Presenters & Workshops

Building Bridges

Keynote Speakers

Van Jones: Political Activist and Environmental Justice Advocate

The author of two New York Times best sellers, Van Jones personifies environmental justice through both environmental and civil rights activism. His first book, The Green Collar Economy, has been hailed as the definitive book on green jobs. His second and latest book is titled Rebuild the Dream.

Jones’s expertise in creating green jobs led the Obama administration to name him the special adviser for the White House Council for Environmental Quality. Additionally, Jones is the founder of Green for All, a national organization working to provide green jobs to disadvantaged communities. He is also the co-founder of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, a social justice organization working to combat mass incarceration, and Color of Change, an organization that politically represents the voices and interests of people of color.

Jones has won many awards and honors throughout his career. These include being named one of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World in 2009, one of Rolling Stone’s 12 Leaders Who Get Things Done in 2012, and one of Ebony magazine’s 2013 Power 100. Currently, Jones is a host on CNN’s Crossfire debating current event issues.

Alexie Torres-Fleming: Grassroots Activist and Community Organizer

Alexie Torres-Fleming is a visionary environmental justice activist from the Bronx who strives to help people actively participate in community development. Her passion stems from her own childhood in the South Bronx during the late-1960s and 1970s, a period known as the “Burning of the Bronx.”

In 1994, Torres-Fleming founded Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ) with the mission to rebuild the Bronx River neighborhoods of the South Bronx by preparing young people to become voices for peace and justice. Torres-Fleming believes that convincing residents of the Bronx that they possess the skills and tools necessary to engender change is as important a legacy as the concrete results that YMPJ has produced. She is proud of the successful projects that have added parks, provided access to the Bronx River, and cleaned up brownfields, but she notes that it is “even more important that I contribute to leaving a legacy of a community that understands its own power.”

She has received numerous awards for her work including the 2008 Rockefeller Foundation’s Jane Jacobs Medal for New Ideas and Activism. In 2009 she was named one of “50 Visionaries Changing Our World” by the Utne Reader. She is also the co-founder of the Bronx River Alliance and the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance.


Karen Clark

Representative Karen Clark has served as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives since 1982. She graduated with a bachelor of science in nursing from the College of St. Teresa in Winona, Minn. Karen later received her master’s degree in public administration from Harvard. During her tenure in the state legislature Karen has worked to protect heating assistance for low-income housing, to address arsenic contamination in South Minneapolis, and to support more corporate transparency of toxic exposures for workers and communities. She currently serves as the executive director of the Women’s Environmental Institute and as a board member of Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota.

Lea Foushee

Lea Foushee received her bachelor of science degree in social and cultural factors affecting human and natural resource management from the University of Minnesota. Her lifelong community activist work provided the basis for her self-designed degree on the linkage between energy development, social strife, economic disparity, environmental contamination, and the resulting disproportionate impacts on indigenous peoples, other people of color, and those who are economically disadvantaged. Ms. Foushee co-founded the North American Water Office, Prairie Island Coalition, Indigenous Women’s Network, and Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota.

Shalini Gupta

Shalini Gupta was a 2008 Archibald Bush Foundation Leadership Fellow investigating equitable energy and climate change policies, and a visiting Fellow-in-Residence with the Center for Earth, Energy and Democracy at IATP. She was a 2007 Governor’s appointee to Minnesota's Next Generation Energy Board and a 2006 National Environmental Leadership Program Fellow. Shalini’s previous work ranges from developing community-scale energy projects to international work on sources of atmospheric organic pollutants from urban and industrial sites in China. She is currently on the board of directors of the Headwaters Foundation for Justice and has also been conducting environmental justice workshops with numerous arts and grassroots groups around the Twin Cities.

Karen Monahan

Karen Monahan holds a B.S. in social science from Metro State University. She is a Clean Air Ambassador and Sierra Club community organizer working on the Minnesota Environmental Justice Program in Minneapolis. She began working with the Environmental Justice Advocates of Minnesota (EJAM) while participating in the Wellstone Fellowship social justice program. Karen has 12 years’ experience as an activist, including work on political and issue-oriented campaigns.