Meet the 2021 California Ocean & Climate Justice Fellows who will share their stories and solutions at the June 10th event!
Chris identifies as Black and grew up in San Pedro, Los Angeles next to the second biggest port in the world surrounded by five oil refineries where many of his friends and family members worked. June 6, 2020—in the heat of the George Floyd protests—Chris organized a peaceful paddle out memorial and found himself talking about the lack of diversity in ocean spaces in front of 1,200 people. Virtually every black man older than him in his family has experienced incarceration. This is why Chris is on a mission to make the ocean a safe, healing space for BIPOC. His new project, The Sea League, aims to create a year-round ocean sports program that is accessible, equitable, and representative of the diverse youth population that live along the coasts of the United States. Chris has over 15 years of experience as a diver, spearfisher, kayak guide and surfer with a B.A. in Environmental Studies at UCSB. He has also been active with many environmental and justice organizations including: Wilderness Youth Project, Mixteco Indigena Community Organizing Project, Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Environmental Defense Center, CAUSE, One Step a La Vez, and Central Coast Climate Justice Network. Chris can be reached at email@example.com.
identifies as Mexican and was born and raised in Watsonville, CA —an agricultural based town where the most residents are farmworkers living in challenging circumstances and surviving on low wages. Her parents have lived in the Pajaro Valley and worked in the strawberry fields for 15+ years. Elizabeth’s experiences with environmental racism and injustice began at a young age as she saw her parents suffer from heat stress, poor treatment, and unsafe conditions in the fields while she and her siblings and friends felt the effects of pesticides sprayed—without warning—near homes and schools. These experiences inspired her to pursue environmental justice for her community and tell the complex story of how our food arrives from farm to table. Elizabeth is a recent graduate of UC Davis where she studied Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems with an emphasis on Food & Society. She currently works as a Garden Educator for Life Lab through Climate Corps, recently accepted a role as Bike & Safety Education Coordinator at Ecology Action, and volunteers with Regeneración – Pajaro Valley Climate Action and Watsonville Climate Action Advisory Committee. Elizabeth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
grew up in Watsonville, CA and identifies as Mexican. Karina loves being in nature because she says “it is a place where I can be completely myself; a queer brown woman who loves to take in and wonder at the world around her.” She wants everyone to find refuge and a sense of belonging in nature as well as an understanding of the urgent need to protect our life-sustaining ecosystems. Karina has witnessed the effects of injustice and environmental racism as her hometown faces gentrification and the further loss of green space developers could bring. While interning with an Indigenous community in Micronesia, she was saddened to see those who make little to no trash constantly have trash washing up on their shores. Karina feels called to work with local youth because she never saw anyone who looked like her working in science and STEM roles as she was growing up. She is currently studying for a degree in Biology and Communications, serves on the board of directors for the Watsonville Wetlands Watch, and has enjoyed being able to merge her passions of making science accessible to the youth in her community and sharing her love of conservation. Karina can be reached at email@example.com.
grew up in Oakland, CA and identifies as African American/Black. Knowing that we are running out of time to regain our relationship to the natural world, Layla urges fellow BIPOC leaders to learn about the politics of water, then step up and center themselves to protect Mother Earth and those suffering from polluted water supplies. She recognizes that she was fortunate to have experienced a safe, inclusive, progressive education which included exposure to nature and the ocean that most black children from East Oakland may never experience. Santa Cruz, where Layla is currently an undergrad, is thriving with life all around from the seashores to UCSC’s forest campus. East Oakland—a mere hour away—lacks in vegetation and natural earth spaces highlighting the disparities that exist within California. Layla also wants to shed light on the importance of reconnecting children from low income and oppressed communities to nature and teaching them about water testing, hydrology, and the immoral aspects of water access and management. She is currently a student at University of California, Santa Cruz studying Feminist Studies and Politics. Layla can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michelle I. Sevilla
was raised in the Philippines and identifies as Filipinx. Having grown up in a country deeply troubled by multinational corporate resource extraction where indigenous land protectors are regularly assassinated, Michelle feels compelled to use her privilege and free speech to protect the environment. In addition to the unique lens of her upbringing in the Philippines, she has witnessed inequity and racism in and around Santa Barbara, CA—from poor translation and communication between public agencies and ESL households during the 2017 Thomas Fire, to harassment she and fellow BIPOC experience at beaches in wealthy coastal neighborhoods, to proposed oil development projects in areas occupied mostly by BIPOC populations. Michelle has more than a decade of environmental education experience in the museum setting and extensive volunteer work as a leader in environmental and justice organizations including: 350 Santa Barbara, Gaviota Coast Conservancy, Get Oil Out!, County of Santa Barbara’s Equity Advisory & Outreach Committee for the 2030 Climate Action Plan, and Central Coast Climate Justice Network. She works on environmental issues in the District for a California State Legislator. Michelle can be reached at email@example.com.
was born in Watsonville and identifies as Latina. As a child Mireya worked with her farmworker parents in the San Joaquin Valley and the Central Coast in California. She has lived in Watsonville for almost 30 years, is raising two children in its culturally diverse community. Having been engaged in movement building to uplift her community since she was young, Mireya has a deep connection to her local community, a lifelong commitment to social justice, and a passion for using arts and culture to connect people and ideas. She is an intuitive collaborator and a skilled cultural interpreter, convener, and facilitator. Mireya is co-leader of Esperanza Community Farms, a system-changing, sustainable community agriculture project focused on increasing food security and good health among low-income families from under-resourced communities in the Pajaro Valley. She also serves as Deputy Director for Arts Council Santa Cruz County and works as a Language and Cultural Consultant. Her past experience includes serving as the Director of Employment Programs at Community Action Board Santa Cruz County and establishing and managing the first Day Worker Center on the Central Coast. Mireya can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
was born and raised in Saipan and identifies as Pacific Islander: Palauan. Paige is passionate about decolonizing our lands, cultures, and lifestyles because she is tired of watching Indigenous people and lands being destroyed by capitalism. She has witnessed the effects of climate and environmental racism first hand—from seeing the effects of warming waters on Saipan’s traditional food supply; to watching as one of the strongest El Nino events in history that hit Palau in 2016; to learning how her current home Modesto, CA has been exploited and harmed by the oil and agro-business industries. A graduate of Modesto Jr. College and San Francisco State University, Paige is active in many environmental justice organizations including: Fathers & Families of San Joaquin, San Joaquin Valley Environmental Justice Steering Committee, Rise Stockton Coalition, and the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition. She has received grant funding for her work from Transformative Climate Communities, CalEPA Environmental Justice, Public Health Advocates, and the Coastal Conservancy. Paige can be reached at email@example.com.
grew up in Conyers, a suburb of Atlanta, Georgia. As a Black male, Will’s drive to connect conservation and social justice inspires him to bring an equitable lens to fishing practices in hopes of cultivating a better future for fishing communities across California. The lack of diversity and an equity lens in conservation science pushed Will to learn the perspectives of recreational fishers including those from marginalized communities and circumstances. He values active listening with compassion to connect with fishers and understand what fishing means to them and any needs and concerns they may have. Will has been working to foster collaboration between government agencies and organizations in California to improve understanding of how fishers are affected by climate change, variable fish populations, water availability, and management decisions. He loves to snorkel in freshwater and the ocean, and he is learning to fish both. Will has collaborated with the San Francisco Estuary Institute, CA State Water Resources Control Board, CA Department of Fish & Wildlife, and FISHBIO. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.