Elizabeth Yeampierre

Elizabeth Yeampierre is a Puerto Rican attorney and environmental justice leader of African and indigenous ancestry, born and raised in New York City.


  • Today, companies in the Climate Leadership Council—BP, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips—are going into the Global South to provide resources to these communities so that they can engage in sequestration. To me, that's green colonialism. You basically have these companies that are responsible for creating the conditions the Global South is enduring now benefiting from this.
  • Another example of green colonialism is what happens to a community when you have invested in environmental amenities, like doubling the amount of open space, expanding the median on Fourth Avenue, reducing emissions—doing all the things to make the community more environmentally sound. All of a sudden the community can't afford to live here anymore. The people that benefit are not [from] our community.

Interview with Atmos (2021)Edit

  • Women's History Month, for me, is like Black History Month in the sense that it's every day. It's not just a month, but it's a life. And it makes me think about my maternal ancestors. It makes me think about all the women who mentored me on my journey to the work that I'm doing and played such a major part in my development, my political understanding, and my cultural grounding. It makes me think about all of them, and I hope that everything that I do honors them.
  • We're the descendants of enslavement and colonization, we are people who come from people who've always honored Mother Earth. This climate justice work is just an extension of us honoring those traditions.
  • We try really hard to not only make sure that we're centered on the matriarchal, but that we are willing to engage in self-transformation. To be introspective and to challenge each other and ourselves; to be not only accountable to each other but to be tender and kind. That may sound like the soft stuff, but that's hard stuff when you think about how colonized we've been and what our education has prepared us to be.
  • When I first came into the environmental justice movement, it felt very patriarchal. And it felt patriarchal coming from women, too, where it was competitive and everybody was sort of jousting to be at the front of the room and get all the shine. It doesn't feel the same in the climate justice space. Everyone shares shine. Everybody shares leadership.
  • New York City is like the bastion of capitalism and patriarchy.
  • It's really important that the movement be intergenerational.
  • The conventional, dated, old ways of thinking will not be able to address the challenges of climate change.
  • When I was little, my hero was Lolita Lebrón. And then growing up, Antonia Pantoja, Iris Morales, Esmeralda Simmons, Marta Moreno Vega, Esperanza Martell… These are all women who, from the time I was in my late teens through now, mentored me and guided me—who would pull my coat, who would give me a different perspective. I try to be to another generation of women what they were to me. Through storytelling, they would sit down with me and walk me through all kinds of scenarios so that I would be able to anchor myself culturally and politically. And I will always be in deep gratitude for them because they were my education. They were so necessary for my political development—and also for my fearlessness. I would add my mom to that. They did that for me as a young woman. Lolita Lebron was a fighter for independence of Puerto Rico. I, as a little girl, wanted to be able to lead a revolution for freedom in Puerto Rico. Little kids have different dreams, but when I was eight-years old, I'm watching the Young Lords on TV, and I'm hearing about Lolita Lebrón, and I was like That's who I want to be. Antonia Pantoja passed away. She was the creator of a lot of our institutions. Marta Moreno Vega founded a bunch of institutions. Iris Morales was a Young Lord. Esperanza Martell is a healer and a shaman in our community.
  • I think that people sometimes think of mentoring as something that older women do for younger women. They don't realize that we really do learn from each other across generations. There are times when I'm in a space with someone who's 19 years old or much younger than me, and I'm listening and learning and changing. I've changed the way that I communicate. I've changed the way that I think about gender. I've changed the way that I think about so many things because younger people have taught me.
  • Young people come with hope and with a renewed vision of a future that transforms.
  • We won't have power if we don't have intergenerational power. That's not just rhetoric. We can solve problems when we're together.

AOC: The Fearless Rise and Powerful Resonance of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez edited by Lynda Lopez (2020)Edit

  • AOC embodies the kind of leadership we dream of: brilliant, courageous, and gifted, with a quick mind and an understanding of our history and the political moment from which she emerged. And most importantly to me, she believes in environmental justice.
  • I didn't come to this work with a degree in environmental policy. It happened organically: as a child, my family was displaced so often that I went to eight schools in five years. I remember walking past the burning embers on Simpson Street in the South Bronx. I had no idea then that we were living in the midst of brownfields, contaminated lots with lead, asbestos, PCBs, arsenic, and other toxics and toxicants that seeped through our walls as fugitive dust and landed in our developing lungs. Families like mine all over New York City were the targets of government and developer-driven-planned shrinkage public policies created to deny our communities basic services in order to encourage our departure. The New York City environmental justice movement was born and raised in the midst of this rubble.
  • Climate change is unlike any other threat in our history. It will test us in unimaginable ways. It demands leadership that celebrates difference, sees the frontline as partners in decision-making, and is willing to exercise courage for all of us.

Quotes about Elizabeth YeampierreEdit

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