Serving Frontline Communities with Humility and Grace

official photo of Jacqui Patterson

Our comrade Jacqui Patterson, of the Chisholm Legacy Project, was recently recognized by Time Magazine for her role as an outstanding Environmental Justice and Climate Justice champion. Jacqui has certainly been one of the most tireless and dedicated changemakers I have witnessed serving our movements over the years

It’s worth noting that Time Magazine recognized the “revolutionary” nature of her intersectional practice, an approach our EJ movement has always espoused as essential to serving communities on the frontlines of multiple and intertwined forms of harm. Honoring the quiet, selfless way that Jacqui has served impacted communities over the years, I thought I’d share some pivotal moments when she helped lift up the hundreds of organizations that make up our community-rooted movement:

Nearly two decades ago, when she discovered that a climate funders group was hosting a national strategy summit on coal power without inviting any of the communities most impacted by coal mining and power plants, Jacqui convinced these funders to host their first ever panel of EJ leaders from the Navajo Nation, Chicago, New York and Appalachia, whose groups had been effectively organizing and taking direct action against these dirty energy and mining industries.

Then in 2013, Jacqui, drew the attention of environmental funders to the massive, racialized funding disparity between the $billions given to a handful of big green policy NGOs versus the pittance scattered across tens of thousands of grassroots groups working on a myriad of environmental struggles across the US. This exploration helped pave the way for the launch of Building Equity & Alignment for EJ, one of the few participatory grant-making initiatives that continues to bridge the funding gap today.

Following the People’s Climate March in NYC, when a large, new funder emerged to engage big greens in a market-based model for regulating climate pollution, Jacqui (once again) helped open doors for EJ groups to get involved and prevent another “cap and trade” debacle. Working quietly in the background, she helped us push this climate funder to support a wide array of grassroots alliances and networks to carry on our core work, while allowing us to draw some of the big greens into alignment with our fights against various climate false solutions.

Working quietly and diligently in these ways to serve the broader landscape of those first and most harmed, Jacqui has embodied the principles of environmental justice in all aspects of her practice. Thanks Jacqui – for being such an inspiration!