Meet Ebony Twilley Martin, Greenpeace’s New Co-Executive Director
by Annie Leonard
September 8, 2021
Greenpeace’s first Black woman Executive Director is already breaking new ground with her commitment to justice
For any organization to stand for 50 years and to transform from a small grassroots movement to a global institution, it must embrace change. It must adapt to a world that is constantly shifting beneath its feet.
For a progressive organization to stand for 50 years, positioning itself for a future filled with uncertainty and challenges, it must discover, cultivate and empower new leaders. It must break new ground and set new standards.
It must, as our founders did on their first voyage to stop the nuclear testing on Amchitka Island, lean into the wind and be nothing short of revolutionary.
It’s in that spirit that Greenpeace US announces a change to its leadership structure by welcoming Ebony Twilley Martin as its first co-executive director and as the first Black woman executive director of a Big Green legacy environmental organization in the United States. Ebony will join Annie Leonard to lead all of Greenpeace’s US operations, bringing her powerful skills as a justice activist and strategist to her new role.
While her position is new, Ebony’s commitment to ensuring Greenpeace remains on the leading edge of the environmental movement is not. After joining the organization in 2013 as its Senior Talent Acquisition Manager and Director of Human Resources, Ebony would soon become Greenpeace USA’s first Black woman Chief Officer of People and Culture before being named Chief Operating Officer in 2018.
But those are her titles—not her story.
Ebony’s work as part of the environmental movement truly began on the day her family pediatrician identified environmental pollution as a key factor in her son’s asthma. Ebony soon discovered that these kinds of environmentally-related health impacts disproportionately affected Black children, bringing loudly into her own home the reality that the climate crisis is not simply an environmental issue, but a racial justice issue, an economic justice issue, and an issue of civil rights, equity, and safety.
We are giving $15 billion per year to fossil fuel companies to poison our air, to poison our planet?
Not today. Not on our watch.@GreenpeaceUSA COO Ebony Martin at @GND_Network’s #GoBigger rally on climate, jobs, and justice. pic.twitter.com/RQHm2eGOTQ
— Greenpeace USA (@greenpeaceusa) July 21, 2021
Ebony’s leadership was vital as she led the Greenpeace response to the racial reckoning of Summer 2020. Ebony brings that critical perspective to her new role as co-executive director. While everyone at Greenpeace recognizes and understands the pervasive, far-reaching, and multi-faceted nature of the climate crisis, Ebony’s lived experience brings forward a new way of thinking and understanding what that means. She leads first with her commitment to justice and to fostering an environmental movement where that commitment permeates and informs everything we do.
I asked Ebony what is most important to her as she takes on co-leadership of Greenpeace:
“My priority is to make sure that Greenpeace is talking to people like me about why and how we have to act now on the climate and making the world a safer, more equitable place.
“As we have seen in the aftermath of recent extreme weather events, it is impossible to separate the truth that we are living in a society where those with the power to make real change are doing so only for those already gifted with privilege and power. We see what parts of the city are most vulnerable to flooding and failing infrastructure. We see which individuals are left to find a way to work, even when others are allowed to remain safely at home.
“With science telling us we have less than one decade to face the climate crisis head-on, we need to fight for the people others would leave behind.”
And so, 50 years after a ramshackle fishing vessel set out with a crew of activists determined to make a difference, Greenpeace US begins its own new journey: a journey where no one will be left behind.