Energy Justice Award Nominees
Executive Director, Solstice
Social media: @energy4justice, @YeseniaRiveraD
Yesenia has been a community organizer from the start working with frontline and under-resourced communities throughout her career. As a tenant organizer at the Latino Economic Development Center, she worked with tenants across Washington DC and helped them assert their rights under DC law.
For Yesenia, energy and environmental justice are personal. She grew up in Puerto Rico and felt the impact of energy burdens and insecurity. She has seen the difference that having access to renewable energy can have on families, especially those struggling to pay their utility bills. She continues to advocate for the people of Puerto Rico and the need to build a new, more resilient grid focused on equity and renewable energy.
In her most recent role as Executive Director for Solstice Initiative, she continues to be an outspoken advocate for a just transition and eliminating barriers to clean energy. She leads a team working on innovative community-led energy solutions that will increase access to clean energy for traditionally excluded communities through research, policy and community-led solar projects.
Shimekia Y. Nichols
Executive Director, Soulardarity
Social media: Instagram: @soulardarity/instagram.com
Shimekia is an active member and Executive Director of Soulardarity; a non-profit environmental justice organization based in Highland Park, Michigan.
Shimekia is a life-long community activist and organizer who began this journey in her youth on the Southwest side of Detroit. She brings close to 10 years of invaluable experience in educational organizing and effective non-profit management skills. Her strong interpersonal style allows her the ability to work easily & effectively across diverse & multigenerational sectors.
In one of her recent organizing endeavors; the Work For ME: DTE Campaign, Shimekia & the Soulardarity Team and its members secured over 3000 signatures/petitions. They along with other environmental justice organization advocates across various states attracted national & international attention in a public hearing.
Shimekia is dedicated and committed to growing Black Leadership in the environmental justice work sector and an additional part of her mission is to create a sustainable wheelhouse of clean energy opportunities that are equitable, fair & accessible to ALL.
Coordinator of the Reclaim Our Power: Utility Justice Campaign
Social media: twitter @mrtaruc, IG @peopleflower.rose, @reclaimourpower
Mari Rose has been a major contributor to the Microgrid Equity Coalition working to enable microgrids are available for disadvantaged communities through the CPUC’s Microgrid Proceeding. Her leadership in that space has been instrumental to pushing the MEC to advocate strongly and fiercely for more just policies and funding and to ensure the coalition does not shy away from hard asks. She has been a steadfast member of that coalition to ensure clean, reliable microgrids will be an outcome of this proceeding. In addition to her work with the MEC, Mari Rose works on other campaigns as mentioned here: Mari Rose Taruc is the coordinator of the Reclaim Our Power: Utility Justice Campaign, an initiative of the Local Clean Energy Alliance. For 25 years, she has organized environmental justice (EJ) campaigns for clean air, affordable housing, renewable energy and climate solutions in local, state, national and international arenas. She has coordinated important EJ formations under the Southwest Network for Environmental and Economic Justice (SNEEJ), Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) and California Environmental Justice Alliance (CEJA), including to ensure that multibillion-dollar California climate and energy programs benefit disadvantaged communities. Setting roots in Oakland for 2 decades, she co-founded a neighborhood group inspired by Hurricane Katrina to cultivate community resilience, and contributed this practice of community engagement in the development of Oakland’s Energy and Climate Action Plan.
Coalitions & Trainings Director, Chispa Arizona
Social media: Twitter @masavi_perea
A construction worker by trade, he began organizing in his own church in 1998, where he took theology classes from the Dioceses of Phoenix. He got involved in the fight for immigration reform in 2001 and feels strongly about the value of civic engagement within the Latino community. Later he joined the “Justice for Roofers Campaign,” where he became a member, organizer, and then business manager of the local Roofers Union. Following this he joined the Painters Union where he worked as an organizer, business representative, trustee, and Assistant to the Business Manager.
He later helped establish a worker center in the Phoenix area before joining Chispa Arizona. Masavi holds an Associate degree in Art from Phoenix College and believes that organizing our community from the base is the most effective way to positively impact our families, neighborhoods, communities, and our Mother Earth.
