Queen Zakia Shabazz, VEJC Coordinator
Queen Zakia Shabazz
Queen Zakia Shabazz is an author, educator, lecturer, and environmental justice advocate. Her work began in 1996 when she discovered that her young son had been poisoned by lead, prompting her to establish United Parents Against Lead (UPAL). UPAL is a national networking organization of and for parents of children poisoned by lead that works to end the threat of lead poisoning and other environmental hazards through education and awareness, advocacy, intervention, and resource referral.
In addition to serving as executive director of UPAL, Shabazz is a local Stand for Children Organizer, a position she's held since 1996. She currently serves as Coordinator of the Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative (VEJC) and is a member of the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative. Shabazz is an inaugural Community Partners in Residence Fellow at the University of Richmond, and a former elementary school teacher. As an advocate for Adult Literacy she has served as a READ Center Board member and on the advisory board of the Senate Joint Subcommittee Studying Lead Poisoning Prevention. Shabazz continues to provide valuable insight, time and dedication towards the eradication of lead poisoning.
Queen Shabazz holds a bachelor's in business administration and a paralegal certificate specializing in real estate and civil litigation. She is also a notary public and a 2019 graduate of the EPA's Environmental Justice Academy.
VEJC Board of Directors
Gustavo Angeles is a Peruvian who moved to the United States in 1999. He worked as an attorney in Peru and earned a Master’s and Ph.D. in Education from the University of Arizona. He has worked with immigrant communities, seeking ways to improve their living conditions, linguistic and cultural maintenance, and rights. Gustavo brings personal, scholarly, and legal perspectives to his current position He serves as the Environmental Justice Program Coordinator in the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter where he brings a diverse combination of personal, scholarly, and legal perspectives to the role.
Chelsea Barnes is the New Economy Program Manager for Appalachian Voices. Chelsea holds a B.A. in Biology from the College of Wooster and a Master of Environmental Management from Duke University. Chelsea is an expert in clean energy policy with 12 years experience in the field. Prior to joining Appalachian Voices, she worked at the NC Clean Energy Technology Center, eventually launching EQ Research, a clean energy policy consulting firm, with her colleagues in order to advance strong renewable energy policies across the country. Chelsea joined Appalachian Voices in 2019 and is based in the Norton, Va. office where she coordinates the Solar Workgroup of Southwest Virginia’s efforts to develop solar projects in the coalfield region through collaborative partnerships. She also works with local communities on abandoned coal mine land reclamation and economic development projects.
Kendyl Crawley Crawford has been at the forefront of congregational organizing efforts taking place in Virginia around the issue of climate change as the Director of Virginia Interfaith Power & Light. Kendyl received a bachelor’s degree in Marine and Environmental Science from Hampton University in 2012 and has a Master’s of Science in Environment, Science and Society from University College London where she conducted research on social movement organizations mobilizing around air pollution in London on a Marshall Scholarship. Kendyl is also a member of the NAACP and has received a Creating a Climate for Change Certificate of Recognition, National Hampton Alumni Association Outstanding Academic Achievement Award, a Proclamation from the City of Hampton, VA and also was declared a Young Futurist by The Root.
Monica Esparza is an educator, founder of AfroCity and trustee of the Renewal of Life Land Trust. Her background includes service such as one of the community trail blazers who helped preserve the historic Hickory Hill School and led the annual Trail Walk to commemorate Hickory Hill’s environmental heritage in conjunction with National Trail Day for many years.
Retired from Richmond Public Schools as a Career and Technical Education instructor, Monica also has over 18 years of service with the State of Virginia, beginning at the Supreme Court of Virginia and transitioning to the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, where she worked as a regional assistant, assisting park managers with operations, before joining Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and ending her State career as a marketing manager in the field of Civil Rights.
She continues a long commitment to green advocacy and environmental justice by engagement in environmental education and workforce projects. Monica has experience with business and legal frameworks centered on environmental regulation, protection and justice, and is a graduate of the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute.
Dr. Mary Finley-Brook
Dr. Mary Finley-Brook is currently an Associate Professor of Geography and the Environment at the University of Richmond. Dr. Finley-Brook's research focuses and expertise include a diverse range of topics including: climate change policy and carbon trade, transnational forest management and extraction, multi-ethnic/indigenous peoples' resource rights in Latin America and sustainability within institutions of higher education. Mary has years of experience within her topical research areas and her work has been published and cited in dozens of academic journals and books. Dr. Finley-Brook is also very active within the environmental justice sphere in the state and formerly served on the Governor’s Advisory Council on Environmental Justice. Mary holds a BA in Environmental Studies, Concentration in Latin American Studies from the University of Vermont, a MA in Latin American Studies from Tulane University and a PhD in Geography from the University of Texas-Austin.
Steve Fischbach is currently the Litigation Director for the Virginia Poverty Law Center, the state support center for all Legal Aid
programs in Virginia. Before moving to Virginia Steve worked for 30 years at Rhode Island Legal Services, pioneering the practice of Community Lawyering in a legal services setting.
His legal experience spans a variety of racial justice issues, including environmental justice, community reinvestment and disinvestment, urban school reform, siting of low income housing and facilities for the homeless and preservation of public and subsidized housing units. His environmental justice work includes litigation, research and development of policies related to the siting of schools relative to
environmental hazards such as toxic waste sites; transactional work related to the establishment of a new environmental justice organization and grant writing to support community education and capacity building projects on environmental justice issues. Steve received his undergraduate degree from Brandeis University and his law degree from Boston University Law School.
Garry A. Harris currently serves as the President of the Center for Sustainable Communities and holds the role of President of Sustainability Solutions Group (SSG), a consulting firm that provides diverse sustainability, energy engineering and power generation technical services. Garry holds a BS in Nuclear Engineering from the University of Virginia, a MS in Technology Management and a MS in Quality Engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology. Garry has more than three decades of experience in the energy, environmental and sustainability fields and has performed extensive project management, design, construction, quality assurance, field engineering, plant operations, training, research and regulatory activities at locations nationally and internationally. Garry has received numerous awards and holds positions on several boards and civic associations including 100 Black Men of Atlanta, Emory University Rollins School of Public Health, Georgia Interfaith Power and Light and Emory University School of Theology (CREATE program (Culture, Religion, Ethics, and the Environment).
BeKura Shabazz is the Founder and Mediator of First Alliance Consulting, LLC, a consulting group that uses a community-based business solutions model to develop strategies geared towards resolving specific community issues. BeKura has over two decades of experience in the field of community organizing and political education on the democratic processes that seek to empower citizens to take action in their neighborhoods. She is also active with the organization, the Southeast CARE Coalition and has worked in the past for CASA of Central Virginia, the Virginia Conservation Network (VCN) and the International Women's Lib Coalition.
Sylvina Poole is the Communications Manager for VAEJC. She is a motivated communications professional with specialties in print, radio, television and publishing. Punctual professional with keen multi-tasking abilities, organizational capabilities, time management skills, and an infallible record of meeting tight deadlines.
Since 1988, she has worked as a senior journalist for the Metro Section of the Richmond Times Dispatch, Virginia Business Magazine, Metropolitan Business Magazine, the Afro American Newspaper and the Voice Newspaper.
Sylvina has worked for Fortune 500 businesses as well as start-up organizations to deliver powerful and effective messages to their target audiences. Other accomplishments include contractor for the Richmond City Business Development department to teach budding small business owners about media relations and marketing. Successful completion of the Grant writing certification at Virginia Commonwealth University.