Equity Advisory and Action Committee

The Equity Advisory and Action Committee advises the governance board on equity initiatives, provides guidance to staff on strategic development, and serves as a resource for member organizations to advance equity goals. Members of the committee help select content for our annual Great Lakes Restoration Conference and partner with our state leaders to find messengers with compelling stories to share with members of congress. The committee is lead by Carla Walker, of think BIG strategies.

Members of the equity committee:

PAMELA CARTER
Councilwoman, Third Ward, City of Lorain, Ohio

Pamela Carter was born in Ashtabula, Ohio coming to Lorain in 1982 as a Middle School student. She is a proud 1988 graduate of Admiral King High School. She graduated from Bryant & Stratton’s Business College in Cleveland, Ohio in 1993. She is a recent graduate (Class of 2014) of Leadership Lorain County and a member of the Negro Business and Professional Women’s Association. She is a member of the Church on the North Coast (CNC) at the Lorain campus. Pam is currently employed by Oberlin City Board of Education as an Administrative Assistant for the Office of Curriculum, as well as the Transportation and Facilities/Grounds Department for the Oberlin Schools. Pamela is a proud mother of three boys James III, Houston and Javon and a grandparent. She is the wife to James O. Carter Jr., who is an employee of the City of Lorain and a proud Veteran of the US Armed Forces. Pamela is honored to serve as the 3rd Ward Councilwoman and is committed to supporting education, creating safety and security in the 3rd Ward and making the 3rd Ward a destination where residents are comfortable to live and raise families. Pamela’s desire is to enhance the neighborhood of the 3rd Ward to its full potential. Pamela is committed to being a voice for the 3rd Ward and serving her constituents.

BRENDA COLEY
Co-Executive Director, Milwaukee Water Commons

Brenda Coley is the Co-Executive Director of Milwaukee Water Commons. Over the years she has served in various positions in the non-profit and academic sectors and brings a long-standing commitment to social justice and community organizing.  She has been a non-profit director, research coordinator, and project manager with expertise in leadership development and organizational capacity building.

Before joining Milwaukee Water Commons, Coley was the sole proprietor of Brenda Coley & Associates, helping local and national organizations build the cultural competence to approach marginalized populations around health, leadership development and social justice issues.  In addition, she has served on many community engagement boards and public health initiatives, specifically focused on equality and health disparities within the LGBTQ and other minority communities in Milwaukee.

Coley brings to MWC her philosophy on being a servant leader.  She is committed to exploring the influences of one’s own culture or cultures and understanding ways in which groups of people have been and are treated in society, using that knowledge to develop strategies to effectively engage diverse groups of people in important community issues.

ERNEST COVERSON
Regional Director, Amnesty International

Ernest Coverson is the leading voice for urban centers for Amnesty International in the Great Lakes Region. His background in public policy, civil rights and social justice serves as influence in the organization’s international responses, efforts and outcomes. Coverson serves as Senior Organizer with six years of leadership. He has also served with the national NAACP and with other corporate organizations.

CRYSTAL DAVIS
Policy Director, Alliance for the Great Lakes

Crystal M.C. Davis leads policy and advocacy efforts related to Lake Erie, and manages the Alliance’s Ohio office in Cleveland as Policy Director. Prior to the Alliance, Crystal spent eight years in government relations with Kent State University (KSU). Most recently, she served as the federal relations director for KSU’s Office of Government & Community Relations. Based in Washington, D.C., she established the university’s office on Capitol Hill and was the liaison between KSU, members of Congress, their staffs, key executive agencies, the administration and national associations. Immediately prior to assuming that role, Crystal worked as KSU’s senior legislative officer for state government relations. Based in Columbus, Ohio, she was the university’s chief strategist on all matters related to advocacy, public policy analysis, legislative involvement and management of relationships with elected officials. She has extensive experience in government and external affairs having also worked for the Ohio House of Representatives, the Ohio Legislative Black Caucus and the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. Crystal is a graduate of Kent State University.

KIRA DAVIS
Program Director, Conservation Resource Alliance

Kira Davis is the Program Director for Conservation Resource Alliance (CRA) located in Traverse City, Michigan. Kira joined the CRA team in 2015 after working as the Water Quality Specialist for the Little Traverse Bay Bands of Odawa Indians for 16 years. Kira is also a tribal citizen of the Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians and takes her cultural role of taking care of the water to heart. Kira brings together diverse partnerships to lead CRA’s on the ground efforts to protect waterways , forests and wetlands that feed our Great Lakes.

