Rev.Dr.Gerald Durley was awarded the Exemplar award at the 2018 Captain Planet Foundation Gatsby & Gardens Gala for environmental awareness and civil rights. The gala was held on Dec. 7 at the Intercontinental Buckhead Atlanta.
Founded 27 years ago by media mogul Ted Turner and filmmaker Barbara Pyle, the Captain Planet Foundation aims to empower a generation of youth to become active and engage in bettering the environment. Fast forward to today, 1.5 million children have participated in the foundation’s programs to bring awareness for keeping the environment safe.
The Exemplar award recognized Durley’s achievements in the Civil Rights Movement and advocating for educating people on climate change.
“I was shocked because I don’t do things for awards. I don’t do things for recognition,” Durley said.
Starting out as a student leader during the Civil Rights Movement, Durley protested alongside John Lewis, Hosea Williams, Julian Bond, Andrew Young, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He even led 1963 for the March on Washington protest and delivered the eulogy for John F. Kennedy.
Durley went on to become a dean at Clark Atlanta University and Morehouse School of Medicine.
A longtime friend of the Turner family, Durley first met Ted Turner through the media mogul’s his former wife Jane Fonda. At the time he serves as dean at Morehouse School of Medicine and she wanted to make a change with African-American girls dealing with teen pregnancy.
“A bunch of fighting evangelicals began to attack her because she was trying to set up a program to stave off teenage pregnancy and I just tore them up,” Durley said.
When Durley met Fonda, the two began discussing climate change and global warming.
“I began to connect the dots that climate change was negatively disproportionately impacting Black people with asthma. Asthma rose in Atlanta from seven to 28 percent among our children,” Durley said. “If you put a bunch of people in small confinement, poor education, poor health, no hope, and then turn the temperature up to 100. You got a problem.”
After realizing that climate change and global warming affected the lives of people of color, Durley knew that this was apart of the rights he was fighting for African-Americans.
Durley is currently pastor emeritus of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta and an environmental justice activist. He also sits on the chair of Interfaith Power and Light to build more diverse and peaceful communities; advocating for communities negatively and disproportionately impacted because of climate change.
Other recipients were actor Adrian Grenier, who received the Superhero for Earth award for his dedication to improving ocean health. Teenage environmentalists Robbie Bond, Dyson Chee, Coda Christopherson, Chloe Mei Espinosa, and Steff McDermott were awarded the Young Superhero for Earth award.