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Inside Elemental

A month is not nearly enough

February 25, 2022

· 7 min read
The Elemental Team

It’s Black History Month! 🙌🏾🙌🏼🙌🏽🙌🏻🙌🏿

While a month is not nearly enough time to celebrate Black leadership in the climate space, we love an opportunity to share reflections, resources, and inspirations from the Elemental team and the founders we work with.

Please take a moment to take in their wisdom, share their stories, and support their businesses.


danielle-j-harris-elementalI’m always heartened when I visit my family in Birmingham, Alabama and see framed photos of Obama in their living rooms as if Barack is a close cousin of ours. Those framed photos feel like an acknowledgement that we’ve been some places. Just like Black History Month serves as an acknowledgement that we, as a nation, have also been some places. Black history is our history, an integral history of America becoming the nation it is today. Think of it like, where would peanut butter be without jelly?

Black History Month is, of course, a month for introspection and acknowledgement, but also focus on where we’re going. So yes, please acknowledge where we’ve been as a nation, please acknowledge our missteps, please acknowledge Black resilience and then pause — what does that reflection bring to you energetically, physically and emotionally. Acknowledge the heaviness, but also the levity that we have an opportunity to do things better. That is how I came to innovation, because doing things better than before is innovation.

Sara, our Managing Director of Equity & Access, and I are always playin’ around with the term “Type 2 fun.” Within our roles we facilitate brave, often uncomfortable discussions to resolve friction points in our work with our partners. We know we won’t have fun in the moments when we address project missteps and miscommunication, but we know when we resolve those tensions we then have an opportunity to continue learning from each other and build something bigger than we can do alone. That’s what motivates me to do the work at Elemental. We facilitate relationships amongst very diverse groups of partners and these mishaps are inevitable. (Think of that first vacation you took with your spouse, remember you got to know them in a whole other way on that trip? Hopefully for the better, right?). We’re not only getting to know each other, we’re working together on the really big challenges of climate change and social inequity. Let Black History Month be a launching pad to more compassion, introspection and curiosity – seek information and events that encourage you to learn, feel how it resonates within you and continue to immerse yourself in our journey.

Danielle J. Harris, Managing Director, Engagement & Innovation

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kalyn-simon-elementalHistory. When I was younger, I was taught it was his story. It was the stories that were codified in textbooks and literature selected for classrooms, needless to say it was from the lens of white men. It was not until I was a bit older that I realized history was more about her story, the ones experienced by my ancestors and Black legends, including my grandmas and my mom.

History is the root by which we form context in the world. It is alive and not stagnant in textbooks, documentaries, or hung as text on museum walls (although all of those are important), I realized that history is much more dynamic than those platforms. At Elemental, understanding the history and context of a place or people is key to innovation, forward movement, and change.

Acknowledging the past gives us the autonomy to shape the present and future that we want. A present and future that includes her story, their story, and his story. Black history is not a month, it is the foundation of my story and our story.

I hope in the work I do and Elemental does, we can help to build a history that generations will be proud of, starting with a secure and beautiful planet for all.

Kalyn Simon, Portfolio Manager

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Antoinette West HeadshotTech is just half the solution. Community brings the other half. Our newest team member highlights leaders from her “communities,” those shaping the future we want to see.

🌱 Little Miss Flint (Mari Copeny) has partnered with a company called Hydroviv to help donate water filters to low-income families across the country. Mari even inspired the company to provide these filters at break-even cost, which translates to almost one million dollars worth of product. Many families impacted by poor water quality will now have access to an effective solution. Learn more here.

This next organization is very important to me as my family’s land is Heirs’ property and at risk of being lost. I hope you look into Heirs’ property and see the amazing things this organization has accomplished in South Carolina.

🌱 The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation has a mission of preserving heirs’ property and history while promoting equitable growth throughout the Lowcountry. The Center targets heirs who inherited land and are potentially threatened with losing it due to the fact that the property passed by intestate succession rather than under a will. Heirs’ property rights are vulnerable due to the potential for conflict among multiple heirs and the likelihood that such a conflict would result in a loss of the land. The Center for Heirs’ Property Preservation provides legal and forestry education and services to low-wealth families to protect heirs’ property and increase land value and income. Support them here.

🌱 Rue Mapp, Outdoor Afro’s founder, started to blog about outdoor recreation as a Black woman in America. That turned into this national network that celebrates Black connections to and leadership in nature, supports conservation efforts, and helps people learn about Black history of public spaces. Read more.

🌱 Founded by Destiny Hodges, a junior at Howard University, Generation Green is an ecosystem that strives to foster an intergenerational network, community, and platform that fortifies the leadership of young people in the environmental liberation movement throughout the Afrikan Diaspora. They use media and storytelling to draw parallels between Black communities internationally that are disproportionately impacted by environmental inequities. Destiny is also a producer on The Coolest Show podcast where discussions about the dual existential crises of climate and racism happen together.

— Antoinette West, Career Pathways Manager

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sara-chandler-elementalInspired yet? Every year, when Elemental begins the pipeline and due diligence process it raises so many thoughts for me about the responsibility, privilege, and opportunity ahead of our team that I feel. At the exact right time a couple of weeks ago, one of my coworkers sent me a video he made called “the future is looking back at us now” where another coworker says, “I imagine years from now people are going to be looking back at what we did…”

Our mission is to redesign the systems at the root of climate change, and so you can imagine one’s mind can easily usually jump from the state of urgent environmental and economic needs in frontline communities to the lack of funding reaching Black entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurs who are solving issues that hit close to home. Although I think about these issues every day, it can still feel overwhelming and the opportunity to make a difference can feel like a high-stakes chance I don’t want to fumble.

The easiest way to motivate myself and stand up straighter is to think about the future that Black leaders leading climate companies are creating; they reflect the future I want to live in. A future with some of the things I’ve been inspired by lately:

Learning more, strengthening our progress and moving faster and faster towards our climate goals.

Sara Chandler, Managing Director, Equity & Access

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