The Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr. is the only pacesetting climate activist who might casually begin a day talking to Biz Markie and end it chatting with Al Gore. "We need to break down the silos that segregate activism – with police brutality here, gay rights there, immigration over there," says the 43-year-old minister. "I founded the Hip Hop Caucus to bridge the gaps so we can fight poverty and pollution at the same time."
As a student at the University of the District of Columbia, he organized a massive 10-day student sit-in against budget cuts and campus relocation in 1990. He later emerged as a leader across the worlds of community organizing, anti-war activism (his 2007 peace tour was called "Make Hip Hop Not War") and voter registration (in 2008, the caucus set a world record when it registered 32,000 voters in a single day). He got involved with climate issues through his Gulf Coast Renewal Campaign, which he set up to advocate for the rights and well-being of Katrina victims. It all came together when he MC'd February's 40,000-strong Keystone protest rally. "What we're seeing now – young people willing to get arrested – it's our lunch-counter- moment for the 21st century," Yearwood says. "Which is what we need, because the situation is critical. For me, if that means literally putting my body against the gears of the machine to stop the madness, that's what I'll do."