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Climate justice activists at a protest, holding signs and a large banner that reads "No North Brooklyn Fracked Gas Pipeline".
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MEET OUR TEAM

Our mighty team runs Start:Empowerment's operations but our work is a part of a collective effort.

As a youth and BIPOC-led nonprofit, we rely on the input of fellow youth, organizers, students, our Vanguards, volunteers, community members, teachers, advisors, and partners who help us execute our mission day in and day out.

Kier Blake

Kier Blake

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(They/Them)

Co-Founder, Director of Operations and NYC Programming

Growing up, kier witnessed firsthand the impact of environmentally racist practices, from being forced to play soccer near a large oil drilling field to having a fracked gas pipeline imposed on their neighborhood under the guise of routine "work", contributing to the myriad of public health crises routinely overlooked in their communities. kier saw similar injustices playing out elsewhere in the world as they engaged in 2+ years of on-the-ground community-based fieldwork and education advising globally, contributing to initiatives focused on education, youth leadership, trauma-informed curriculum, and sustainability. This has included interdisciplinary agricultural education co-creation in Kisumu (Kenya), youth leadership development in occupied Palestine, and the implementation of trauma-informed curriculum in a camp school along the Lebanese-Syrian border.  Through their experiences, both as a participant and organizer alongside BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color), kier came to believe in the transformative power of education as a critical tool for collective action and worldview change. As such, they advocate for education that translates knowledge into action, fostering a global commitment to a sustainable and equitable future. As such, kier co-founded Start:Empowerment (S:E) in 2019 to provide this exact kind of social and Environmental Justice education in New York City with populations of students who were largely immigrants, BIPOC, working class students. They aimed to address injustice normalization by creating curriculum and school programs at S:E that reflected students' backgrounds, drew from their lived experiences, and incorporated local Indigenous, organizing, and artistic wisdom. Understanding the importance of activism both from within and outside institutions, kier aims to shift paradigms within systems while advocating for critical education to shape future champions for justice. Their work at the intersection of justice and conscious learning drives them to conduct original research and justice-oriented policy design at Next100, examining and supporting the rise of statewide education policies that will activate (climate) champions across the Northeast.

Alexia Leclercq

Alexia Leclercq, M.Ed

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(She/Her)

Co-Founder and Executive Director

Alexia is a grassroots organizer, scholar, and artist who has led over a dozen environmental justice campaigns from advocating for an equitable fossil fuel phase out to organizing for mutual aid. At S:E, Alexia is working to builds climate survival and education programs that move towards building new systems that center healing, decolonization, and liberation.   Based on unceded, occupied Cohuiltecan, Tonkawa, Comanche land (Austin, Texas) Alexia is one of the co-creators of S:E and handles the org's curriculum development, education programming, grants management, youth mentorship, and fiscal health.  Alexia graduated summa cum laude from NYU ('20), where they self-designed a major titled "The Politics and Economics of Inequality." Their research focuses on political ecology, environmental justice, AAPI communities, consumer culture, inequality, postcolonialism. ​As an organizer, educator, policy advocate, and researcher they have spent the past 5 years working on various issues from preserving the Colorado River, fighting land use policy and zoning that enforces race-based discrimination, conducting ethnographic research, to organizing mutual aid, youth programming, and shaping national legislation alongside members of the  Environmental Justice Leadership Forum and the Environmental Justice Health Alliance. In 2021, their work was recognized by the prestigious Brower Youth Award.   Outside of S:E, Alexia works at PODER (an environmental justice non-profit in Austin), creates strategies for a climate justice org, fosters kittens (@little.foster.family), helps out at their local therapeutic riding center, climbs trees, and makes art.

