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Teen Vogue Summit 2022

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Gen Z and the youngest millennials, born in the mid-1990s through 2012, are stepping up and continue to amaze us all. In the recent midterm elections, young voters increased their participation and simultaneously organized their peers to the polls. And that energy and enthusiasm extend beyond the polls. 

Marcus Scribner, also known to many as Junior from black-ish and grown-ish, has done a lot more than just make entertaining characters come to life on TV and in movies. In addition to his acting and voiceover work in movies such as Dragons: The Nine Realms, Scribner is a passionate advocate for the environment.  

In November, Scribner was named the Backstage’s 2022 Vanguard Award recipient for his leadership and broad community impact. He’s the youngest awardee to date. The young actor-activist has teamed up with Tom’s of Maine to support a new incubator making way for Black and Brown environmental changemakers to innovate new solutions. The program provides each incubator participant with $20,000, mentorship and opportunities for collaboration. 

For Tom’s of Maine, “Doing Good For Real” is more than just a tagline. The company, known for its natural products, has a history of making sustainability and other good practices a part of its business model. Incubator winners are Aliyah Collins, Wawa Gatheru, Alexia Leclercq, Bodie Patel and Sanjana Paul. These five changemakers work at various intersections of climate and environmental justice. As a part of the seven-month program, they will be supported by five mentors who have experience in building innovative programs.  

Mentors are CEO and founder of Rebundle Ciara Imani May, environmental educator Isaias Hernandez, Tom’s of Maine Steward for Sustainability and Everyday Good Michelle Theodat Waring, CEO and founder of Finch Lizzie Horvitz, and co-founder of Green Jobs Board Kristy Drutman.  

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.  

NewsOne: There’s kind of this caricature of folks in your age group as being disinterested or disaffected. How do you respond to those who think Gen-Z just doesn’t care?  

Marcus Scribner: We have a higher level of compassion, and we’re very passionate about world issues. We think very big picture. And I think, in a way, a lot of Gen Z are very unselfish and not self-centered and more focused on the future. Because we have a planet that is, in a way dying from what happened in the past. I mean, even in Los Angeles, we have wildfires constantly. The polar ice caps are melting. We had a global pandemic for two years we’ve been stuck in, and all of these can be traced back to poor environmental practices and poor social practices. And I think that we’re getting fired up, and we’re ready to tackle these bigger, broader issues that I feel have been left on our plate. 

We kind of put our priorities in different areas. And that’s what is so amazing about the Tom’s of Maine incubator program. They’ve been able to gather a group of young environmental activists, people of color, who are ready to make change. And when I say ready to make a change, they’ve already made change. They all have companies and ideas that they’ve put into action. And this Tom’s of Maine incubator program is just helping to uplift them even further and give them mentorship and guidance to take it to the next level.   

NO: Can you tell me a little bit about the five other young changemakers that are beneficiaries of this project? 

Scribner: Tom’s of Maine reached out to me, and I had of course, heard of Tom’s of Maine. I knew that they were a company that makes natural everyday products that we use, like toothpaste and deodorant. And then, I researched them more, and I found out about all the great causes that they were involved with. They are, I think, a Certified B Corporation, where they’re environmentally driven and putting their money into causes that help to better the planet.  

And I was like, okay, so this is a corporation that I can actually rock with. They’re not destroying the world. So, I was really excited to when I found out that they were starting the incubator program. We’re awarding $20,000 to five individuals with great ideas on how they can impact the planet and getting them connected with mentors who’ve created other amazing companies that have done the same thing. 

NO: How have you been able to stay grounded and connected to community while entering humanitarian and environmental work?  

Scribner: I’m from Los Angeles. So I have a ton of friends. All my family members are out here. So, I’m still connected to community, family and friends and people who are on the ground actually like getting the work done. And I think that immensely helps. I think it also helps to have been on black-ish, which was a set that cultivated kind of our voices. They really allowed us to say what needed to be said or do what we wanted.  

And being able to see people like Jennifer Lewis, who’s always out there actually trying to get people to vote. I still remember we did one of her voting videos, and she had me dancing. I was like, ‘you know, I can’t dance. You know, I don’t have any rhythm.’ And they put it on the Shade Room and roasted me. I was like, ‘any press is good press. It’s fine.’  

I think being surrounded by people like Tracy with hair positivity and all the social activism that she’s done. Then you have Yara, obviously, who is just one of the smartest people I know. She’s always giving speeches on how we can make the world a better place. I’m inspired by her every day.  

Being surrounded by people who will use their platforms and use their voices to make their opinions heard has kind of helped inspire me to do the same. And I think a lot of my cross-section is social justice and environmental justice. And this program kind of brought the best of both of those worlds. I’m very happy to be a part of it and to uplift these five young changemakers and give them the funding they need to change the world to really put our planet first. 

NO: It can feel daunting sometimes as an individual trying to make change in the world. What advice do you have for young people about finding their niche or pursuing their passions and being committed to that change? 

Scribner: It’s easy to feel like “oh, what is my one opinion count for?” But that’s what it’s all about. If we can get a bunch of individuals with like-minded opinions, and all it takes is you sharing your opinion to gather other people who are like, ‘hey, you know what, I actually believe in that too.’ And let me make my voice heard. I think just putting your ideas out there is very important. 


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