Written by: Leonard Parker | Solar News | 14th September
For decades, black and brown communities have been disproportionally affected by pollution, utility shut-offs, and climate damage, without sharing any of the benefits of clean energy, or access to energy jobs. The American Association of Blacks in Energy has chapters all over the country, dedicated to advancing energy justice, and ensuring the inclusion of African Americans and minority voices into energy conversations. ReVision Energy has been a partner of the Greater Boston Chapter for over a year now and we are continually impressed by their innovation and commitment to equity in energy.
Since AABE and ReVision Energy are both pursuing education for future generations, most of our partnership has revolved around students. Brittany Angelo, ReVision’s Regional Marketing Manager, has spearheaded the relationship, working closely with AABE Greater Boston’s president, Shalaya Morissette.
Shalaya has been the President of AABE Greater Boston since 2020 and is one of those people who seems to be everywhere, and know everyone, someone who is able to accomplish more than seems possible in a 24-hour day. Her passion and enthusiasm for energy, for careers in STEM, and for education are contagious.
“Shalaya cares so much about these kids,” Brittany explains. “She’s just such a motivated person, it’s unbelievable.”
Shalaya’s first visit to ReVision’s North Andover branch was for a video AABE was filming for Black Energy Awareness Month’s (B.E.A.M.) Choose Your Own Energy Adventure challenge. The video highlighted Electric Vehicles and renewable energy, with a particular focus on STEM careers.
“STEM is solving everyday problems for varying communities,” Shalaya explains, “Diversity is vital to STEM excellence. Diversity provides different lenses for solving problems therefore creating an environment of ingenuity for new ideas. Advancement in STEM is not always about an individual’s brilliance but rather its benefits for humanity, which is done through the brilliance of many. Hence, ensuring children of color are a major part of the STEM community is a key focus for AABE Greater Boston.”
Shayla and AABE demonstrate that if we want to solve the world’s problems, our STEM workforce must mirror the communities affected.
AABE Greater Boston also has a heightened focuses on young women in all stages of their career pursuits. This summer AABE hosted an incredibly prestigious fellowship, giving two young women the opportunity to work alongside Shalanda Baker, the Deputy Director for Energy Justice at the US Department of Energy (DOE). ReVision Energy was proud to sponsor these fellowships alongside our frequent partners NEWIEE, Blue Wave Solar, and First Light Power, and Brittany worked with AABE to select Daysia Charles and Wanjiku “Wawa” Gatheru as 2021 Shalanda H. Baker Fellows.
Wawa and Daysia spent the summer working at the DOE as members of Shalanda Baker’s Justice40 team, an initiative to deliver 40% of the overall benefits of climate investments to disadvantaged communities. Whereas in past internships they’ve felt separate from the team, both Wawa and Daysia say that Shalanda really made them feel part of her main team, meeting with stakeholders, planning events, and helping on various initiatives alongside full-time employees.
“My heart has always wanted to do work that is directly impacting communities. So now, being able to do work that I know is so groundbreaking in the realm of energy justice and be at the forefront of the federal government doing energy justice work…I’ve been able to spend the summer doing work that’s really grounded in community! Everyone is so inspiring, they’re really leaders in their fields and it’s been just a phenomenal experience to be mentored by such incredible people.” —Wawa Gatheru
“Each type of group [of stakeholders] thinks about energy justice in a different way, but they all have a similar goal of needing to make sure that underserved communities have more access and more benefits when it comes to this energy transition . . . Shalanda’s team is so diverse, but we all understand that representation — that black and brown and low-income communities being heard — is a really significant part of the work we are trying to do.” —Daysia Charles
With the 2021 Fellowships wrapping up and the school year starting, AABE is looking forward to their upcoming projects. Shalaya will be on loan to Dearborn STEM Academy students in Roxbury, MA, where she will be teaching engineering with a clean energy focus. During a week-long solar energy intensive showcase Brittany will teach a full day of solar energy programming. Dearborn students have the unique opportunity to opt into an engineering track where they will receive access to training in Auto CAD, construction management, understanding the power grid, engineering principles, and exposure to all tradesman routes, engineers of color and an opportunity for dual enrollment at Wentworth Institute of Technology, Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology, Roxbury Community College, and Bunker Hill Community College.
AABE’s connection to Dearborn also sparked the relationship with one of ReVision’s summer interns. Elder Andrade graduated from Dearborn this past spring and knew he was interested in engineering fields, but wasn’t sure where to start. His teachers introduced him to Shalaya, who in turn connected him with various community members, including the team at ReVision’s North Andover branch. Through his discussions with Massachusetts electrical engineers and his hands-on internship at ReVision, Elder will be set up for success in whatever engineering path he pursues.
For Brittany, this has been an important connection that highlights the symbiotic relationship of ReVision’s non-profit partnerships. “We’re able to assist with their education goals and translate it into a real-world example. It directly effected change in Elder’s life. To me that is full circle, that is the perfect partnership – Shalaya knows the school and the students, and we’re showing students that they can have attainable careers.”
“In working with ReVision I knew it was the right community for Elder,” adds Shalaya. “They have supported him with mentorship, exposure to the business, and embraced him as part of the ReVision family. With ReVision’s guidance his next steps will be life changing.”
As for Brittany and the rest of the ReVision crew, we’re excited to continue this partnership and see where it goes.
“This is what it’s all about,” says Brittany, “making a partnership with an awesome non-profit who is out in the community and understands our mission.”
October is Black Energy Awareness Month (B.E.A.M.), a month dedicated to celebrating the contributions of minorities in the energy field, and discussing the important role energy plays in our daily lives. Check out AABE Greater Boston’s programming for October, and keep an eye on ReVision Energy’s Facebook page for future partner events.