New Year, New Leadership: Welcoming Greenpeace USA’s New Board Chairs

January 15, 2019

Two new Greenpeace USA Board Chairs bring excitement and momentum to the environmental challenges we'll tackle in 2019.

Jakada Imani, the new Board Chair for Greenpeace Inc. © Greenpeace

We couldn’t be more excited to announce the new leaders of Greenpeace USA’s boards! Jakada Imani is now Board Chair for Greenpeace Inc. and Liz Gilchrist is Board Chair of Greenpeace Fund. (Why do we have two boards? See the fine print at the end*). Neither Liz nor Jakada are entirely new to Greenpeace, but as they take the helm, we caught up with them to hear why they decided that now’s the time to really throw down with Greenpeace.

Tell us a bit about yourselves.

Jakada Imani (JI): I’m a spiritually-rooted coach and trainer, a father to four powerful and creative daughters and a ChangeMaker Fellow of the Pacific School of Religion. For six years I served as executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (EBC), taking over from the center’s founder, Van Jones. At EBC we stopped the construction of one of the nation’s largest juvenile halls — an enormous “Super Jail for Kids.” And we led two successful statewide ballot measure campaigns (No on Prop 6 in 2008 and No on Prop 23 in 2010). Over the last two decades, I’ve worked on issues of racial and economic justice, workers’ rights, tenant organizing, and green jobs.

Liz Gilchrist (LG): I’ve been a been a non-profit executive and fundraiser for more than two decades. I’m currently Senior Vice President for Administration of Advanced Energy Economy, a national business association working to make the global energy system more secure, clean and affordable. In the past, I’ve fought for many causes. I’ve been a poverty and civil rights lawyer in Mississippi working on the front lines for social and racial justice in the Deep South, an activist and board member with the ACLU and Gift Planning Director at the National Organization for Women (NOW). My life in Greenpeace began 25 years ago when I joined its Development team based in Washington, DC.

Congratulations on being elected as Board Chairs of Greenpeace. Why Greenpeace? And why now?

LG: One of the things I loved about Greenpeace right from the beginning is the global view that undergirds our work in so many different ways. The most important for me is that Greenpeace has always had a deep understanding of the interconnectedness of all ecosystems and the living things that depend on and, in the case of humans, too often ravage them, and the need for what we now call ‘systems thinking’ to determine how best to protect and help them flourish.

JI: We have to take a stand for our people and our planet.  I believe that working with Greenpeace gives us a fighting chance.  We need independent, people-centered organizations that can unleash the power of collective actions to move our communities forward.

Jakada Imani taking a spin on a Greenpeace RHIB © Greenpeace

What does a green and peaceful future look like to you?

JI: I am fighting for a world that is socially just, environmentally sustainable, where people are spiritually connected and there is a deep and wide shared prosperity for all people, ecosystems, and animals.

LG: To me, a green and peaceful future involves all the things we long for and fight for — an end to conflict and war, an end to poverty and suffering, an ending to racism, sexism and inequality of any sort, and a new age of justice, of respect for all living things, and of deep renewal of the lives and spirits of every one of us and every part of the planet.

Liz Gilchrist in 2018 © Greenpeace

What does activism mean to you?

LG: Activism is a way of life for me. My parents both taught and showed me that we have a moral duty to act whenever we see injustice or suffering, whether in our community or in the world, and I have tried to follow their examples throughout my life. Whether it’s the small, day-to-day actions of helping other people in need or voting in every election, or the bold confrontation of hanging from a bridge and blockading polluters, every action by every individual across the planet can add up to an unstoppable force for good, for justice, and for equality.

JI: As a student of the Black freedom movement (some people will know it as the Civil Rights movement), activism is how I affirm life.  Without action, the people perish.

If you could have any superpower what would you choose and why?

JI: I would choose to see people for who they really are. Because as one of my good friends says, “the truth is complicated but worth knowing.”

LG: I hope this doesn’t sound too creepy, but I’d like to be able to read people’s minds. I’d like to have some help in understanding and finding effective ways to counteract the narrow, confused, or simply wrong ways too many people think about how the world should work.

Any other thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?  

LG: I find it humbling to be in a position of leadership within the organization at this time of truly existential crisis for our world in the face of unbridled climate change. I don’t know what the future holds for us any more than anyone else does. But I do know that I could not live with myself if I didn’t do everything in my power to try to steer that future in a better, more sustainable direction. Being part of this band of brave Greenpeace warriors keeps me firmly grounded in the change we so desperately need.

JI: I am deeply honored to support the incredible work of Greenpeace’s activists in the US and around the globe. I am inspired by the smart creative people on the staff of Greenpeace USA and as humbled as I am by the task we have before us, I have no doubt we will win.

*Greenpeace USA is technically made up of Greenpeace Fund (formed under Section 501(c)(3) of the IRS Code) and Greenpeace, Inc. (formed under Section 501(c)(4). A 501(c)(3)’s primary purpose is charitable, religious, educational, or scientific. A 501(c)(4) operates for social welfare purposes. For donors, there is an important tax distinction between the two. Donations to a 501(c)(3) are tax-deductible while donations to a 501(c)(4) are not. Thanks for reading to the end!

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