Change The World | People

Tackling Climate Justice And Removing Systemic Barriers For A Better Future


Larissa Crawford

Jamaican-Metis activist Larissa Crawford, 25, is the founder and director of Future Ancestors Services (FAS), a social enterprise committed to advancing equity for climate justice and removal of systemic barriers. Based out of Calgary, Canada, their operating model revolves around speaking, training, and research services towards advocacy. Launched in April 2020, it has already raised over $25,000 in donations and has reached over 44,000 people directly through its services. All proceeds support the initiatives of Black, Indigenous, racialized, LGBTQ2S+, and disabled advocates who share the same dream of shaping a better reality for future generations.

When asked why she decided to focus her social enterprise on this particular issue, Larissa said, “We recognize and we want to operate at that intersection of understanding that climate justice and especially racial justice are one in the same, that the root causes for why we see climate change and the root causes for why we see systems of oppression, especially with regards to race–those have the same root cause.” She adds, “It’s become quite clear to our group how interrelated they are, especially in what is currently Canada, where we’re all living on indigenous lands and where many of those lands, if not all, have been taken illegally or have been taken with malicious intent.”

Larissa Crawford
Larissa Speaking at the University of Calgary (Credit, UofC Sustainable Development Goals Alliance)

Growing up in Lethbridge, Alta., Larissa was no ordinary teenager. When she was 16, she went on a school trip to Accra, Ghana. She saw the trip as an opportunity to make a difference for the underprivileged students in the region she would be visiting. She recalls, “I was sitting there thinking about this trip, I really wanted to go with something. And in a discussion with my mom at home, I became aware of some efforts that one of her friends, Hali Heavy Shield, was doing to set up a public library on a reserve in Alberta. So I knew she was also looking for books. My 16-year-old self just thought, ‘you know what, let’s do a fundraiser.”

Over the course of six months, Larissa visited every elementary and middle school around the city, setting up donation collection sites. Her efforts resulted in eight large suitcases, packed with hundreds of books for Let Us Shine Girls Academy, a school in Ghana.

After the two-week trip, her high school ended up adopting the Academy as their sister school. It was at that time in her life that Larissa realized that she wanted to help make the world a better place.

In 2016, she enrolled in International Development studies at York University, a program that aligned with her desire to understand poverty, colonialism and ways to change the world through humanitarian efforts.

But Larissa wanted to go beyond what the four walls of a classroom could offer. In 2018, eager to move out of her comfort zone and experience living abroad, Larissa packed her bags and moved to Istanbul, Turkey. It was a year-long experience that would trigger another learning journey.

For many, a student exchange program sounds like an exciting, carefree experience in a faraway country. Unfortunately for Larissa, she faced threatening conditions, health complications, sexual harassment, and assault in Istanbul. On top of that, the city was also dealing with the Ebola crisis and conflict involving ISIS.

Nonetheless, Larissa persevered. She volunteered to serve the large refugee population there by translating for the French-speaking refugees, dispersing aid, and holding educational sessions. However, Larissa returned home with a sobering realization. “I was not the best person to be working with refugees” she says, “because I didn’t have a full understanding of what they were going through. I did my best, but I can recognize that my best was still not serving them in the way that they should be, and deserve to be served. I started to be a bit critical and really thinking about, ‘why are you glamorizing work done abroad?’”

Larissa Crawford
Larissa Speaking at GLOBE 2020 Forum (Credit, GLOBE)

After building a library in Ghana and then volunteering with refugees in Turkey, Larissa now knew that she wanted to work within her own community in Canada. As a Jamaican-Metis woman, she had experienced the magnitude of anti-racist and anti-indigenous attitudes that exist in the country. She realized her purpose was to help people who face the same issues that she had experienced.

In April 2020, Larissa founded her social enterprise, Future Ancestors Services. Since then, she and her team have raised thousands of dollars to support anti-racism and climate-justice initiatives, and have set aside $15,000 for the Future Ancestors Waashayshkwun Grants.

Within a few months, FAS drew a diverse base of over 140+ clients, including small youth-led collectives, non-profits, law firms, publishing houses, and members within the Canadian government. It has connected with thousands of people and has built an online community of over 23,000 people.

Future Ancestors Services also houses an online platform that seeks to connect people and organizations with diverse speakers, trainers, researchers, and artists in Canada.

If you’d like to connect with Larissa and support her work, she can be reached at larissa@futureancestors.ca.

Larissa Crawford
Feature Image: Larissa Speaking at TedxTalk (Credit, Tedx Downsview Women)
 

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