Alysha Berry

Alysha Berry

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(She/Her)

Director of Communications, Digital Media & Design 

Over the last 6 years, Alysha worked closely with youth in the Bronx, NY and New Delhi, India. During her time at Sarah Lawrence College, she helped develop an educational program that facilitated the long-term educational and personal growth of youth belonging to the refugee community in Yonkers, NY. Alysha is responsible for shaping S:E's visual identity and digital campaigns and supporting the growth of its social media platforms and virtual community.  Based in New Delhi, India.  Alysha was one of S:E’s first volunteers whose critical contributions led her to manage the newsletter, videography and social media production for the org. Now she also handles content strategy, digital campaigns, community engagement, marketing and outreach, and curriculum design. Alysha graduated from Sarah Lawrence College where she concentrated in Literature and Psychology with a focus in post-colonial studies, linguistics, and cultural anthropology. She was particularly interested in the role of vernacular languages and scripts, memory, and cultural traditions in the practices sof (re)claiming land placemaking in Desi-populated migrant neighborhoods of NYC such as Jackson Heights and Coney Island Avenue. She has also always been interested in education and curriculum development; during her time at Sarah Lawrence, she received the Sarah Lawrence Student Leadership Award for her efforts in developing an educational program that supported the long-term educational, linguistic, and personal development of young Afghani immigrant students in Yonkers, NY. In 2021, Alysha returned to her hometown, New Delhi and worked at an Education Consultancy where she mentored high-school students, introduced them to research methodologies and critical thinking through workshops, and helped create a Writing Mentorship pilot program. Through this experience, Alysha further realized the need for accessible, alternate forms of education which empower students with to apply their knowledge to transform their communities. When she’s not working on media campaigns for S:E, Alysha can be studying ways in which creative and expressive arts therapy can be used as a way to heal inter-generational trauma and implemented in BIPOC communities.

Gabriella Grinwald-Alves

Gabriella Grinwald-Alves 

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(She/They)

Director of Transformative Justice Education 

Gabriella (G) Grinwald-Alves is a critical media educator, organizer, media artist, and instructional designer based on unceded Lenape land (Staten Island, NY). G received her BA from Sarah Lawrence College where she began exploring the use of media-making as a tool to “make strange” the oppressive structures of colonialism, imperialism, and capitalism. In 2023, G graduated from Teachers College, Columbia University (MA, Instructional Technology and Media) where she focused on anti-racist, abolitionist, and transformational Indigenous pedagogical models and paths to implementing theory into action. During her time at TC, Gabriella collaborated with The Lenape Center to Indigenize the curriculum for pre-k through 2nd grade NYC learners on Manahatta/Manhattan to build Lenape presence and futurity in Lenapehoking (Lenape land). Over the last 5 years, Gabriella has worked in over 50 schools across Queens, Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Manhattan as a media literacy specialist and filmmaking teaching artist. Their work is centered around empowering learners through a combination of critical media literacy and political education utilizing transformative and abolitionist frameworks. G strives to confront and dismantle the pervasive power dynamics in our current socioeconomic and, therefore, education system to ensure that youth and adult learners alike are provided with the support, resources and tools they need to drive their own learning and paths to liberation. At Start:Empowerment, G will be building and continuing partnerships with schools in the NY, NJ and CT tri-state area and collaborating with innovative curriculum writers to bring environmental and transformative justice education to all students. In her free time, G is working in their community to organize for Palestine, catching up on reading the many books that have been sitting on their shelf, and working on small film and photography projects. Based on unceded, occupied Munsee-Lenape Canarsie land (Brooklyn, NY).

​Emi Roman

Emi Roman

(She/Her)

Outreach and Marketing Specialist

Emi is a 19-year old future entrepreneur born in the Bronx, raised in Yonkers and is currently studying Marketing and Communications at CUNY. Emi hopes to make change in the world by finding a way for people who feel unseen to express themselves through art and media. At S:E, Emi helps increase the reach of S:E's curriculum by relation-building with schools and community organizations. She also contributes to S:E's marketing and social media team. 

Based on unceded, occupied Munsee-Lenape Mohican land (Yonkers, NY).

Karly Toledo
Karly Toledo

Karly Toledo

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(She/Her)

Grants  Lead

Karly is a Diné Asdzáán, a member of the Navajo Nation and budding narrative and culture change strategist. She is Edgewater born for Mud and a recent graduate of Smith College with a B.A. in Government and minor in Economics. She is an experienced political organizer with a demonstrated history of working in congressional and Native lead non-profit organizations. At Start:Empowerment, Karly supports grant writing and fundraising campaigns.

