WASHINGTON, DC—Rachel’s Network announced the awardees and finalists of its 2023 Catalyst Award. The award honors women leaders of color for their commitment to a healthy planet, and provides them with financial support, leadership services, and public recognition.
“At the heart of this award is the conviction that caring for movement leaders, particularly those who’ve been marginalized, is vital environmental work,” said Rachel’s Network President Fern Shepard. “We are thrilled to recognize this years’ awardees and finalists who are organizing around climate justice, working for the sovereignty of Native land and water, growing a better food system, advocating for biodiversity, and so much more.”
The five awardees (in alphabetical order, pictured above) are:
Erika Allen, Urban Growers Collective, Chicago, Illinois
Erika is co-founder & CEO of strategic development and programs for Urban Growers Collective (UGC), president of Green Era Educational NFP, and co-owner of Green Era Sustainability Partners. UGC is a Black and women led nonprofit that supports health, economic development, healing, and creativity through urban agriculture. They operate eight community-based urban farms on 11 acres of land, predominantly on Chicago’s South Side. Erika was also appointed by the Biden Administration to the Illinois Farm Service Agency Committee in 2022 and serves several organizations and government entities as a board member and advisor. Find Erika on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook
Helga Garcia Garza, Agri-Cultura Cooperative Network, Albuquerque, New Mexico
As executive director of Agri-Cultura Network and La Cosecha CSA, Helga works for equity and food justice for underserved Hispanic and Native communities in central New Mexico. Her lived experience as a member of a marginalized Native and Indigenous community, more than two decades of experience with cooperative organic farming, and her long history as a community organizer and environmental justice activist all inform her work. For the last 30 years she has been dedicated to community health initiatives on both sides of the US/Mexico region, organizing and educating communities on water, land, and air contamination. Find Helga on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
Dr. Tiara Moore, Black in Marine Science, Alpharetta, Georgia
Dr. Tiara Moore is the founder and CEO of Black in Marine Science (BIMS) which celebrates the contributions of past and current Black marine scientists, deepens understanding of climate change and ocean literacy, and connects Black marine scientists around the world. The organization has grown rapidly from a 2020 Twitter campaign (#BlackinMarineScienceWeek) to a robust nonprofit with over 350 members representing 31 countries. Find Tiara on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Jacqueline Patterson, The Chisholm Legacy Project, Burtonsville, Maryland
Jacqueline is founder and executive director of the Chisholm Legacy Project: A Resource Hub for Black Frontline Climate Justice Leadership. Rooted in a Just Transition Framework, the organization connects Black communities on the frontlines of climate justice with the resources to actualize visions. Prior to this, Jacqueline was senior director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program. She has dedicated her career to intersectional approaches to systems change. Find Jacqueline on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, Children’s Environmental Health Network, Washington, DC
Nsedu Obot Witherspoon, MPH, is executive director of the Children’s Environmental Health Network (CEHN), where she leads policy, education/training, and science-related programs with an equitable lens. For the past 23 years, she has served as a key spokesperson on children’s environmental health, conducting presentations and lectures across the country. Nsedu has a variety of publications and the distinct honor of having one of CEHN’s leadership awards, the Nsedu Obot Witherspoon (NOW) Youth Leadership Award, named in her honor. Find Nsedu on Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
The ten finalists are:
P. Qasimah Boston, Tallahassee Food Network, Tallahassee, Florida
P. Qasimah is an organizer and co-founder of the Tallahassee Food Network whose mission is to advocate for environmental/climate justice and to grow community-based good food systems.
Chanté Coleman, National Wildlife Federation, San Diego, California
Chanté is senior vice president of equity and justice at the National Wildlife Federation where they lead the effort to operationalize equitable policies and practices and support the organization to challenge systemic racism. Find Chanté on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Charlene Eigen-Vasquez (Ohlone), Confederation of Ohlone People, Gilroy, California
Charlene’s traditional homeland is along the coast of California. She is dedicated to land back initiatives, land preservation, and land restoration for the physical and mental health of community members. Find on Charlene on LinkedIn.
Amyrose Foll (Penobscot/Abenaki), Virginia Free Farm, Kents Store, Virginia
Amyrose founded the Virginia Free Farm, which provides free food, plants, seeds and ethnobotanical education to community members, gardens, schools, tribes, and other local organizations in the Richmond, VA area. Find Amyrose on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and Facebook.
Dr. Shelley Francis, EVHybridNoire/EVNoire, Atlanta, Georgia
Dr. Shelley Francis co-founded EVNoire and EVHybridNoire which advise public, private, and nonprofit entities on all facets of e-mobility; and engages underserved and diverse communities around e-mobility. Find Shelley on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Mariah Gladstone (Blackfeet, Cherokee), Indigikitchen, Babb, Montana
Mariah developed Indigikitchen, an online teaching tool dedicated to revitalizing Indigenous foods and land management. Find Mariah on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Rozina Kanchwala, Eco.Logic, Chicago, Illinois
Rozina is founding executive director of Eco.Logic, which uses arts, community-building, and education to inspire environmental action. She is also the director of energy justice partnerships at the Clean Energy Leadership Institute. Find Rozina on Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook.
Dr. Suzanne Pierre, Critical Ecology Lab, Oakland, CA
Dr. Suzanne Pierre is founder and lead investigator of the Critical Ecology Lab, a nonprofit supporting communities to destabilize oppressive systems and fight back against escalating social and planetary disaster. Find Suzanne on Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.
Jean Su, Center for Biological Diversity, Washington, DC
Jean is director of the energy justice program and a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity, a national nonprofit that fights to save life on earth. She leads a dynamic team that wages strategic campaigns that advance a just, renewable, and anti-racist energy future. Find Jean on Twitter and LinkedIn.
Violet Sage Walker (Chumash), Northern Chumash Tribal Council, Guadalupe, California
Violet is chairwoman of the Northern Chumash Tribal Council where she guides their multifaceted work in California and beyond, including the effort to establish the Chumash Heritage National Marine Sanctuary. Find Violet on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Women of color are leading the environmental movement, advocating for clean air and water, building a green economy, fighting polluters, 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 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.
Each year, the award provides women environmental leaders of color with a personal prize ($10,000); a well-being stipend ($5,000); and an organizational grant ($10,000, if applicable). Excluding the 2023 recipients, the program has granted $1.3 million to 101 environmental leaders and their affiliated organizations. 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 2024!
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