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Scrapbook: Maryland Sierra Club Organizer Garners Kudos in Essence Magazine

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July 19, 2012

Maryland Sierra Club Organizer Garners Kudos in Essence Magazine


Maryland Sierra Club organizer Christine Hill was featured in Essence magazine's "Young, Black, and Amazing!" package in its August issue (p. 50).

[The feature appears in the print, but not the online edition of the magazine.]


"Armed with a law degree, this conservation representative works with the Maryland Chapter of the Sierra Club to demand a safe and healthy environment," Essence writes. "Hill is known for rallying members and leading town hall meetings petitioning for clean water and air and renewable clean energy."

Essence, a monthly magazine targeted at African-American women between the ages of 18 and 49, has a monthly circulation of 1,050,000 and an estimated readership of 8.5 million.

"To be featured in Essence is truly an honor," Hill says. "I've been reading this magazine for as long as I can remember. I even remember being a little girl, sitting on my momma's lap as she read it."

Hill says black environmentalists have been historically overlooked. "I hope this feature can be a catalyst for other young women of color to get involved and become the leaders of this and coming generations."

Born and raised in the Washington, D.C., area, Hill earned a Bachelor's of Art in Broadcast Communications and Electronic Media from Appalachian State University in Boone, North Carolina, and then went on to earn a Juris Doctor from Vermont Law School (currently ranked #1 in Environmental Law by U.S. News and World Report) in South Royalton, Vermont.

As the Conservation and Policy Associate with the Sierra Club's Maryland Chapter and Beyond Coal campaign, Hill has been working to promote clean energy—and particularly offshore wind—to members of the Maryland state legislature. When she's not in Annapolis working on clean energy policy, she is collaborating with other Sierra Club and community organizers in Prince George's County, Maryland—per capita the wealthiest black-majority county in the nation—on effective grassroots strategies in communities of color.


Hill has led, organized, or co-organized rallies, press conferences, town hall meetings and lobby day events, written newspaper articles, and given speeches on various topics. She recently introduced Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley's Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act at the 2012 Maryland Legislative Session's Environmental Summit.

Above, Hill discusses the bill with citizens in Annapolis; below, local residents sign up to be Sierra Club members at a town hall meeting on offshore wind power that Hill helped organize in Prince George's County.


As an undergraduate, Hill took advantage of every opportunity she had to study abroad, working with various indigenous communities on environmental issues. But her interest in environmental justice and organizing really took off around the issue of mountaintop removal mining in southern Appalachia. During that time, organizations working on environmental issues in Appalachia organized a meeting with the EPA to discuss the agency's efforts to address the impacts of coal mining on the region.


"As one of only two young women of color at the meeting, I discussed the environmental justice implications of mountaintop removal mining and coal extraction," she says.

"Speaking before agency leaders from EPA Region 3, the agency's Environmental Justice Division, and the Council on Environmental Quality, I was able to bring a well-rounded analysis of environmental justice to the discussion, and helped us establish the links between national policy-making in the Capitol and the on-the-ground impacts of these policy decisions."

Hill says that as the environmental justice movement moves into its third decade, new young leaders are emerging throughout the country.

"I've built my career around the notion that in order to create the change we want to see in this world, all communities and backgrounds must be represented in shaping public policy. We need to bridge divides between cultures and perspectives, build access points for community members to become engaged in important decision-making conversations, and help groups creatively and strategically brainstorm about development opportunities for people, groups, and movements."

About a year ago, Hill and Stephanie Tyree—the other young black woman who spoke at the EPA meeting on coal mining in Appalachia—began work on a project to record the little-known history of African Americans in the region. "We saw this as a significant demographic that has often been overlooked in cultural history, community organizing, and policy decisions," Hill says. "This is most starkly evident in the failure of our community-based organizations to adequately reach out and organize in communities of color in Appalachia. They were there, but they weren't being heard or seen."

Hill and Tyree are working to document the current state of blacks in Appalachia. "We see this project as an opportunity to lift up the voices of an unseen culture, and to build a foundation to develop environmental justice activism, organizing, and policy initiatives in Appalachia."


Closer to home, Hill is organizing in communities of color in Maryland, promoting the new clean energy economy and Maryland's potential for offshore wind development as a way to not only address climate change, but save ratepayers money and create good, well-paying jobs.

"Energy experts agree that America's coastline from Cape Cod to Cape Hattaras is one of the best places in the world for wind turbines," Hill says. "It's a region of shallow water, very windy conditions, and best of all, it's right next to 64 million electricity users from Boston to Charlotte. A multi-billion-dollar wind industry is coming soon to this region—guaranteed—as a solution to our twin challenges of energy independence and intensifying global warming. The states that develop this resource first will get the lion's share of the regional turbine manufacturing and supply-chain jobs."


When Hill and her Sierra Club colleagues first started phone-banking and canvassing in Prince George's County, which is 65 percent African American, they realized many people hadn't heard of offshore wind power. "We stopped saying we were hosting a town hall meeting about offshore wind and instead told people we were hosting a town hall about bringing clean air and good green jobs to Prince George's County through offshore wind," says Hill's Sierra Club colleague Chandler Sherman, above at left, with Maryland State Delegate Aisha Braveboy and Hill at one of the town hall meetings. Below, Maryland Liutenant Governor Anthony Brown addresses the town hall.


"As African-American leaders in Maryland's environmental and business communities," Hill says, "we believe the best way for our state to move forward—and to benefit all citizens—is to invest in Maryland's greatest single source of new jobs and green energy: offshore wind power.

"There is a wide range of minority-owned Maryland businesses ready to help launch this industry, and a wind energy incubation program could include services such as minority business development, workforce training, and factory retooling information sharing. This will further level the playing field to ensure that all Marylanders benefit from an industry that in 10-to-20 years will be to Maryland what the space industry has been to Florida and Texas."



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