WASHINGTON, DC—Rachel’s Network announced the awardees and finalists of its third annual Catalyst Award. The award honors women leaders of color for their commitment to a healthy planet, and provides them with a cash prize, networking opportunities, and public recognition for their work.
“We have been honored to get to know women at the forefront of the environmental movement through the Catalyst Award,” said Rachel’s Network President Fern Shepard. “This year’s awardees and finalists demonstrate that women of color are catalyzing change across our field, from environmental justice and energy equity to marine science and health. Their leadership is transforming our world for the better.”
The six awardees (in alphabetical order) are:
Huda Alkaff, Wisconsin Green Muslims, Milwaukee, WI
Huda is an ecologist, environmental educator, and the founder and director of Wisconsin Green Muslims, a grassroots group she started in 2005 to connect faith, environmental justice, and sustainability through education and service. Find Huda on Twitter.
Dr. Na’Taki Osborne Jelks, West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, Atlanta, GA
Na’Taki is an assistant professor in the Environmental and Health Sciences Program at Spelman College in Atlanta, GA, and co-founder of the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance, a community-based environmental justice organization that works to grow a healthier and more sustainable West Atlanta. Find Na’Taki on Twitter.
Dr. Virginia Necochea, New Mexico Environmental Law Center, Albuquerque, NM
Virginia is a mother, writer, and community advocate. She is the executive director of and the first woman of color to lead the New Mexico Environmental Law Center which protects New Mexico’s communities and their fundamental human rights to clean air, land and water in the fight for environmental justice. The foundation and drive for Virginia’s work is rooted in ceremony, her Mexican Indigenous roots, the love for community, and motherhood. Find Virginia on LinkedIn.
Daphany Sanchez, Kinetic Communities, Brooklyn, NY
Daphany is a New York native and passionate energy equity advocate. She founded Kinetic Communities in 2017 after seeing the representation gap in the energy sector. Her organization ensures frontline communities and people of color are a priority in a just clean energy transition. Find Daphany on LinkedIn.
Dr. Nikki Traylor-Knowles, Black Women in Ecology, Evolution and Marine Science, Miami, FL
Nikki is an assistant professor in Marine Biology and Ecology at University of Miami, Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. She is also the founder and director of Black Women in Ecology, Evolution and Marine Science, a nonprofit that helps combat the isolation and abuse in STEM against Black women. Find Nikki on Twitter.
Vi Pangunnaaq Waghiyi, Alaska Community Action on Toxics, Anchorage, AK
Vi is a Sivuqaq Yupik Grandmother, Native Village of Savoonga Tribal Citizen. Since 2002, she has worked with Alaska Community Action on Toxics and serves as its environmental health and justice program director. She was appointed by President Biden to the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) in April 2021. Find Vi on Twitter.
The four finalists are:
Crystal Huang, People Power Solar Cooperative, Oakland, CA
Amee Raval, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Oakland, CA
Dr. Katia Avilés Vázquez, Instituto para la Agroecología, San Juan, PR
Atiya Wells, Backyard Basecamp, Baltimore, MD
Women of color are leading the environmental movement, advocating for the human right to clean water, fighting fossil fuel infrastructure and building a green economy, expanding access to transit and healthy food, and much more.
Despite this crucial work, they do not receive adequate funding, support, or recognition for their leadership. In 2020, less than 1% of foundation giving went to women and girls of color.
Rachel’s Network, a nationwide community of women environmental funders, is working to address this disparity. They launched the Catalyst Award in 2019 to shine a light on women of color carrying Rachel Carson’s legacy.
Now in its third year, the Catalyst Award has supported over 75 awardees, finalists, and semi-finalists and granted close to half a million dollars to these women and their organizations.
Help us spread the word about these women by sharing our posts on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn. If you’d like to contribute to the Catalyst Award to support women environmental leaders of color, click here. And stay tuned for the opening of the next application cycle in early 2022!
Rachel’s Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit named in honor of Rachel Carson, is a community of women at the intersection of environment, philanthropy, and women’s leadership who exchange ideas and take action on our planet’s urgent challenges. Since 2000, the network has collectively granted roughly $2 million to organizations and programs that secure a thriving planet for future generations and women leaders at the frontlines of our movement.