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Justice40 Accelerator: Helping Those Striving for Climate Equity

The Justice40 Accelerator was created to help a national cohort of grassroots environmental and climate organizations nurture their ideas on addressing climate equity into full-scale, resourced projects.

As a young girl, Naomi Davis lived in the St. Albans neighborhood in Queens, New York, loving that everywhere she needed to go - to the market, school, cleaners and church - were within a short walking distance.

Her experience was so formative that as an adult, she committed to creating her own walkable village in West Woodlawn, a neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side that she now calls home.

Davis is the founder of Blacks in Green, a green economy and racial justice advocacy group. She has made it her life’s work to develop and share her ideas about the Black community’s power to uplift themselves while contributing to saving the planet. She believes her plan to develop a “Sustainable Square Mile” in West Woodlawn is the method.

Davis’ “Sustainable Square Mile” is very much reminiscent of her old neighborhood, but with an added focus on sustainability. Affordable, sustainable housing, green infrastructure, regenerative gardens and renewable energy sources like solar power are some of the sustainability components of Davis’ vision.

Blacks in Green is one of 52 outstanding organizations selected from a highly competitive pool of 320 applicants, who answered the call of the Justice40 Accelerator. The Justice40 Accelerator was created to assist a national cohort of grassroots environmental and climate organizations to reach their vision for what is needed in their communities. Twelve organizations from the Midwest are part of the cohort.

These changemakers each received $25,000 to participate in Justice40 Accelerator workshops and peer learning sessions and other technical support to level the playing field in the federal funding process as an investment in their success.

The Justice40 Accelerator will support participants as they create partnerships, identify opportunities, fill out federal funding applications and take the initial steps to develop climate, clean energy, and other community projects funded by federal dollars specifically set aside to reach under-resourced communities.

“The Justice40 Accelerator program is an example of our belief that everyone - despite who they are or where they live - deserves healthy, safe, affordable heat, water and power in their homes,” said Angelina Benson-Glanz, director of New Market Initiatives at Elevate. The national climate-focused nonprofit partners with Groundswell, Hummingbird, Partnership for Southern Equity and The Solutions Project to implement the Accelerator program.

These five partners formed the Justice40 Accelerator as a result of the Justice40 Initiative, which launched in the early days of the Biden Administration to draw connections between the causes and effects of climate change.

For Davis, the grant and support of the Accelerator have propelled her that much closer to realizing the plan she’s been fine-tuning for decades.

“I grew up in a walk to work, walk to shop, walk to learn, walk to play village that’s now extinct,” she said. “I’ve been working on how that model could be resuscitated and reengineered, especially here in the Age of Climate Crisis —creating a place where Blacks can build our own green, self-sustaining, wealth-building communities.”