Jackson Koeppel is Soulardarity's Executive Director. He grew up in Manhattan, went to college in Oberlin, OH, and woke up in West Virginia. He has been working on environmental justice issues since seeing the impacts of mountaintop removal coal mining in West Virginia and hydraulic fracturing for natural gas in Ohio. He is working on Soulardarity because he believes that we need concrete alternatives to the fossil fuel economy that work for communities, and that the communities most negatively impacted are going to lead the creation of those alternatives. In addition to his work with Soulardarity, he is a Wayne State student, member of Resource Generation, and avid collector of Hawaiian shirts.
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Shimekia Nichols is Soulardarity's Education Coordinator. You can read her full bio here.
"I became interested in the works of Soulardarity as first an energy consumer and when the opportunity arose to speak on behalf of the people I couldn't let the moment pass by to contribute to the unification for energy democracy. I am a full-time activist, mother, life-long learner, experienced facilitator, writer, entrepreneur and SCAO (State Court Admin Office) certified Mediator. You can be assured of excellent work, dedication and passion. I look forward to getting to know each of you better and capitalizing on our unique strengths to ignite the community and push this movement further."
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Marnese Jackson is Soulardarity's Membership Coordinator.
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Maria Thomas is Soulardarity's PowerUP Program Leader.
Born and raised in Detroit, MI, Maria Thomas has witnessed, experienced and now fights against poverty, its devastating consequences to families, including energy instability and the effects of pollution on minority and poor residents of the area.
Growing up in a neighborhood close to, what is now known to be the most polluted zip codes in Michigan, 48217 and 48209, Maria played and walked to school in, but closed her windows each weekday as the nauseous fumes of sulfur permeated the air. She often dreamed of living in areas that did not suffer this impact on peoples’ lives. This dream was magnified as a young Maria visited areas of Detroit, appearing to have fresh air and the suburbs visited on school field trips or when shopping at suburban malls. The elementary school death of a friend, classmate and that of a young adult cousin, who happened to be a registered nurse, from asthma, along with the diagnoses of the same for a daughter, grandchildren, family members and friends, only enhanced these dreams.
As a young mother, shuttling her children to and from school, holding noses and breath became rituals practiced by her children each school day, as they passed the Detroit Incinerator and the horrendous odor, radiating for miles across the city. This issue became a greater concern when a school parent and friend revealed, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), trained her to “read the smoke”, to assess what was burning. Unfortunately, heavy metals and dangerous chemicals were often in the mix, along with the extraordinarily foul-smelling garbage. This friend and her four children all have the diagnosis of asthma. A member of the Faith community, Maria’s church secretary living in the shadows of the incinerator, exposed the horror of owning a home near this monstrosity. Keeping her windows shut and covered in plastic was part of her daily existence, sitting on her porch was fantasy and she too was burdened with the diagnosis of…Asthma.
The dream of utopian environment became avocation, exposing the horrors of air pollution, the burden on underserved, minority residents, primarily of color and the pressure on the health system serving these communities, manifested as passion to make a change for the better.
Learning everything she can about solar power, the need for it and the benefits of it, now manifests as vocation. Maria became Soulardarity’s 2017 PowerUP Bulk Buy Lead and can now see the light at the end of the tunnel, as partnerships with other like minded people and their organizations are slowly, but surely, creating hope for a better tomorrow, today, for all.
The harvest is great, but the workers are few, a scripture, often comes to mind as the vision of creating healthier people and environments, local careers in a swiftly increasing expansion of solar and other alternative technologies, better stewardship and discretionary income for all becomes reality, one solar light at a time. Prayers and plans are also evolving into action as Soulardarity and its partners seek to empower Detroiters by powering their homes using GOD’s gift of the sun, wind and water to make a better tomorrow, today.
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