Mustafa Santiago Ali is the Senior Vice President of Climate, Environmental Justice & Community Revitalization for the Hip Hop Caucus. The Hip Hop Caucus is a national, non-profit and non-partisan organization that connects the Hip Hop community to the civic process to build power and create positive change.
He previously served for 24 years at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the Assistant Associate Administrator for Environmental Justice and Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Community Revitalization.
Teniope Adewumi-Gunn is a doctoral candidate in the Environmental Health Sciences department at UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. Teniope’s research interests include the application of industrial hygiene to underserved worker communities, corporate social responsibility, and environmental policy. Teniope is passionate about eliminating dangerous chemicals that are linked to adverse health impacts from cosmetics and personal care products.
Teni previously served as the Environmental Justice Research and Policy Analyst for Black Women for Wellness, where she engaged with community members to influence local, state, and national level policies that regulate the safety of chemical use in cosmetics and personal care products. Her work has been featured in HuffPost Live, Cosmopolitan, Essence, Atlantic CityLab, Think Progress and Refinery29.
Nathaniel Smith is the founder & CEO of the Partnership for Southern Equity, which presses for actions and policies that promote equity and inclusive prosperity in Georgia and beyond, including a specific focus on #energyequity in greater Atlanta.
The organization’s notable accomplishments to date include the establishment of the Atlanta Regional Commission’s Social Equity Advisory Committee; supporting the creation of the nation’s first equitable development plan for a large scale neighborhood transformation project – the Atlanta Beltline; and convening the inaugural Equity Atlanta Forum.
Berneta Haynes is a former environmental lawyer, having worked with both the Environmental Law Policy Center in Chicago and the Southern Environmental Law Center, who now serves as the Director of Equity & Access at Georgia Watch where she advocates for equitable and accessible health care, financial literacy, energy programs and civil justice. She is currently organizing Energy Equity workshops throughout the state of Georgia through her leadership with the Energy Efficiency for All - Georgia coalition.
Austin Blackmon is Chief of Environment, Energy and Open Space for the City of Boston. In his role, Mr. Blackmon oversees policy and programs on Energy, Climate Change, Sustainability, Building Safety, Historic Preservation and Open Space, including Climate Ready Boston, the Building Energy Reporting & Disclosure Ordinance, Rental Registry and Greenovate Boston, the city’s community outreach initiative on sustainability.
Mr. Blackmon is currently leading efforts to implement Boston’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce citywide greenhouse gas emissions 25% by 2020 and 80% by 2050.
Rose McKinney-James is widely recognized as one of the most prominent advocates for the commercial deployment of solar resources in the state of Nevada. In 1997, working with the leadership of the Nevada legislature, she facilitated the drafting and passage of Nevada’s first renewable portfolio standard.
As CEO for the Corporation for Solar Technology and Renewable Resources, McKinney-James worked with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the solar industry in establishing the policy framework for the original solar energy zones in the state. A former Commissioner with the Nevada Public Service Commission, she also served as the first Director of Nevada’s Department of Business and Industry. She is currently the Managing Principal of Energy Works LLC and McKinney-James & Associates.
A former candidate for Lieutenant Governor, McKinney-James was the first African-American to win a statewide primary in the state of Nevada.
Adje Mensah is the founder and CEO of solar & battery storage company A.F. Mensah, an innovative and socially conscious company committed to energy equity. A Togolese immigrant who came to the United States as a young college student, Adje learned early on the need for distributed power generation that uses solar energy and the particular impact it could have on the most vulnerable communities.
Of his work, Adje says, "Electricity is a great enabler for economic growth. If people don’t have access to reliable and cost-effective electricity, they can only go so far when they’re trying to climb the economic ladder."
Michelle J. DePass is the Dean of the Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy and Tishman Professor of Environmental Policy and Management. She joined Milano in November 2013 coming from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), where since 2009 she had served as Assistant Administrator for International and Tribal Affairs.
DePass has worked to establish The New School as an academic ally in the environmental justice movement by bringing visiting scholars to the Tishman Center to co-produce research on environmental justice issues including justice implications of the U.S. EPA’s Clean Power Plan and Native and Indigenous resistance movements on climate change. She also initiated efforts to advocate for and support equitable recovery for communities impacted by natural disasters including hurricanes Harvey, Maria, and Irma.
Dawone Robinson is an advocate for the Urban Solutions Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council. In his current role, Dawone focuses on promoting increased access to energy efficiency and renewable energy resources for multifamily and low-income households as part of the Energy Efficiency for All Initiative with a focus on Virginia. For many years, Dawone has been an advocate for frontline communities in Virginia. In his previous role, Dawone served as Virginia Policy Director for the Chesapeake Climate Action Network, and was recently named to the Governor's Advisory Council for Environmental Justice in Virginia.
