Caymanian environmental activist Dejea Lyons is one of six young editors of global magazine OH-WAKE, whose inaugural issue was released today (8 June) in commemoration of World Oceans Day.
Lyons, 18, vice president and co-creator of local youth environmental group Protect Our Future, said she was thrilled to be one of six editors chosen from around the world to be part of the environmental magazine, a joint initiative between Ocean Heroes Network and HP.
“I’m grateful for the opportunity and I just hope that I make everyone on the island proud,” Lyons said in an interview with the Cayman Compass.
She said being able to represent the island on such an international level is beyond her imagination.
“I think it’s going to really put us on the map. There’s going to be so many people that are seeing this because… Ocean Heroes Network is a international platform with international foundations and very big corporations watching them constantly… I think when people see our stories and [what] I will create they’re going to recognise that we have a lot more to live for,” she added.
Cayman, she said, is always underestimated because it is very small, “but we’re very mighty people and our stories are very powerful. So I’m excited to share our stories in term of environmentalism, but also our culture and how we’ve kind of intertwined with that over the past couple of years.”
Giving youth activists a voice
The first issue of the magazine, which is a free online resource for world environmental activists, was created by youth environmentalists.
“We’ve decided that we want to talk about issues pertaining to our ocean, but we also want to include… social issues and economic issues,” she said, adding that collaboration is important for dealing with certain community issues and to show “how we can work together to solve these problems”, the Cayman International School graduate said.
The inaugural issue of the magazine is entitled “Let’s Talk About Ocean Plastic”.
It is a topic that is important to Lyons as she has worked closely with Protect Our Future and Plastic Free Cayman to advocate for the elimination of single-use plastic in Cayman.
She said the other editors on the magazine are from countries including Mexico, the Bahamas and the US and together they will bring their unique perspectives on environmental issues.
“The first issue we’re talking about [is] the plastic epidemic and just the problems that we see worldwide. We’re also, as editors, using our own personal experiences and what we’ve gone through and how we’ve kind of combatted these issues in our own homes, in our own territories or regions,” she said.
Lyons said she will be writing as well as editing submissions for the magazine.
“There’s going to be different kinds of pieces, different kinds of genres. For me personally, I’m a creative writer, which I don’t really share with a lot of people. I’m putting myself in a very vulnerable position right now. I’ll be doing poems and writings and so on,” she said, adding that she will be interviewing people for articles.
How it all started
Lyons said her journey to the magazine started when she first went to a boot camp that Ocean Heroes held in Vancouver in 2019.
“From there we started campaigns for Protect Our Future and obviously we had very big campaigns, whether it was the port project or helping to save Smith Cove from having the parking lot there to save the native species that are there. Basically [Ocean Heroes have] kind of helped us become more and more recognised, but we’ve also collaborated with them on several different projects, which also included a regional boot camp,” she added.
Lyons has also campaigned to protect the island’s reefs and mangrove ecosystems.
“I just wanted to thank Protect Our Future, Plastic Free Cayman, The National Trust, CCMI (Central Caribbean Marine Institute), Ocean Heroes Network, Lonely Whale and Captain Planet Foundation – these are all of the organisations that I have worked with closely for the past two years and I would not be where I am today without them,” she said.
Lyons said she intends to continue her activism and pursue global development and sustainability studies at Bath Spa University in the UK.
Anneliese Olson, general manager and global head, print category, of HP Inc, said the company was pleased to get involved with the global initiative.
“We are thrilled to help provide young leaders around the world with a platform to tell their stories, inspire their peers and garner more awareness for ocean conservation,” she said, adding, “Today’s youth have the most at stake in the fight against the ocean plastics crisis. When we talk about environmental crises, we must also recognise the impact on people in our communities. By advancing access to resources, technology and digital literacy, we help raise the bar for all.”
Dune Ives, executive director of Lonely Whale, which is also a partner organisation, said “Youth carry with them an unbound belief that anything is possible, and deserve a future that matches their aspirations. We believe strongly that knowledge is power and information should be made freely available to all.”
Leesa Carter-Jones, CEO of Captain Planet Foundation emphasised the literacy benefits of the magazine.
“With the support of HP we are able to make the OH-WAKE Magazine available digitally and in print to youth across the United States. This is an incredible gift that will help to build agency, digital equity and inspire a love for lifelong learning.”
Lyons added that the Ocean Heroes Global Bootcamp is taking place virtually from 24-27 June, and she encouraged all young people from ages 9-20 to apply to participate. The 2021 Caribbean Bootcamp, “One Caribbean, One Sea”, will be held 30 Sept.-3 Oct.
A media statement announcing the new magazine said OH-WAKE was a first-of-its-kind resource for kids everywhere looking for community, inspiration and tools to take action for the planet.
The magazine aims “to increase access to inclusive content rooted in storytelling, social equity and collaboration”, the statement said.