WASHINGTON, DC—Rachel’s Network announced the awardees and finalists of its 2022 Catalyst Award. The award honors women leaders of color for their commitment to a healthy planet, and provides them with financial support, wraparound leadership services, and public recognition.
“The environmental movement is nothing without the strength and wellbeing of its leaders,” said Rachel’s Network President Fern Shepard. “We are thrilled to recognize and support this years’ awardees and finalists who are fighting polluting industries, growing better food systems, organizing for climate justice, and building civic power.”
The five awardees (in alphabetical order, pictured above) are:
Colette Pichon Battle, Taproot Earth, Bayou Liberty, LA
As founder of the Taproot Earth (formerly Gulf Coast Center for Law & Policy), Colette led programs on equitable disaster recovery, global migration, community economic development, and energy democracy for more than 17 years in the Gulf South. She is a lead architect of Gulf South for a Green New Deal and helped develop Southern Communities for Green New Deal. She is partner of vision & initiatives at Taproot Earth, a global climate justice organization working for a world where all people can live, rest, and thrive in the places they love. Find Colette on Instagram and Twitter.
Fatuma Emmad, FrontLine Farming, Denver, CO
Fatuma is co-founder, executive director and head farmer of FrontLine Farming, an advocacy group focused on food growing, education, sovereignty, and justice and supporting women and people of color in our food systems. She is also president of Mile High Farmers, co-convener for Project Protect Food Systems Workers, and a lecturer in the Masters of the Environment program at CU Boulder. Before becoming a farmer, Fatuma was a political scientist who studied issues affecting farming communities across Southern and Eastern Africa. Find FrontLine Farming on Instagram and Twitter.
Cherri Foytlin, Movement Training Network, Tierra Amarilla, NM
Cherri is an Afro-Indigenous (San Carlos Apache) social, climate, and environmental justice organizer, author, and speaker. As a founder of L’eau Est La Vie (Water is Life), she helped lead a direct action campaign to stop the Bayou Bridge Pipeline in South Louisiana. She also created the Ndn Bayou Food Forest, a biodiverse 11-acre forest of free food. As executive director of Movement Training Network, she works to increase participation in social movements for climate and environmental justice, and a just transition. Find Cherri on Instagram and Twitter.
Zulene Mayfield, Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living, Chester, PA
Zulene co-founded Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL, pronounced circle) in 1992 to fight the many toxic waste processing and burning facilities in Chester, PA. CRCQL filed the first lawsuit of its kind against the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection alleging discrimination in its practice of issuing permits in Chester. As a result of CRCQL’s actions, Pennsylvania created The Office of Environmental Justice in 2021. She is now leading the fight against a proposed LNG export terminal in Chester. Find CRCQL on Instagram.
Ciara Williams, PLAN: The Post-Landfill Action Network, Chester, PA
Ciara is a researcher, facilitator, and organizer from Chester, PA—a frontline community with a rich history of environmental justice organizing. She is the co-executive director of PLAN: The Post-Landfill Action Network which promotes zero waste efforts on college campuses. She is also the board chair of Reconstruction, INC, a North Philadelphia organization supporting communities harmed by mass incarceration. As the former communications & engagement manager at the Philadelphia Office of Sustainability, she integrated environmental justice principles into city government functions. Find PLAN on Facebook and Instagram.
Yvette Arellano, Fenceline Watch, Houston, TX
Yvette is a Mexican-American Gulf Coast organizer and founder & executive director of Fenceline Watch which is working for communities living along the fenceline of industry. Yvette led multiple campaigns against fossil fuel expansions and exports, co-authored the report Plastic and Health: The Hidden Cost of a Plastic Planet, and provided government testimony on public health impacts of heavy industry. They are leading efforts in Texas to remove language barriers that prevent migrant communities from participating in the public review process for oil, gas, and petrochemical projects. Find Yvette on Instagram and Twitter.
Kelly Carlisle, Acta Non Verba, Oakland, CA
Kelly is a Navy veteran and the founder and executive director of Acta Non Verba: Youth Urban Farm Project. The organization provides safe and creative outdoor spaces for children, youth, and families in East Oakland, CA, a community suffering from poverty, violence, and institutionalized marginalization. Kelly is committed to creating positive change in her childhood city. She was selected as a 2020 Castanea Fellow and 2016 CalVet Trailblazer among other awards. Find Kelly on Instagram and LinkedIn.
Eboni Cochran, REACT, Louisville, KY
Eboni is co-director of REACT (Rubbertown Emergency ACTion), a grassroots organization of residents living near a cluster of chemical facilities commonly referred to as Rubbertown. REACT works for strong laws to stop toxic air pollution from chemical plants; the protection of residents in the event of a leak, fire, or explosion; and full disclosure and easy access to information concerning the impact of Rubbertown facilities on residents and visitors. Find REACT on Facebook and Twitter.
La’Meshia Whittington, Whittington & Staley Consulting Group, Holly Springs, NC
La’Meshia is a professor, consultant, speaker, and activist specializing in energy policy, environmental justice, democracy, organizational development, and DEI. She successfully filed and won a petition to the EPA challenging major contaminants in her home state of North Carolina. She is deputy director at Advance Carolina, deputy director of programs at the North Carolina Black Alliance, and member of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Environmental Justice & Equity Advisory Board. She is adjunct professor at Meredith College and lecturer of diversity and environmental justice at North Carolina State University. Find La’Meshia on Instagram and Twitter.
Elizabeth Yeampierre, UPROSE, Brooklyn, NY
Elizabeth is a Puerto Rican attorney and environmental and climate justice leader of African and Indigenous ancestry born and raised in New York City. She is co-chair of the Climate Justice Alliance and executive director of UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Latino community-based organization. Elizabeth successfully stopped the siting of a 520mgw power plant, organized coalitions that doubled local open space, beat a rezoning application from a powerful developer, launched the first community owned solar cooperative in New York, and created a path for half a billion dollars of investments for offshore wind and a just transition. Find Elizabeth on Instagram and Twitter.
Women of color are leading the environmental movement, fighting polluters, advocating for clean water, building a green economy, expanding access to healthy food, and much more.
Despite this critical work, they do not receive adequate funding, support, or recognition for their leadership. In 2020, less than 1 percent of foundation giving went to women and girls of color, and according to Green 2.0, organizations led by people of color received less than 1 percent of the multiyear operational budget grants doled out in 2021.
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 fourth year, the Catalyst Award has supported over 85 awardees, finalists, and semi-finalists and granted nearly $1 million to these women and their affiliated organizations. Final awardees are selected by a committee of former awardees.
Help us spread the word about these women by sharing our posts on Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter. 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 2023!
Rachel’s Network, a 501c3 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 act on our planet’s urgent challenges. Since 2000, the network has collectively granted over $2.5 million to organizations and programs that secure a thriving planet for future generations and women leaders at the frontlines of our movement.