Karly Toledo
Kate Sederstrom

Kate Sederstrom

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(She/Her)

Fundraising Lead

Kate has been working with words for nearly a decade. After six years in the book publishing industry, she shifted her focus to fundraising and grant writing in 2020. Kate now uses her passion for storytelling to help amplify the voice and mission of community and climate advocates, while learning all the while. At S:E Kate writes grants to help sustain S:E's work and supports copywriting for social media and promotional materials. 

Based on unceded, occupied Munsee-Lenape Canarsie land (Brooklyn, NY).

Jasmine Butler

Jasmine Butler

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(They/Them)

Political Education Specialist 

A black queer southern writer, political educator and afro-futurist abolitionist, Jasmine has spent years working full-time in the climate movement before transitioning to organizing coaching and political education for the Peace Movement with CODEPINK: Feminist for Peace. Jasmine is also a lover of black art and black resistance, and is growing as a movement educator and historian. At S:E, they help create and strengthen its justice-centric curriculum and political education programming. 

Based on unceded, occupied Jamnos, Wichita, Kiikaapoi, Tawakoni land (Dallas, TX). 

Kianna Pete

Kianna Pete

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(She/Her)

Political Education Specialist 

Kianna is a Diné, a citizen of the Navajo Nation, from Farmington, New Mexico. She earned her BA in Political Science and Ethnicity and Race Studies from Columbia University. At Columbia, Kianna helped implement the first housing building on campus dedicated to Indigenous students and provided mentorship on navigating university life. Kianna helps build S:E's justice-curricula and creates digital toolkits to increase the accessibility of its educational programming. 

Based on unceded, occupied Munsee-Lenape Canarsie land (Brooklyn, NY).

Maia Rivers

Maia Rivers

(She/Her)

Marketing and SEO Specialist

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Maia is a recent graduate in BSc Conservation Biology and Ecology from the University of Exeter, with previous work experience ranging from wildlife research to graphic design. She is a budding writer with interests in environmental anthropology, equitable conservation, and science communication. Through her work, Maia hopes to further both environmental and social change, particularly for the disabled and queer communities. At S:E Maia helps with marketing, SEO, and copy editing to expand the reach of S:E's curriculum.

 

 

Based in Exeter, England.

Lalo Remes
Lalo Remes

Lalo Remes

(He/His)

Videographer and Curriculum Developer

Lalo is an Urban Sustainability graduate, he specializes in short-form educational content. At S:E, Lalo is a videographer and curriculum developer, leading video production and development of the Energy curriculum.   

Liz Brady

Liz Brady

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(She/Her)

Education Instructor

Elizabeth D. Brady-Rosario  (“Liz”) is a New York based educator specializing in the Social Sciences, ESL, and student wellness and advocacy. Liz has taught with communities in the Western highlands of Sololá Guatemala, Guatemala City, and Saudi Arabia. At S:E Liz is the in-house instructor currently teaching our Food Justice curriculum to three age groups in partnership with The Connected Chef and Queens Community House. 

Based on unceded, occupied Munsee-Lenape Canarsie land (Brooklyn, NY).

Meet Our  Board.

In order to frame our work, we rely on the advice of  leaders in the field to help us navigate the ins and outs of day-to-day operations and meet our mission.

Dr. Osbourne

Dr. Osbourne

(He/Him)

Osbourne graduated from Brown University with a Bachelor's of Science in Biomedical Engineering class of 1991 and from USC School of Medicine in 1995. ​ To this day, he has been practicing internal medicine with a special interest in Sickle Cell Disease, a group of disorders that cause red blood cells to become misshapen and break down affecting the health, wellbeing, and mortality of BIPOC populations, especially. Since 1998, he has been practicing at Kaiser Permanente where he is now the Director of the Sickle Cell Disease Care Program. ​ As a resident of Los Angeles, he has been striving to empower people to live the best and healthiest life possible with the goal of centering herbal/osteopathic medicine, while using the least amount of pharmaceutical/allopathic medicine possible.  ​ Start:Empowerment's work with Osbourne goes back to its founding in 2020 as Osbourne is a founding board member. The organization's current work ties into his belief that the environment plays a major role in collective health outcomes and contributes to the health disparities that we see everyday. His mission as a board member is to foster environments where everyone can thrive.

