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Qeep Up Spotlight: African American Women Leading The Climate Change Fight

For Black History Month, We Honor These Eco-Warrior Women

Topic: The News

Dr. Beverly L. Wright – The Disruptor

Beverly Wright photo












An environmental justice scholar and advocate, author, civic leader and professor of Sociology, Dr. Wright is the founder and executive director of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice. 

She developed a curriculum at the elementary school level that’s been used by the New Orleans public school system. She manages Hazardous Waste Worker Training Programs with a work-based curriculum and a holistic approach to learning, resulting in employment for young men and women living near Superfund and Brownfield sites.

Dr. Wright received the 2003 Distinguished Alumni Award from the State University of New York, Buffalo, the Robert Wood Johnson Community Health Leadership Award in 2006, and the 2008 EPA Environmental Justice Achievement Award, among others. She co-authored Race, Place & the Environment After Hurricane Katrina and The Wrong Complexion for Protection: How The Government Response Endangers African-American Communities.

Source(s): Deep South for Environmental Justice,  


Mari Copeny – The Tween Activist



Also known as “Little Miss Flint,” Mari Copeny is a 12 year-old activist fighting for the children of Flint, Michigan. At age 8, Mari wrote a letter to President Obama and convinced him to come to Flint to take a closer look at the Flint Water Crisis. Since 2016, Mari has fundraised over $500,000, benefiting over 25,000 children in Flint and beyond. These funds have gone towards school supplies, toys, bikes, clean water, and other resources needed to ensure a fulfilled and healthy life.

When the state of Michigan decided to stop paying for bottled water for Flint residents, Mari began raising funds. Through her bottled water campaign, she raised over $280,000 and was able to distribute over a million bottles of water to the citizens of Flint. 

In the summer of 2019, Mari decided to switch from distributing bottles of water to something more convenient and environmentally friendly. She partnered with a socially responsible water filtration company to bring state of the art water filters to communities all across the US that are dealing with toxic water. 



Peggy Shepard – The Urban Justice Warrior



Peggy Shepard is the co-founder and executive director of WE ACT for Environmental Justice. She has successfully combined grassroots organizing, environmental advocacy, and environmental health community-based participatory research, becoming a national leader in advancing environmental policy and the perspective of environmental justice in urban communities. 

Shepard has received 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 Honorary Doctorates from Smith College and Lawrence University.



DeAndrea Salvador – The Energy Saver



Founder and CEO of Renewable Energy Transition Initiative (RETI) and JouleScout, DeAndrea Salvador has brought recognition to the issue of high energy burdens locally, nationally, and globally through her nonprofit, RETI.

Salvador has estimated that some low-income families can spend more than 20 percent of their income on energy bills, and she believes that households shouldn’t have to choose between heating their homes and eating their next meal.

RETI’s mission is to sustainably decrease the energy costs of low-income families. Salvador sought out innovative funding sources and was selected as a member of the SEED20 Class of 2014, an initiative that identifies and helps fund innovative ideas for addressing significant social challenges in Charlotte, North Carolina. She was recognized as a UNC Charlotte Outstanding Young Alumna in 2018 for the impact she is making in the community and she is a 30 under 30 award winner of the Charlotte Black Chamber of Commerce. 



Dianne Dillon-Ridgley – The OG Environmentalist



Dianne Dillon-Ridgley has been an environmentalist and Human Rights Activist for thirty years. She has worked on issues of the environment and sustainability, gender and CSR, both domestically and internationally.

Since 1997, Dillon-Ridgley has been a director at Interface, Inc., a global manufacturer of modular carpet and a leader in sustainable design. She was a director at Green Mountain Energy for the first six years and still chairs the Environmental Integrity Committee for the company. 

Dillon-Ridgley was appointed by the White House to the US delegation for the Earth Summit in Rio, UNGASS-’97 and WSSD in South Africa, making her the only person to serve on all three US delegations. For eighteen years she was affiliated with Population Connection/ZPG, serving as both President and Board Chair (four times). Currently she is in her second year as chair of the CIEL Board and her second term on the NWF Board. She is founding chair Emerita of PLAINS JUSTICE, an environmental law center for the Great Plains and currently ED of WNSF (the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future).

Former President Clinton appointed her to the PCSD, his council on Sustainable Development. In the recent US election, Dillon-Ridgley worked on the Obama campaign from its earliest days in Iowa and was part of the P-CAP (Presidential Climate Action Project). In 2000, she chaired the Millennium DPI conference at the UN, which first introduced the idea for the Millennium Development Goals. 







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