Clean Economy Coalition of Color Hosts Panel of Women to Discuss Infrastructure Financing, Community Development

WASHINGTON, D.C. – In honor of Women’s History Month, the National Wildlife Federation’s Clean Economy Coalition of Color hosted a panel of women of color connected to banking, financing, economic and small business development and community revitalization to discuss historical federal infrastructure investments. The convening featured opening remarks from U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and co-chair of the Financial and Economic Literacy Caucus.

“In the United States the majority of people residing near hazardous waste are people of color. Due to America's legacy of segregation and redlining, communities of color consistently live under a greater threat of toxic air pollution compared to white communities,” said Rep. Joyce Beatty. “We need to invest in businesses that have proven to be allies in the fight to end climate change. Business owners of color, particularly women business owners are examples of these allies."

“Women of color especially, are underrepresented when it comes to financial opportunities that address their communities’ infrastructure challenges in the midst of recent, historical federal investments. Despite this, they are creative and forward-thinking experts on the frontlines leading the charge for just, equitable and localized solutions,” said Simone Lightfoot associate vice president of Environmental and Climate Justice at the National Wildlife Federation. “All that remains is to listen to them, respect their insight and follow their fierce sense of urgency while at the same time, appreciating and regarding their lived experience and decisive clarity.”

“Without economic justice for women and minorities, environmental justice is not attainable. Every person deserves a fair shot at being able to thrive financially. That fair shot comes when there are women and people of color in positions of influence, power, and leadership to help level the playing field. If those opportunities are not open to us, we have to be willing to create them,” said ReShonda Young, co-founder for the Bank of Jabez. 

“When asked what small businesses need to sustain themselves, many business owners may say money, but it often goes deeper than that. There’s marketing and promotion, social media or web support, bookkeeping, budgeting, human resources, staff and mentoring and so much more,” said Linnette Phillips, director of community and economic development for the city of Pontiac, Michigan. “These are all examples of additional needs and resources that small businesses require to be successful. With proper financing, investments or grants we can ensure small businesses meet these needs and thrive to directly benefit community revitalization.”

“At University Bank, we don't view ourselves as just a financial institution. We are also a proud member of the communities we serve. As such, we understand the importance of ensuring the utilization of clean resources to ensure the health and safety of these communities. When our neighborhoods flourish, we thrive,” said Lysa Davis, community reinvestment act officer for University Bank.

From aviation, dams and public parks to roads, schools, transit systems and wastewater, communities of color and communities with lower wealth are some of our nation’s most challenged areas, often having to overcome the fractured nature of local spending. This convening established additional approaches for a more sustainable approach to minority business development and financing opportunities for urban and rural infrastructure.

Participants in the sixth CECC conversation included: 

  • ReShonda Young, Co-Founder, Bank of Jabez
  • Linnette Phillips, Director of Community and Economic Development, City of Pontiac, MI
  • Lysa Davis, Community Reinvestment Act Officer, University Bank
  • Monica Lewis Patrick, Co-Founder, President, and CEO, We the People of Detroit
  • Ilima Ho-Lastimosa, Co-Founder of the Waimānalo Pono Research Hui, Founder, Ke Kula Nui O Waimānalo   

The CECC is an alliance of some of the nation’s most insightful Black, Latinx/e, Indigenous, Asian, and Pacific Islander leaders and advocates of color that are committed to amplifying ideas, recommendations, and solutions that uplift the priorities and economic interests of historically marginalized communities by guiding clean energy economy policies and implementation. The environmental justice team hopes to uplift equitable policies to inform decision-makers, share resources to build capacity among CECC member organizations, unpack legislation and policies that impact our communities, and highlight leaders of color that are currently operating in the clean economy to share best practices and lessons learned.  

Learn more about the Clean Economy Coalition of Color





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