS FOR DIOR VERNIS/KATE RYAN. PRODUCTION: BO ZHANG. DIGITAL TECHNICIAN: ERICA CAPABIANCA.

“Storytelling is a form of education that goes deeper to our core than any textbook . . . We all have stories inside of us, and we should all feel empowered to share them openly and honestly.” —Sean A. Watkins

AGE: 26

OCCUPATION: The term I use to describe myself is “fighter for social justice.” For the past 14 months, I’ve been the social media manager for OurVoices, the global multifaith climate-action campaign of GreenFaith. Recently (and the part of my work that’s my new favorite thing to do), I’ve been the co-host for Climate Voices, a podcast, born out of the Paris climate talks, that focuses on the stories of the people in our global climate movement. Guest interviews we’ve had so far include Cameron Russell, Bill McKibben, and Archbishop Thabo Makgoba. But, more than all that, I’m just a black kid from Amityville [New York] who’s been lucky to see the world. I lived in Brazil for a year as an exchange student at the age of 16, and after high school, I went to school at Michigan State University, lived in South Africa working as an intern, and eventually came back home to New York, where I’ve been again for almost three years. As a gay black male, these experiences abroad help me understand my journey of navigating a white, heteronormative, and patriarchal society. As I’ve gotten older and have better defined what drives me, I’m redefining narratives and challenging ways of thinking to create change for this world we live in.

WHAT CHANGE WOULD YOU MOST LIKE TO SEE IN THE NEXT FIVE YEARS? In terms of climate change, the Paris agreement was a big moment for the movement, because it’s the global outline nations have agreed to for stopping further pollution. What we need now is to see all of nations ratify the agreement for the implementation to go forward. One huge disappointment with the Paris agreement, though, was the “loss and damage” clause, which would factor in actual compensation and liability of countries like the U.S., who claim most responsibility for our global pollution.

WHAT HAVE YOU FOUND TO BE THE MOST EFFECTIVE METHOD OF PUSHING FOR CHANGE? Sharing stories. Storytelling is a form of education that goes deeper to our core than any textbook, and it’s probably one of humanity’s oldest forms of communicating. We all have stories inside of us, and we should all feel empowered to share them openly and honestly. And on the flip side, we should all listen to the stories we hear open and honestly. Without knowing, we can change attitudes and minds if we just talk to each other.

For more from The New Activists, click here.