KIM FOREMAN
Executive Director, Environmental Health Watch

Kim Foreman is the Executive Director for Environmental Health Watch in Cleveland, Ohio where she focuses on Environmental Justice issues and adverse outcomes of environmental exposures, both indoors and outdoors, that disproportionately impact poor and minority communities. During her seventeen years with EHW, she has developed, implemented and managed various local, direct service on the ground grassroots projects, worked on national projects, spoken at local and national conventions, and has participated in radio programs and been interviewed by the Plain Dealer and New York Times. Kim is a licensed lead risk assessor, and Roots of Success instructor. She also serves on several boards and advisory committees. Kim graduated from Case Western Reserve University in 2001 with a degree in Sociology (honors), and a minor in chemistry.

JACQUELINE GILLON
Community Engagement Specialist, Western Reserve Land Conservancy

Jacqueline Gillon is a community builder, facilitator, and published poet.

As the Community Engagement Specialist for Thriving Communities Institute, a program of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, her focus is the physical restoration of Buckeye, Woodland Hills and Mount Pleasant. Jacquie serves on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee of the Land Conservancy. She is co-chairs Black Environmental Leaders, a new association of entrepreneurs, representatives of  national and local non-profit environmental groups and governmental organizations, dedicated to the stewardship of the natural and built environment.

She Jacquie also serves on the Cleveland City Planning Commission’s East District Design Review Committee. At Elizabeth Baptist Church, Jacquie serves as the Linkage Coordinator to the community and as a Sunday School teacher. She has volunteered on the Alcoa Fund Scholarship Selection Committee of the Cleveland Foundation for the last 8 years.

Jacquie spent a total of 19 years with Neighborhood Centers Association and Neighborhood Leadership Institute (NLI), co-facilitating and staffing 29 classes of Neighborhood Leadership Cleveland, a grassroots leadership program in partnership with the Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University. Now she serves on the board of NLI.

Her book of original poetry, Anointing In My Hands, was published in 2011.

Appointed at 23 to the former East Cleveland City Commission, she was elected at 31 and completed three consecutive terms on the East Cleveland City Council, focusing on community development, youth, environmental policy, as well as safety and law enforcement. Jacqueline Gillon is a graduate of Hiram College and completed the Wilder Foundation’s Shannon Leadership Institute in Minnesota.

MICHAEL HARRIS
Community Leader, Flint Development Center

Mike Harris has served as a community voice and organizer in the city of Flint since his days in high school. A veteran of the U.S. military, Harris works with and advises faith, elected, appointed and labor leaders around issues impacting youth, the environment, broad community and civic issues.

HILLIARD HAMPTON
Associate Director of Urban Partnerships, Freshwater Future

All his life, Hilliard Hampton has been a hands on problem solver and hands on leader. A four-time elected Mayor, police officer, small business owner, education leader – all of these experiences are what Hilliard brings to his role at Freshwater Future as our Associated Director of Urban Partnerships. Hilliard values the role of community and diverse perspectives in developing solutions, and excels at listening to and integrating others’ perspectives while also maintaining the broader picture to reach a successful conclusion.

ERMA LEAPHART
Conservation Organizer, Sierra Club-Michigan Chapter

As the Conservation Organizer for the Michigan Chapter of the Sierra Club,  Sierra Erma Leaphart-Gouch works involves promoting green (nature-based) infrastructure as an alternative to grey infrastructure for managing stormwater and preventing sewage overflows and polluted runoff into local waterways.  She provides training on rain barrel and rain garden installations. She shares the importance of protecting Great Lakes water quality, to benefit the environment, economy and quality of life. Erma’s on the Governance Board of the Healing Our Waters Coalition and is co-chair of the Detroit City Council’s Green Task Force – Water Subcommittee. Previously, Erma worked for the State of Michigan as a Public Health Consultant and Human Resources Manager.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry and Communication from Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of Missouri-Kansas City.  

LATIA LEONARD
Urban Program Associate, Freshwater Future

Latia Leonard is Urban Program Associate for Freshwater Future, where she focuses on strengthening the capacity of it’s urban partners and communities. Latia joined Freshwater Future after completing a year of service in AmeriCorps VISTA. Using her vast skill set to work to with grassroots and other nonprofits, Latia’s work includes youth education and community engagement on the issues of water quality and testing, strategic planning, and coalition building. Latia earned her bachelor’s in communication from Michigan State University.  

MONICA LEWIS-PATRICK
President and CEO, We the People of Detroit

Monica Lewis-Patrick (aka The Water Warrior) is a mother, educator, entrepreneur, and human rights activist/advocate.  She is co-founder of We The People of Detroit and became President & CEO of the organization in 2014.  Through her work with We the People, Lewis-Patrick has set up emergency water stations, opened hotlines, delivered water, provided education, and conducted community research to raise awareness about water shutoffs and water affordability in Flint and Detroit.

She is one of the leaders at the forefront of the water rights struggle in Detroit and beyond and is also the visionary, co-designer and co-author of the We The People of Detroit-Community Research Collective that published and released “Mapping the Water Crisis: The Dismantling of African-American Neighborhoods in Detroit” (August 2016) as volume one of a three-part series documenting the effects of austerity and its relationship to race in Detroit.  

