Building the Bench for a More Diverse and Inclusive Climate Movement

Angela Johnson
Healthy Gulf
Kasey Kinsella
Mikayla Gingrey
Deanna Santiago
Crystal Mello
Krystie Bullock
Akikita Taken Alive
Sira Thiam
Joshua Gomez
Christa Mancias
Pablo Mancias

For decades, we have known that the environmental movement has a critical diversity problem. This is in part due to lack of effort from organizations to recruit from BIPOC communities, unconscious bias in hiring, lack of intentional leadership development for BIPOC staff, and financial barriers stemming from generations of oppression that make unpaid internships nonviable. 

The funding for organizations who could shift this reality is shamefully low. Only 1.4% of philanthropic dollars go to Black-led organizations, 1.48% goes to Latinx-led organizations, and less than 0.6% of them go to Native American-led organizations. These statistics are for the overall field of philanthropy, not even focusing on the environmental space alone. The leadership and learning opportunities in these groups are immense, but the resources they receive don’t match the potential. 

The Equation Campaign is committed to filling critical gaps in funding for the climate movement, and a strong, deep, and talented “bench” of diverse climate leaders is a major gap. The Equation Campaign Fellows program is a low-lift, high-impact program that eases the burdens on organizations with the capacity, expertise, and energy to work with and train emerging BIPOC leaders in the climate space. This program provides funding for high impact organizations, predominately ones led by BIPOC, that are fighting the oil and gas industry to support a fellow for a designated amount of time. Fellows will gain experience, wisdom, and crucial connections while making a living wage that allows them to do so without sacrificing their economic wellbeing. 

We have three goals for the Fellows program:

  • Knowledge transfer of critical skills like finance campaigning, public speaking, direct action, community organizing from experts to young leaders
  • Developing the voice and leadership of young BIPOC climate justice activists
  • Deepening the bench and expertise from critical communities so they can lead the conversation on climate

2022 Fellows

Angela Johnson | Angela is the Director of Operations & Community Engagement at Memphis Community Against Pollution (MCAP), supporting and organizing 50 volunteers, enhancing MCAP’s communications strategy, and building relationships with local environmental justice networks.

Shelli Meyer | Shelli, a first-time activist, is a Landowner Organizer at Pipeline Fighters Hub, hosting community meetings and interacting with landowners impacted by risky pipelines, ensuring that communications are consistent, presenting information at county commission meetings, and building new relationships with landowners.

Kasey Kinsella | Kasey, who helped plan the MVP Route Walk in 2021, works with 7 Directions of Service to develop the Bannister Riverkeeper program, coordinate special events and actions, develop curriculum for schools, and pursue research projects in conjunction with Indigenous communities.

Mikayla Gingrey | Unkitawa‘s Climate Justice Fellow, Mikayla, works alongside Native and Indigenous Climate Justice leaders to gather firsthand knowledge related to what it means to protect and honor the land, water, and air for us now and for the next seven generations. Mikayla works with communities to tell their stories, and is developing a docuseries highlighting the importance of climate justice from the perspectives, actions, and lived experience of Native and Indigenous leaders.

Deanna Santiago | Deanna, a member of the tribe reconnecting with ancestral ways and history, provides administrative support to the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas while learning about geological and tribal history. She also coordinates intergenerational youth programming to involve local and tribal youth in the fight to protect ancestral land.

Crystal Mello | Crystal, POWHR‘s Community Educator and Advocate, helps community members along MVP’s pathway identify their climate justice needs, mobilizes and empowers those communities to collectively resolve those needs, and conducts outreach, base-building, training, education, and leadership development targeted especially to low-income Appalachians.

Healthy Gulf | Healthy Gulf is in the process of selecting three fellows with financial support from Equation Campaign. Healthy Gulf focuses on a just transition that moves us away from extractive systems of energy production, consumption, and political oppression, and towards resilient, regenerative and equitable economies.

The Chisholm Legacy Project | With financial support from Equation Campaign, The Chisholm Legacy Project is in the process of selecting a fellow from a group of graduates of the Just Transition Lawyering Institute, an Equation Campaign grantee. The Chisholm Legacy Project The project serves as a vehicle to connect Black communities on the frontlines of climate justice with resources to traverse the path from vision to strategy to action plan to implementation to transformation.

“The mainstream environmental movement’s persistent lack of diversity and inclusion at its highest levels has been, for generations, a reflection of its network and its audience. Its lack of diverse leadership has been a core strategic disadvantage, undercutting both the professional opportunities for environmental professionals of color, and the ability of the movement to solve the most urgent crises of our time. People of color, who are most affected by these crises, deserve to lead and simply must in building the strategies and power to shape national and global policy.”

2019 Transparency Report from Green 2.0

2021 Fellows

Khrystle Bullock | Khrystle currently serves as the Hip Hop Caucus Think 100% Climate Justice Fellow and is a promoter of using research and storytelling to drive advocacy.

Akikita Taken Alive | Akikita (AK) will be working with Mazaska Talks, an indigenous-led organization with expertise in finance campaigning in the Pacific Northwest. AK will help organize youth participation on local divestment campaigns, support outreach, and learn about traditional plant medicine.

Sira Thiam | Sira will be a fellow at the Center for Protest Law and Litigation, a national hub for the defense of the right to protest. She will be deeply embedded in CPLL’s work to provide critical legal support and defense of frontline activists around the country, including their work at Line 3, environmental justice organizing in Texas, and police accountability.

Joshua Gomez | Joshua will also be a fellow at the Center for Protest Law and Litigation. Like Sira, he will be deeply embedded in CPLL’s work to provide critical legal support and defense of frontline activists around the country, including their work at Line 3, environmental justice organizing in Texas, and police accountability.

Christa Mancias | Christa will be a fellow with the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas. She will provide research and monitoring of gas pipeline construction and violations of permitting and construction areas in regard to desecration of sacred sites, contamination of water sources, and lack of due diligence and due process. She’ll also help develop public awareness programs that recognize the traditional knowledge and expertise of the autochthonous people of Some Se’k.

Pablo Mancias | Pablo will also be a fellow with the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas, working closely with Christa. He will provide research and monitoring of gas pipeline construction and violations of permitting and construction areas in regard to desecration of sacred sites, contamination of water sources, and lack of due diligence and due process. He’ll also help develop public awareness programs that recognize the traditional knowledge and expertise of the autochthonous people of Some Se’k.