Masavi has dedicated his life to fighting on the frontlines for climate justice and democracy. He was recently featured in a film covered by the Arizona Republic for his courageous journey to his role today with Chispa Arizona. Masavi has spent his time at Chispa lifting up the voices of climate refugees – folks who have fled dangerous parts of the world to Arizona seeking cleaner air and water. In addition to organizing the grassroots, Masavi is a spokesperson for communities of color on the frontlines battling our climate crisis.
Director of Workforce Development, WE ACT for Environmental Justice
Pronouns: He /Him
Charles Callaway is a resident of West Harlem. As the Director of Workforce Development at WE ACT for Environmental Justice, Charles taps into his many years of working with and leading empowerment programs throughout Harlem. At WE ACT, he has recruited and trained more than 2,000 people in 30 hours of OSHA and 32 hours of asbestos handling classes, along with over 100 certified solar installers. As a result, more than 200 now have jobs, including 138 community members working in construction and 78 in the solar industry. Charles has also been instrumental in developing a solar workers cooperative, SUNS: Solar Uptown Now Services, with his solar trainees, and they have installed 14 megawatts of solar power to date. Charles previously served as WE ACT’s Director of Organizing, pivotal in organizing residents around significant issues in the community and helping them understand the importance of advocating on its behalf. He worked with Harlem residents on the Columbia University expansion and 125th Street rezoning. Charles also worked with the Mother Clara Hale Community Taskforce and the MTA to build Harlem’s first green bus depot.
Executive Director, MN Renewable Now
Kristel leads the Xcel Rate Case Campaign for MNIPL, which will coordinate with congregations and the communities of the North and South Green Zones in Minneapolis. This work will direct residents to programs and resources to help lower their utility bills and their carbon footprint by choosing to receive energy efficiency audits, subscribing to community solar, signing up for the Solstar Project, and opting into the Organics Recycling Program.
Kristel is also the Executive Director of MN Renewable Now and was formerly the Executive Director of Cleveland Neighborhood Association. She has started different environmentally focused initiatives such as Clean City Youth, which taught youth about waste and how to take care of the environment; as well as Cycle Sisters, which is a program that hosts regular group bike rides for BIPOC women.
Kristel was one of the founders of United Black Legislative Agenda, which was instrumental in the passing of the Urban Ag Bill. In 2020 Kristel planted over 300 trees and worked with the Family of Trees to plant over 1500 white spruces, red maples, and river birches. This initiative is to help mitigate the CO2 in North Minneapolis which also addresses the Heat Island Effect. Currently, Kristel is working to address racial equity through a “block by block” initiative to retrofit 24 rooftops with solar per year in North Minneapolis which began in 2021.
Chispa National Senior Director, Chispa League of Conservation Voters
Social media: @johana_iguana
Johana Vicente is an immigrant from Ecuador who has set the ground and opened space for current and future leaders to own their leadership. She is a selfless leader who fiercely advocates for Black, Indigenous and people of color to be recognized as leaders and pushes the standards for where the current environmental movement is and how we can further make it a more just and equitable space for leaders across the country. I have seen Johana’s leadership across the country as she has led Chispa under our white parent organization and has constantly fought for accountability and anti-racism internally and externally. Johana scaled the work for Chispa at the national level and also enhanced our sustainability by sharing the connections with funders with our partners on the ground! She has scaled our national Alliance for Electric School buses to be recognized as a leader and has continued the work from having organized around the Clean Power Plan to coordinating with the EPA to ensure we have funds to transition school bus fleets.
Before joining Chispa, Johana was a community organizer with the Maryland League of Conservation Voters, where she worked with Latinx families to spotlight community stories and advance environmental justice at the state and local level. Now, as Chispa’s Senior National Director, Johana works to organize Latinx communities across the country to demand the systemic changes needed for people of color to thrive in healthy, sustainable environments. With her background in social work and passion for social justice, Johana understands that fighting to protect Madre Tierra requires addressing the racial, economic and social inequities that have allowed polluters to deliberately target low-income communities of color.
