About This Episode
With the urgency and focus of a woman on a mission to save the planet, Elizabeth Yeampierre leads UPROSE with a fierce commitment to a “leaderful” leadership model, that distributes power to all. With an emphasis on intergenerational and intersectional leadership, Elizabeth has rewritten the rules of power and placed it in the hands of the most marginalized groups. In this interview, Elizabeth talks about her experiences as a leader and how her organization is shaping conversations and actions in the climate justice fight.
Elizabeth Yeampierre is an internationally recognized Puerto Rican attorney of African and Indigenous ancestry and environmental/climate justice leader who is the executive director of UPROSE, Brooklyn’s oldest Puerto Rican community-based organization. She is also the Co-Chair of a national alliance called Climate Justice Alliance and the co-founder of #OurPowerPRnyc. Her award-winning vision for an inter-generational, multi-cultural and community-led organization is the driving force behind UPROSE. She is a long-time advocate and trailblazer for community organizing around just, sustainable development, environmental justice, and community-led climate adaptation and community resiliency in Sunset Park. In addition to that, she was recognized in 2015 by Vogue as a Climate Warrior and one of the 13 women on the frontline fighting against Climate Change. Ms. Yeampierre has been a featured speaker at local, national and international forums including Sage Paris 2015, 2016 GRI Amsterdam, White House Forum on Environmental Justice, Yale, Harvard, Cooper Union, Columbia, and universities, colleges and conferences all over the country and spoke at the opening climate rally for Pope Francis at the National Mall, The Battle for Paradise at Cooper Union with Naomi Klein. Her work is featured in several books, in addition, being featured in Latina Magazine, VOGUE, Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Grist, American Prospect, Al Jazeera, Huffington Post, Democracy Now, The Intercept, and a variety of media outlets throughout the United States, Latin America, and Europe. In 2014, Ms. Yeampierre was part of the leadership of the People’s Climate March Mobilization – a march of over 400,000 people across New York City. She played a major role in ensuring the front line was made up of young people of color, and successfully proposed the adoption of the Jemez principles for democratic organizing, which have since become the roadmap to building just relationships in the climate justice movement. Elizabeth was recently featured by in NY Times as a visionary paving the path to Climate Justice.
In her words…
Questions Answered on this Episode
- There is something sacred, and just plain old good sense, in looking for solutions from the people most affected by a problem. Yet overwhelmingly, many organizations do the exact opposite. Why do you think that is?
- I can point to countless examples of marginalized people being asked to share their stories, but rarely do they have an opportunity to get a seat at the table, especially in a leadership role to develop solutions that are beneficial to their communities. What positive impact do you see when they do have an opportunity to participate in the process? Are there any leadership themes, or best practices, that you can share?
- UPROSE’s focus is also on developing young leaders. When I think about my leadership development as a young person, I can’t honestly say that it did not prepare me for the realities of the role as a woman of color. From a development perspective, how do we prepare them to be successful leaders of color in spaces that may not be inclusive and intersectional?
- How have funders responded to UPROSE’s approach of putting the power in the hands of the people? Do they see it as a risk or has it been a benefit, because it’s been so successful?
- You have been very vocal about the need for resiliency planning. When we think about Hurricane Katrina and Maria, both of these significantly impacted the lives of people of color and displaced them. When these disasters happen, relief efforts happen- but we always seem to be in reactive mode and seemingly caught off guard. What is the role that communities can play in making resiliency a priority? How do we take control?
- How would you describe your leadership style?
- I remember reading your profile in Vogue a few years ago, when they did the feature on women in the climate change fight. As a woman in the climate change and environmental justice space, he would you describe your experience.
- How do you lead in a system when you aren’t the leader?
- Talk to me about self-care and how you take care of yourself while doing this demanding work?