She is also an active member of the People’s Water Board Coalition, US Human Rights Network, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Flint Strong Stones (Co-founder), Freshwater Futures/All About Water (Advisory Committee), Detroit Equity Action Lab (Fellow 2016) and was named to the World Water Justice Council in October 2015.  

Lewis-Patrick, attended the historic Bennett College, is a graduate of East Tennessee State University where she earned a BS degree in Social Work and Sociology; a Masters degree in Criminal Justice/Sociology and Public Management; and was a Ron McNair Scholar.

SIMONE LIGHTFOOT
Director of National Urban Initiatives, National Wildlife Federation

Simone Lightfoot serves as the Director of National Urban Initiatives for the National Wildlife Federation where she helps bolster conservation work in urban communities across the country. She works at all levels of government to engage elected and appointed officials, non-profits and community leaders on a wide range of conservation and environmental issues that impact cities. The U.S. Air Force veteran and trustee on the Ann Arbor School Board has served as a deputy chief of staff in the Michigan House of Representatives and state director for voter empowerment with the national NAACP. 

SAN JUANA OLIVARES
President and CEO, Genesee County Hispanic/Latino Collaborative | La Placita

Juani Olivares is the President & CEO of the Genesee County Hispanic and Latino Collaborative (GCHLC). Juani’s knowledge of the needs of her community, combined with a resolve to make a difference, have led the organization to become a hub of activities. The GCHLC provides educational programming, social services, water and filter pick-up locations, a food pantry and health fairs. Previously, Juani was the Executive Director of the Hispanic Technology and Community Center in Flint, Michigan.

FRANCISCO ‘PACO’ OLLERVIDES
Leadership Development Manager, River Network

Francisco Ollervides has enjoyed helping nonprofit organizations think and act strategically by improving their efficiency and efficacy for 14 years. As River Network’s Great Lakes field staff, he provides capacity building and organizational development support to organizations across the region working for clean and healthy rivers. Paco’s main interest is to strengthen leaders to ensure organizations’ continuity and success in their campaigns and programs. Paco works with groups in the areas of strategic planning, fundraising, and board development and succession planning.

ALICIA SMITH
Associate Director of Policy, Freshwater Future

Alicia manages the Great Lakes Network and guides Freshwater Future’s engagement in state and federal policy. In Alicia’s most recent position she served as the Executive Director of Youth Commission and Manager of Youth and Recreation for the City of Toledo. She is the founder of a Toledo, Ohio community organization, Junction Coalition that started as an opportunity to help the community help themselves through partnering with others to address social, economic, and environmental issues and improve the community’s quality of life.  Alicia’s doctoral studies at the University of Toledo focus on the educational development of the youth of color within low socioeconomic and disenfranchised communities.

SHANELLE L. SMITH
Ohio State Director, Trust for Public Land

Shanelle L. Smith is the Ohio State Director with the Trust for Public Land, where she oversees the organization’s work with donors, local advisors, cities and towns, public funders, local nonprofits, and community stakeholders to create and enhance parks, conserve open space, and benefit the environment through green-infrastructure projects. In her previous position as Deputy Director of the Cuyahoga Department of Sustainability, Smith worked to implement the County’s Clean Energy Financing Hub, and in her first 18 months the county proposed leveraging its purchasing power to support LEEDco, an effort to build the first offshore freshwater wind project in North America, to install 4 megawatts (14,000 solar panels) on 25 acres of vacant land, and garnered a grant to launch Cleveland’s first bike share program, #UHBikes, placing 250 bikes throughout the City of Cleveland. A two-time cancer survivor, Smith was named “One to Watch” in 2011 by the Ohio Environmental Council. Smith has a B.A. in Political Science from Kent State University, where she was president of the NAACP chapter, and a M.A. from the University of Toledo. With two parents in the labor movement, Smith is a “UAW baby,” committed to forging alliances that lead to good jobs, a cleaner environment, and a more energy independent and inclusive economy.

CARLA WALKER
CEO and Founder, think BIG strategies LLC

Carla Walker has served as the Senior Manager/Strategic Advisor for ONE Africa and is the CEO and founder of think BIG strategies, LLC. Her career spans nearly 20 years in the fields of government relations, communications, political strategy, stakeholder engagement and project management. Most notable is her work on creating the U.S. community engagement and advocacy operation for ONE.org, the non-profit co-founded by global advocate and entertainer Bono. A veteran political strategist, Walker has advised three mayors, a caucus of 12 state senators, held leadership positions in three U.S. presidential campaigns and has led or advised principals on more than 100 advocacy or candidate campaigns. In 2010, she launched think BIG strategies, a management consultancy that creates and executes strategic plans that draws on her experience advising leaders in government, non-profit, start-up and corporate spheres. She is a graduate of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, University of Florida and University of Cincinnati.