Renewable Energy and Social Justice with Jeffrey Richardson


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By Courtney Hayden
June 7, 2012

With Social Justice and Renewable Energy for All

Jeffrey Richardson is impeccably dressed when I meet him, carrying a small black briefcase and wearing a broad smile. His speech is slow and deliberate, then bright and cascading with excitement when he speaks of his work.  He is a businessman, the CEO of Imani Energy, but he is also a product of the civil rights movement. He has never waned in his commitment to impoverished communities of color.

In fact, empowering disenfranchised communities of color is integral to Richardson’s vision of success. As a child, he watched his small neighborhood in Pittsburgh “come apart at the seams” in response to the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and decades of injustice. His animated face grows still as he recalls the smell of burning buildings and the sound of National Guardsmen marching up his street. Richardson later left his neighborhood to pursue advanced education, which his parents assured him would be the key to his success.

Richardson earned a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, as well as a Masters in Philosophy from Ohio State University. His philosophy thesis focused on the work of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the efficacy of nonviolence as a means for social change. Richardson then immediately began using his education to help communities with similar challenges to those of his own. Richardson worked on peace initiatives in Nicaragua, campaigned with Jobs for Peace, became the executive director of a housing campaign, fundraised with United Way, and worked on job development with the National Congress for Community Development.

In his search for equality, Richardson became increasingly environmentally conscious. Environmental concerns resonated with him, and he began to research the potential of renewable energy to create jobs and empower minority communities.  He watched those in power “literally sacrifice the future of the planet, whole countries” in order to preserve the status quo and maintain profits.  For Richardson, equality and environmental betterment became one and the same. He began to see renewable energy as a path to equality and opportunity for communities of color.

“The discussion of the green economy and its development is incomplete without the inclusion of low-income and people-of-color communities,” explains Richardson “This inclusion must encompass the vision, thinking, and full participation of these communities, as equals.”

Richardson founded Imani Energy to facilitate such open participation of communities across Los Angeles.  He partnered with nonprofits to facilitate training of new solar panel installers and salespersons from economically repressed areas.  He designed programs so that those living in economically depressed neighborhoods could have solar installed on their homes with no money down.  To ensure information was reaching community members, he began to actively visit community meetings across Los Angeles.

In communities where environmental issues are vying for attention among pressing concerns such as unemployment and violence, integrating renewable energy can seem difficult. Jeffrey Richardson, however, proves that it is more an issue of how one approaches sustainability, as sustainability, economic growth, and equality can work together.

 “We are at a pivotal moment in America” says Richardson, “We have to decide as a nation to embrace a new level of human development where we see ourselves as responsible stewards of the environment and architects of a new sustainable economy that is built upon equity, and social justice.”

Sierra Club Green Home is humbled by the work of leaders like Richardson, who have dedicated their lives to the fight for a healthy environment and a just world.

For related articles, see:
Sustainability and Social Justice: Melding in 2012?
Los Angeles Youth Plant Seeds of Sustainbility and Social Justice
Solar Company in France Empowers People with Disabilities

 

© 2012 SCGH, LLC.

2 Comments

  1. Gladys Nesbit July 10, 2012
  2. Fidel July 14, 2012

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