Ean Thomas Tafoya
Colorado State Director, GreenLatinos
Social Media: @believeEan @GreenLatinos
Ean is active in Denver Public Affairs, Colorado Public Policy, and Federal Environmental Policy. He has worked as a teacher, worked for three branches of local government, worked at three levels of American government, run for Denver City Council, and has directed many local and state political races. Currently, Ean is the Colorado State Director of GreenLatinos, an organization fighting for environmental liberation. Ean also serves in leadership roles on several municipal advisory committees and service organizations. He Co-chairs the Colorado Environmental Justice Action Task Force, which is tasked with making equity recommendations to reform a dozen state agencies, including the Office of Energy and the Public Utilities Commission (PUC). This role is also about building stronger ties towards justice with Tribal Nations in Colorado. He has received recognition for his work from both the Denver Regional Council of Governments and the Denver Regional Air Quality Council.
Ean has demonstrated leadership at all levels of government both inside and outside of the government and he has led two critical people driven ballot issues in Denver. The first in 2017 was named the Denver Green Roof Initiative, and it required Solar Panels and Green Roofs on buildings larger than 25,000 square feet. It was Denver’s first all volunteer driven ballot issue to succeed and they faced big opposition from political insiders, government leaders, and corporate interests. Ean also led on an equitable energy tax ballot initiative that resulted in the creation of the Denver Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency Office and a climate protection fund dedicating millions to frontline communities, like the one he was raised in.
Executive Director, Tó Nizhóní Ání
Social media: @tonizhoniani
Nicole has been a longtime leader in pushing the injustices experienced on the Navajo Nation to the forefront of national media, regulatory purview, and attention of environmental and energy justice advocates. She has worked both to mobilize her community on the Navajo Nation, but also other energy advocates to speak to the energy and water issues left in the wake of fossil fuel plant closure in the Nation. Nicole is an excellent, captivating public speaker on this issue, both from bringing broad interest to the issue and in providing direct, exacting policy suggestions in regulatory venues. She is an inspiration to the many folks working to address justice in the clean energy transition. https://time.com/6093093/water-rights-nicole-horseherder/ https://www.hcn.org/issues/53.2/south-coal-the-fight-for-an-equitable-energy-economy-for-the-navajo-nation
Arturo Massol Deyá
Fundador y Director Ejecutivo, ‘Casa Pueblo
Massol-Deyá is associate director of Casa Pueblo, a nonprofit that, since 1991, has installed close to 1,000 solar panels on homes and businesses throughout Adjuntas, a small mountainside town southwest of San Juan. Beyond providing cheap, renewable energy, Massol-Deyá hopes a growing network of microgrids will help Puerto Ricans break their dependence on an unreliable electrical system and a colonial governing structure that has plunged the island into debt, cut social services, and denied residents a voice in federal politics.
The commonwealth depends upon a creaking grid that generates most of its power from fossil fuels and often collapses during natural disasters. Hurricane Maria devastated the island in 2017, leaving 1.5 million residents without electricity. Many were left in the dark for 18 months before power was fully restored, the longest blackout in the nation’s history. In the aftermath of the storm, Massol-Deyá and his team mounted rooftop solar panels on 150 homes. When a 6.4 magnitude earthquake rocked Puerto Rico in January of 2020, those households’ lights stayed on; the rest of the island lost power for more than a week.
In October of 2020, Casa Pueblo finished its most ambitious project yet. With funding from a charitable foundation, the Adjuntas Pueblo Solar initiative installed 1,000 new solar panels in the town’s central plaza, creating a microgrid that will provide 220 kilowatts of affordable, reliable electricity to 18 stores, restaurants, and warehouses. The businesses pay a governing body, made up of those businesses’ owners, to maintain the grid. The resulting profits go toward financing solar panels for low-income families in Adjuntas and paying local residents to install them.