Pratik Raghu

Pratik Raghu

(He/Him)

Pratik Raghu (he/him/his) has been a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Environmental Policy and Sustainability Management (EPSM) Program at The New School in New York City since the start of the 2022-23 academic year. Pratik completed his PhD in Global Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 2022. His dissertation analyzes repertoires of ungovernability within Indigenous mobilizations against neoliberal dispossession and state violence in Jharkhand, India and Oaxaca, Mexico. His broader intellectual interests include Indigenous, decolonial, anti-capitalist, and anti-authoritarian movements and theoretical frameworks from South Asia, Latin America, and other parts of the Global South, as well as alternative globalization paradigms and scholar-activist methodologies. Pratik’s research has appeared in both leading scholarly publications, such as 'Perspectives on Global Development and Technology,' and prominent public intellectual platforms, such as 'ROAR Magazine,' 'Society & Space,' 'CounterPunch,' and 'It’s Going Down.' As a Post Growth Institute Fellow for 2023-24, Pratik is exploring the linkages between postgrowth, anti-fascism, and class struggle.

Mikaela Loach

Mikaela Loach

(She/They)

Mikaela Loach (she/they) is the bestselling author of It's Not That Radical: Climate Action To Transform Our World, a climate justice activist, co-host of The YIKES Podcast, writer and former medical student based in Brighton. In 2020, Forbes, Global Citizen and BBC Woman's Hour named Mikaela as one of the most influential women in the UK climate movement. In 2021, she was one of three claimants on the "Paid To Pollute" case who took the UK government to court over the huge public payments they give to fossil fuel companies every year. Her work focuses on the intersections of the climate crisis with oppressive systems and making the climate movement a more accessible space. "It's Not That Radical: Climate Action To Transform Our World" is her first book.

Rev. Yearwood

Rev. Yearwood

(He/Him)

Rev. Lennox Yearwood Jr (he/him) is the President & CEO of Hip Hop Caucus. Establishing the Caucus in 2004, he aimed to merge Hip Hop culture with civic empowerment. In 2018, he launched Think 100% and further propelled the Caucus into environmental justice advocacy, championing a shift to 100% renewable energy. He also spearheads campaigns advocating divestment from fossil fuels, amplifying diversity within the climate movement, and advocating for clean water and air accessibility for all. His dedication extends to frontline efforts, including participation in international climate negotiations in Paris and leading the charge against new oil pipeline developments in Maryland and at Standing Rock. Acknowledged as a Champion of Change by the Obama White House, Yearwood's unwavering dedication continues to shape both Hip Hop and environmental activism, fostering positive global change and social justice.

Meet Our
Advising Committee.

Mohini Govender

Mohini Govender

(She/They)

Justice Education Advisor

For over 5 years, Mohini Govender (she/they) has been exploring social justice and environmental justice with their focus being on just and liberatory advocacy, action, and education.  Currently they are a Knowledge Curator at YouthxYouth and more recently a participant in YxY's 2023 Weavership program. Centering and weaving decolonial and prefiguratively liberated ways of being and knowing in their consultancy work, Mohini supports with consulting on Start:Empowerment's justice-oriented curriculum offered on a sliding scale on S:E's Curriculum Suite and in schools across NYC.  Based in Gqeberha, South Africa.

Help spark radical change by becoming a working board member at S:E!

"Grassroots groups challenge the 'business-as-usual" environmentalism that is generally practiced by the more privileged wildlife- and conservation-oriented groups. The focus of activists of color and their constituents reflects their life experiences of social, economic, and political disenfranchisement."

-Robert Bullard

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