CCAN activist Lee Williams, a lifelong environmental advocate, is a force to be reckoned with in the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 2016, Lee helped pull together the March on the Mansion, getting over 700 folks to the Governor’s Mansion in 100+ degree weather. In the fall of that year, she was arrested with a dozen other activists outside of that mansion, protesting then-Governor Terry McAuliffe’s support for the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. This past spring, she worked to pull together a delegation of more than a dozen Virginia Delegates and Senators to hold a press conference in Richmond to denounce the Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Pipelines. In May, she organized one of the most energetic Dominion shareholder protests in recent memory, getting landowners, elected officials, faith leaders, and even the famed tree-sitter Red Terry herself to come and speak to the impassioned crowd.
With her no-quit and high-spirited attitude she has continued to work for the people and climate in Virginia well into our present moment. Although there is still much work to be done, this Richmond-based climate warrior is not going anywhere. In fact it is precisely because of people like her that Virginia is becoming more and more connected in the struggle for our future. Read on to meet Lee Williams!
Your age: 53
Where you live: Richmond, Virginia
What are the impacts of climate change that hit closest to home for you?
I have family in Florida and Charleston, South Carolina and I am concerned every hurricane season for their safety. Half the year, the city of Charleston regularly faces tidal flooding, a situation that will worsen with continued sea level rise.
Why did you decide to get involved in taking action on climate?
I have been a lifelong activist and nonprofit volunteer who has focused primarily on environmental and social justice issues. Once you spend any time doing environmental work, it becomes irrefutably clear that the majority of our issues intersect with environmental justice issues. Poor populations often bear the brunt of climate impacts, living on the front lines of rising seas, catastrophic storms, and drought. Women, African Americans, and other people of color bare a disproportionate burden of climate change in the United States and across the world.
I was frustrated by the many climate deniers holding elected office and saw a need to shine light on this injustice and push for attention at the policy level to direct planning and resources where they are most needed. Investments in natural buffers, flood control measures, and climate-resilient housing are only half of the story and too reactive.
As a Nurse, I believe “an ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure.” I am engaged in the struggle encouraging elected officials to ACT on climate change – not just REACT with mitigation measures. We must stop building fossil fuel infrastructure immediately, and invest in clean, renewable technology.
What has inspired you most working with CCAN and/or in your community?
It’s been proven that humans are not just motivated by monetary reward or even recognition, but also by finding purpose in their work. I’m the type of person that finds energy from passionate people. In the nonprofit sector I’ve meet lots of kind, purpose-driven people with attitude that are more than teammates, they’ve become family. The folks in our Virginia coalition of environmentalists are working for a better world for everyone. You can’t find a a better group of people to work towards mutual goals with than that!
What do you like to do when you’re not advocating in your community?
I need to be outside playing! Whether paddling on our beautiful James River or running the paths of the Buttermilk Trail, I need to be surrounded by Nature to counterbalance the challenging and sometimes soul-sucking work that I do.
Who would you high five?
My mom. She showed me from a young age how to share your voice for those that have no voice, love and care for all living things and to never knowingly do harm. She was never afraid to stand up for what she believed. She died 21 years ago. I hope she’d like to high five me too!