Naomi Davis is the founder/CEO of BIG™ – a national sustainability network based in West Woodlawn which advances “green‐village‐building,” their signature initiative. She’s an urban theorist, attorney, activist, and proud granddaughter of Mississippi sharecroppers.
She trains activists and everyday neighbors to lead where they live in establishing “walkable-villages” within a “City of Villages” – where every household can walk-to-work, walk-to-shop, walk-to-learn, walk-to-play. She is a Green For All Fellow, LEED GA, and a certified teacher of the environmental literacy curriculum, Roots of Success, NCCER/Maritime, and Marine and Spatial & Marine Coastal Planning.
Nkrumah Frazier is the current Chief Sustainability Officer for the City of Hattiesburg, MS--the first and only such officer in the state of Mississippi. Over the last decade, he has worked in his community to advance issues related to sustainability, conservation and environmental justice. Previously serving as the Mississippi Outreach Coordinator for non-profit Wild South, he has also held leadership positions with the Sierra Club, both locally and nationally.
Robert D. Bullard is Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning and Environmental Policy in the Barbara Jordan-Mickey Leland School of Public Affairs at Texas Southern University in Houston, Texas. He is often described as the father of environmental justice. Professor Bullard received his Ph.D. degree from Iowa State University. He is the author of seventeen books that address sustainable development, environmental racism, urban land use, industrial facility siting, community reinvestment, housing, transportation, climate justice, emergency response, smart growth, and regional equity.
Dr. Vedette Gavin is the Conservation Law Foundation Ventures Director of Research for a two-year grant to assess the health impact of smart growth on low income communities where innovative, mixed-use real estate development aims to positively transform lives and health outcomes.
Previously, Dr. Gavin was the Director of Community Engagement at the Case Western Reserve Center for Reducing Health Disparities at MetroHealth, where she launched Healthy Eating Active Living, a community-led partnership that engaged residents in transforming neighborhood conditions to foster better health. Prior to that she spent seven years coordinating strategic population health initiatives in the areas of asthma, active transportation and patient experience.
Her work is recognized by the American Public Health Association, Centers for Disease Control, and Public Health England. Vedette is also the Co-Founder and Director of Programming and Partnerships for New Majority Community Labs, a social enterprise that uses the power of big data and community organizing to equip communities of color to launch community-derived, community-funded solutions to everyday challenges in their communities.
Former Lt. Gen. Russel Honoré is the founder of the GreenARMY, an alliance of civic, community, and environmental groups and concerned citizens from around the state of Louisiana ready to effect meaningful social, political, and environmental change in Louisiana.
Honore became involved in environmental issues when residents from Bayou Corne--frustrated by the lack of action in the wake of a devastating sinkhole--requested assistance. General Honoré came to recognize the barrage of environmental issues facing Louisiana, from levee board lawsuits to clean water, and he decided something needed to change. As a result, the GreenARMY has worked to bar former industry officials from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, increase transparency in the Louisiana legislature by forcing lawmakers to recuse themselves from votes when they’ve received industry campaign contributions, and reducing subsidies to the oil, gas, and pipeline industries.
Prior to founding the GreenARMY, he earned international recognition for his command of Joint Task Force-Katrina – leading the Department of Defense response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana in 2005 – General Honoré served in a variety of command and staff positions which focused on Defense Support to Civil Authorities and Homeland Defense.
Dr. Atyia Martin is the Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Boston. A Certified Emergency Manager with a diverse set of experiences in public health, emergency management, intelligence, and homeland security, Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh appointed her as the Chief Resilience Officer for the City of Boston as part of the 100 Resilient Cities initiative pioneered by the Rockefeller Foundation. In this role, she is responsible for leading the development and implementation of Boston’s Resilience Strategy. Boston will focus on advancing racial equity as the foundation of the Resilience Strategy process to increase the City's shared ability to thrive after emergencies.
Dr. Martin was previously the Director of the Office of Public Health Preparedness at the Boston Public Health Commission.
Norris McDonald is the founder & President of the African-American Environmentalists Association. An award-winning researcher and writer, McDonald co-founded the environmental justice movement in the 1980s when he helped lead the fight to create the EPA Office of Environmental Justice, advocated for green jobs programs in poor and minority communities, and oversaw the first comprehensive study of pollution in Washington, D.C. He was also a groundbreaker in the traditional environmental movement in Washington, D.C.
