Celebrating Black History Month: Focus on Environmental Leaders

Dr. Robert Bullard
  • Feb 14, 2017

Since 1976, Americans have dedicated the month of February to recognizing and celebrating the achievements of African Americans and their central role in American history, past and present. 

For this year’s Black History Month, we’d like to acknowledge and celebrate a few notable contributors who are advancing renewable energy. Each of these leaders’ determination, passion, and achievements are moving the nation forward, towards a cleaner, more sustainable future: 

Jessica O. Matthews, Founder and CEO of Uncharted Power—Matthews founded Uncharted Power in 2011 and has since grown it into a wildly successful business, with 15 global patents and millions of dollars in capital raised so far. Matthews' company began by introducing the lauded Soccket—an energy-harnessing soccer ball—and now strives to achieve universal access to clean, affordable power. A Harvard Business School graduate and dual citizen of Nigeria and the United States, Matthews has been featured in ForbesBusiness InsiderEntrepreneur, and Inc. and even introduced the Soccket to President Obama

Gilbert Campbell and Antonio Francis, Co-Founders of Volt Energy—One of the largest minority-owned solar energy development companies, Volt Energy finances and develops solar energy projects, with clients such as The Cheesecake Factory, Subaru, Wake Forest University, Howard University, U.S. Army, and the District of Columbia. Campbell, with a B.B.A. in Finance from Howard University, and Francis, with a B.S. in Biology from Howard University and a Masters in Biotechnology from Columbia University, promote STEM and renewable energy education and provide youth mentorship opportunities in underserved communities. Campbell was recognized as a Champion of Change for Climate Equity by the Obama White House and a Grist 50 innovator for his work with Volt Energy. 

Mark Davis, Founder of WDC Solar—A former NBA player with the Washington Bullets, Davis founded his company WDC Solar in 2009 when he realized that many of the communities and families who would benefit the most from solar energy could not afford it. Davis worked with the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility to create a program providing low-income residents with free solar systems, helping families save up to $500 a year on energy costs, and has trained numerous low-income men and women to become solar installers. In 2016, President Obama recognized Davis and his work bringing solar power and jobs to low-income communities and honored Davis as a guest at his State of the Union address. 

Hazel O’Leary, former U.S. Secretary of Energy—The first African American Secretary of Energy, O’Leary advanced America’s energy policy toward valuing renewables and linking energy with health and environmental quality. She emphasized the importance of renewable energy and energy efficiency, increased funding for renewable energy fields, and established a quantifiable way to measure successes. She went on to lead the Ambassadors for the Minorities in Energy Initiative, part of Department of Energy’s Office of Economic Impact and Diversity. 

Lisa Jackson, former EPA Administrator—Jackson was the first African American woman to serve as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, serving under President Obama from 2009 to 2013. She worked to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, take action on climate change, and expand outreach to various communities on environmental education. Now, as Vice President of Environment, Policy, and Social Initiatives at Apple, she works to decrease Apple's environmental footprint by advancing renewable energy and energy efficiency and promoting more sustainable processes. Jackson has a master’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Princeton University and a bachelor’s degree in Chemical Engineering from Tulane University.

Dr. Warren Washington, Senior Scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research—The second African American to earn a PhD in the atmospheric sciences, Dr. Washington has gone on to become one of the premier scientists in the field. He specializes in climate modeling and has long been an expert on the mechanics of global climate change. He was a member of the President's National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmosphere and has had presidential appointments under the Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and Bush administrations. In 2019, Dr. Washington received the Tyler Prize, the world's premier environmental science award, for his efforts to advance climate change knowledge and public policy. 

Dr. Robert D. Bullard, “Father of the Environmental Justice Movement"—Dr. Bullard is known as the father of environmental justice. A professor of urban planning and environmental policy, he has written 18 books about how environmental policies underserve minority communities and other climate topics. He was named one of 22 climate trailblazers and one of the 100 most influential people in climate policy by Apolitical.

As the renewable energy industry evolves, and as our country and the world try to tackle climate change, these leaders (and so many more) are taking action and leading the clean energy revolution.

Feeling inspired to support the planet? Make the switch to 100% clean, renewable energy today to ensure a better tomorrow!

(PHOTO CREDIT: Photo of Dr. Robert D. Bullard by Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

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