Environmental activist Xiuhtezcatl Martinez speaks at the BMU


Josh Cozine

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez signed copies of his new book “We Rise” after Wednesday’s talk.

Xiuhtezcatl Martinez stepped up to the Bell Memorial Union Auditorium stage and immediately started rapping. The rap lasted under two minutes but incorporated three languages and the overarching message of love for the Earth.

Martinez, a 17-year-old hip-hop artist, author and activist, spoke at a two-hour event hosted by Chico State’s Institute for Sustainable Development (ISD) on Wednesday.

“I’m a hip-hop artist, I’m a performer, I’m a rapper,” Martinez said. “That’s definitely one of my biggest avenues and platforms for sharing this message.”

Martinez’s main message is taking action against climate change. He has been involved in environmental activism since he was six and has become the youth director of Earth Guardians. He’s also presented at a United Nations climate change meeting and won the 2013 U.S. Community Service Award from President Obama.

“I’ve spent the last 11 years of my life traveling all over the world speaking, performing, using music (and) using my voice as a way to engage conversation around our global climate crisis and the solutions we want to bring forward,” Martinez said.

Lizzie Helmer
Xiuhtezcatl Martinez speaks about his time joining the protests of the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock.

ISD hosted Martinez as an event for Earth Month, an ongoing campus project addressing climate change throughout the month of April.

James Pushnik, director of ISD, said that booking Martinez for Earth week at Chico State was not an easy task.

“I started to do this about eight months ago,” Pushnik said. “I’ve known about his message for a while and he’s a hard person to book so we’ve just been constantly trying to get him.”

Pushnik added that he wanted Martinez to speak at Chico State because of his message of youth empowerment and that his role as a hip-hop artist would reach a broader audience.

“The most important thing (Martinez) said was that it was about youth voice that it’s your world and that you need to speak up for what you want and not just to have other people tell you the way it is,” Pushnik said.

Lizzie Helmer
A crowd of over 700 community members and students gathered in the BMU auditorium Wednesday afternoon.

Not only was Martinez’s message directed at young people, but also people in marginalized communities. He spoke about climate change as a human rights issue.

Martinez also shared that his hope for the world’s future lies in the younger generations’ strength in diversity.

“In the United States every generation is born more diverse so we are the most diverse and less prejudice generation in history,” Martinez said. “So we have a lot to teach the adults and older generations if we take that step and stand up and lead, the rest of the world will follow.”

Lizzie Helmer can be reached at [email protected] or @lizziehelmer on Twitter.