Two women of color on the Mississippi Coast have been named leaders in the fight against climate change, and they will get $10,000 each from a nonprofit backed by celebrity actors Mark Ruffalo and Don Cheadle.
The “Avengers” stars recently co-wrote an op-ed for politics website The Hill headlined “Feminine leadership can save our planet,” which explains how their group The Solutions Project aims to get the country to using 100% clean energy by elevating diverse female leaders.
Ninety five percent of all U.S. philanthropy dollars go to white-led organizations, the group says, and 70% to 80% percent of those organizations are led by men.
The nonprofit’s new pilot program, called the Fighter League, specifically targets the Gulf South and just awarded $60,000 to six women leaders of color in partnership with the Movement Strategy Center.
Two of those women are Kathy Egland and Yolanda Edwards, who run the Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization (EEECHO) that teaches people on the Coast about issues and injustices related to those topics, as well as how to create change in local communities.
Egland grew up near a power plant on the Coast and dealt with what she called “environmental injustices” long after it closed.
But she was spurred to action by the combination of Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil spill, which made her want to get involved with educating people about the environment, the effects of climate change and pollution.
“I always mention Tyler Perry when I’m speaking. He once said ‘You never want to make a black woman take off her earrings,’ and Katrina followed by the oil spill made me take off my earrings and join the fight to save our environment.”
Edwards’ interest in EEECHO is supported by her career as a labor and delivery nurse. She said she sees new life everyday, and it reminds her of the important role women play.
“Women make many of the life decisions for their families, so educating families about health, their environment and the things happening is important so that they can make informed decisions,” she said.
“Whether there’s a new bridge being built in the area or a new shopping center, we want people to understand the health risks of what’s happening around them and to inform them that they have a say in these decisions.”
Human issues, not political
EEECHO’s approach is to inform the community about the environment through real-life examples and things happening right here on the Coast like the recent harmful algal bloom in the Mississippi Sound and the unprecedented openings of the Bonnet Carré Spillway, the women said.
Edwards says she tries to stay away from the terms “climate change” and “global warming” when she’s talking to people. She says some of them close their ears right away when they hear the term.
“I always tell people, climate change and global warming are not political issues, they are human issues. No matter what a person’s political affiliation is, we should all be concerned about the well-being of ourselves and our families. This is bigger than politics.”
Egland and Edwards agree that the easiest way for people to get involved is to pay attention to what’s going on around them and to question organizations and city leaders. Knowledge is power, the women say.
“Whenever we let people know that some sickness and other community issues can be linked to environmental injustices, they’re usually shocked and want to know more about what they can do.”
To find out more about EEECHO, go to their Facebook page at www.Facebook.com/EEECHO
The Solutions Project was founded by Ruffalo, along with Marco Krapels and Mark Jacobson. Cheadle is on the board of directors.