McDonald is author or co-author of a series of ground-breaking technical and scientific reports including: Our Unfair Share: A Survey of Pollution Sites in Our Nation’s Capital, Our Unfair Share II: Pollution in Washington, D.C., and Our Unfair Share III: Race & Pollution in Washington, D.C., in2001; Energy Efficiency Strategies for Multifamily Rental Housing, 1981;Comprehensive Utility and Grounds Survey, St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, 1985, and the Review & Evaluation of the Energy Conservation Company (ECCO) Pilot Project: Preliminary Analysis, Regression Analysis, Final Engineering Analysis, 1986.
Extensive evidence of environmental racism came through the efforts of the United Church of Christ's Commission for Racial Justice (CRJ), under the leadership of Reverend Benjamin Chavis. With Chavis serving as its director, the CRJ published Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States, a 1987 report that became an indispensable tool in galvanizing support for environmental justice action.
The report showed that race was the single most important factor in determining where toxic waste facilities were sited in the United States. It also found that due to the strong statistical correlation between race and the location of hazardous wastes sites, the siting of these facilities in communities of color was no accident, but rather the intentional result of local, state and federal land-use policies.
Peggy Shepard is the co-founder and executive director of West Harlem Environmental Action (WE ACT) and has a long history of organizing and engaging Northern Manhattan residents in community-based planning and campaigns to address environmental protection and environmental health policy locally and nationally. From an abandoned Harlem brownstone that was converted to a state-of-the-art "green building," WE ACT operates programs in environmental health and community-based research, environmental education, and community and youth empowerment. The organization has cooperative partnerships with physicians and scientists at leading medical institutions, labor unions and diverse environmental, public health and urban constituencies.
Shepard has successfully combined grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy, and environmental health community-based participatory research to become a national leader in advancing environmental policy and the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities — to ensure that the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment extends to all.
Her work has received broad recognition: the Jane Jacobs Medal from the Rockefeller Foundation for Lifetime Achievement, the 10th Annual Heinz Award For the Environment, the Dean’s Distinguished Service Award from the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, and an Honorary Sc.D from Smith College.
Hilton Kelley is the founder and director of the Community In-Power and Development Association (CIDA) in Port Arthur, Texas. A leading figure in the battle for environmental justice on the Texas Gulf Coast, he fights for communities living in the shadow of polluting industries.
In 2000, he formed CIDA to collect data on pollution levels. He stormed corporate shareholder meetings and distributed photographs of Port Arthur children wearing respirators. Armed with air samples and statistics, he took on the Motiva refinery – separated from the girls' playground by only a chain-link fence – and secured a $3.5 million settlement for the community.
A Goldman Environmental Prize winner, Kelley continues his fight for environmental justice today, working to help rebuild his Texas community in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
Ronnie Webb is the President and co-founder of The GreenScheme, a DC-based nonprofit organization that provides leadership, education, training, and awareness on a wide variety of environmental topics from healthy living to green career pathways. GreenScheme seeks to engage and empower communities where poor health outcomes and poor environmental conditions are most prevalent to promote healthy living in conjunction with environmental justice issues. They promote sustainable living for the prosperity of their local communities and the planet in ways that are relevant and relatable.
Webb has a background in agricultural economics and brings a wealth of experience in community organizing and youth engagement. Robinson, has a strong background in public health and is inspired by a passion for promoting health and wellness, and a commitment to community service and helping others.
Brandi Colander began her career in public service as the Deputy General Counsel for the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the first African-American to serve in that role. As a member of the Obama Administration, she worked to advance environmental policy, such as a Presidential Memorandum that created an imperative to modernize Federal Infrastructure Review and Permitting Regulations, Policies, and Procedures.
Later in the Administration, Colander served as a Deputy Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management (ASLM) at the United States Department of the Interior. ASLM is responsible for the four energy development bureaus that consist of the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement and the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement. Colander served as the project manager on key natural resource and energy priorities for the Administration, developed policy, advanced regulations and served as a liaison with the White House and other federal agencies.
She has spent her entire career studying & advancing policies to promote sustainable energy, natural resources, and environmental rights, including currently serving as the Associate Vice President of Natural Resources & Energy at the National Wildlife Federation.
Warren County was one of the first cases of environmental justice in the United States and set a legal precedent for other environmental justice cases. The Warren County PCB Landfill was a PCB landfill located in Warren County, North Carolina, near the community of Afton south of Warrenton. The landfill was created in 1982 by the State of North Carolina as a place to dump contaminated soil as result of an illegal PCB dumping incident.
