This Black History Month, LCV and the entire environmental movement is celebrating Black leaders who are at the forefront of advancing environmental and climate justice. We recently highlighted barrier-breaking officials who are leading the push in the Biden-Harris administration for transformative environmental and climate policies that center equity and invest in Black and Brown communities historically overburdened by pollution.
Today, we celebrate three local Black leaders of the Conservation Voter Movement who are making history organizing their communities on the ground and building the power necessary to drive just and equitable action at every level of government. Our elected leaders have a mandate to act on climate justice in 2021 thanks to changemakers like these, who are demanding bold and just solutions to the climate crisis and working to secure clean water, clean air, and clean energy for all communities.
Brionté McCorkle, Executive Director, Georgia Conservation Voters
Brionté has dedicated her career to teaching people how to self-organize and to building strategic partnerships that protect the environment, advance racial equity, and grow civic engagement. Brionté earned a B.S. in Public Policy from Georgia State University and minored in Spanish. In 2014, she led the Georgia Sierra Club’s involvement in the successful effort to expand the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority’s (MARTA) transportation coverage to Clayton County. Brionté now serves as the Executive Director of Georgia Conservation Voters, where she works to secure a more just and sustainable future by electing pro-environment candidates and holding elected officials accountable for their actions and votes. She also serves as Co-Chair of the Atlanta BeltLine Tax Allocation District Advisory Committee, which works to ensure ongoing and meaningful citizen input into planning, design, and implementation of the Atlanta BeltLine, one of the largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment programs currently underway in the United States. Brionté believes in a healthier, more vibrant future for all people and the planet and is always looking for opportunities to shape public policy for a more sustainable and equitable future.
Rev. Robert Leak III, Regional Field Organizer, PowerUp NC, Winston-Salem
As an outstanding field organizer for North Carolina League of Conservation Voters Foundation’s PowerUp NC program, Robert has built strong connections with community members, leaders and organizations in Winston-Salem. He has served on various boards including as chairperson of the Human Relations Commission, and he is a board member with the Forsyth County Zoning Board of Adjustments, the Winston-Salem Foundation Black Philanthropy Initiative, and Keeping Winston-Salem Beautiful. His commitment to advocacy is rooted in growing up in a community surrounded by industrial plants and brownfields, and his early experiences accompanying his grandfather to city council and community meetings, where he learned firsthand the importance of fighting for equality. He spent six years as grassroots director for a local nonprofit, providing grants to groups based in communities of color and training for individuals who want to to improve their leadership, writing, and organizing skills. His work with PowerUp is focused on developing community leaders, building a dedicated team of volunteers committed to representing and advocating for low-income communities in Winston-Salem, and keeping neighborhood associations abreast of PowerUp’s work. He received Black Business Ink magazine’s “40 Under 40 Most Influential African Americans in the Piedmont Triad” award in 2020 and has been selected to be featured by the Winston-Salem Portrait Project, a public art project that will portray the city through the richness and diversity of its residents in 2021.
Carolyn Smith, LCV Vice President of Building Grassroots Power
As LCV’s Vice President of Building Grassroots Power, Carolyn focuses on strengthening and developing the Conservation Voter Movement’s grassroots community organizing programs that build the power of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color to influence environmental policies and hold policymakers and polluters accountable. She has a combined 30 years of work experience in congressional offices in North Carolina and in political and community organizing. Prior to joining LCV, she worked as Political Director of Organizing Together 2020 North Carolina. She also served as Chief of Staff with the National Black Worker Centers Project, Strategic Campaigns Director with Working America Community Affiliate AFL-CIO, Deputy Treasurer with the North Carolina Office of State Treasurer, Deputy District Director for Congressman Etheridge, and Director of Community Affairs with Passage Home. Carolyn currently serves on the boards of Progress NC, North Carolina Voters for Clean Elections, North Carolina Black Leadership and Organizing Collective, and the Governor’s Complete Count Commission. She has a Bachelor’s of Arts and a Master’s of Public Administration from North Carolina Central University, and is a graduate of the Brown Tulley Campaign Management Program and the Southern Labor Leadership Initiative.