After four years of arduous due process in an effort to stop the PCB landfill, including litigation, Warren County citizens officially launched the environmental justice movement as they lay in front of 10,000 truckloads of contaminated PCB soil. During the six-week trucking opposition, with collective nonviolent direct action, which included over 550 arrests (the first such arrests for a landfill protest), Warren County citizens mounted what local papers described as "the largest civil disobedience in the South since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., marched through Alabama." It was the first time in American history that citizens were jailed for trying to stop a landfill, from attempting to prevent pollution. In an editorial titled "Dumping on the Poor," the Washington Post described Warren County's PCB protest movement as "the marriage of environmentalism with civil rights," and in its 1994 Environmental Equity Draft, the EPA described the PCB protest movement as "the watershed event that led to the environmental equity movement of the 1980's."
Vernice Miller-Travis has been a pivotal leader in the environmental justice movement and field. As a research assistant to Charles Lee, research director at the UCC Commission for Racial Justice, she helped write and publish the seminal 1987 report, Toxic Waste and Race in the United States. She is a co-founder of We ACT for Environmental Justice, served as Director of Environmental Justice for the Natural Resources Defense Council, as a Program Officer at the Ford Foundation, Executive Director of Groundwork USA and the Environmental Support Center.
She currently serves as the Senior Advisor for Environmental Justice and Equitable Development at the environmental consulting firm Skeo as well as Acting Chair of the Maryland Commission on Environmental Justice and Sustainable Communities, and on the boards of Clean Water Action, Imani Energy, the Land Loss Prevention Project, NRDC Action Fund, and the Patuxent Riverkeeper. She is also the co-host of Skeo's podcast series Infinite Earth Radio.
Vernice is an Urban Planner with degrees from Columbia University in the City of New York.
George Bandy, Jr. serves as vice president of sustainability for Mohawk Group, a leading commercial flooring company known for cutting-edge and innovative flooring solutions. George is responsible for managing the comprehensive concepts and practices of sustainability for Mohawk. He identifies opportunities to position environmental, economic and socially responsible solutions for both the organization and its customers so that, together, they can demonstrate the type of sustainability leadership that will result in a brighter future for us all.
George is a highly sought after presenter on key topics such as the business of sustainability, biophilc design, social sustainability, circular economy, greening the supply chain, health and wellness in the built environment, and innovative smart design. Prior to joining Mohawk Group, George worked for Interface, where he most recently served as the flooring company’s vice president of sustainability, and was also a member of Interface’s Americas Sustainability Council.
Before working at Interface, Bandy was employed as the University Sustainability Officer for the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. He is the immediate past board chairman of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), and has also served on the board for Second Nature, a non-profit that champions for higher education institutions to make the principles of sustainability fundamental to every aspect of learning.
Jacqueline Patterson is the Director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program. Since 2007 Patterson has served as coordinator & co-founder of Women of Color United. Jacqui has worked as a researcher, program manager, coordinator, advocate and activist working on women‘s rights, violence against women, HIV & AIDS, racial justice, economic justice, and environmental and climate justice. She has previously served as a Senior Women’s Rights Policy Analyst for ActionAid where she integrated a women’s rights lens for the issues of food rights, macroeconomics, and climate change as well as the intersection of violence against women and HIV & AIDS as well as Assistant Vice-President of HIV/AIDS Programs for IMA World Health providing management and technical assistance to medical facilities and programs in 23 countries in Africa and the Caribbean.
Patterson’s publications/articles include: ”Jobs vs Health: An Unnecessary Dilemma”, “Climate Change is a Civil Rights Issue”, “Gulf Oil Drilling Disaster: Gendered Layers of Impact”, “Disasters, Climate Change Uproot Women of Color”; “Coal Blooded; Putting Profits Before People”; “Just Energy Policies: Reducing Pollution, Creating Jobs”: “And the People Shall Lead: Centralizing Frontline Community Leadership in the Movement Towards a Sustainable Planet”; and book chapter, “Equity in Disasters: Civil and Human Rights Challenges in the Context of Emergency Events” in the book Building Community Resilience Post-Disaster.
Dana Alston served as one of the key planning committee members for the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit held in October of 1991. In 1990, she co-authored the seminal report, We Speak for Ourselves, which articulated one of the key concepts of the environmental justice movement - that those most impacted by environmental threats are most capable of speaking for themselves - to tell their own stories and share their vision for community restoration and racial and economic justice.
At the First People of Color Summit, Dana gave a historic speech articulating the history of environmental racism, inequity, classism and the need to pursue and build a multi-racial, multi-cultural environmental justice movement.