Leadership Team

Elijah Brunson, NCCJC Programs & Organizational Development  (he/him)

Elijah Brunson has committed himself to healing and the Just Transition movement. Elijah’s background combines a B.S. in Psychology from Duke University, two years of case management experience, Theater of the Oppressed, and a Level One Kundalini Yoga Certification. For five years, Elijah has served on the leadership team of the North Carolina Climate Justice Summit, which aims to transform the movement for climate justice via education, cultural work, and community building. Additionally, for two years Elijah served as the Environmental Education Associate with the Rachel Carson Council where he focused on culturally-driven popular education, policy development, and environmental advocacy. Elijah aims to cultivate a space in the world that promotes healing, regeneration, and reciprocity between people, beings, and the planet.


Donna Chavis, NCCJC Programs and Organizational Development (she/her)

Donna has been a leader in the national environmental justice movement since its beginnings in Eastern NC in the 1980’s. As Co-Founder of Robeson County’s Center for Community Action in 1980, Donna was engaged in multiple toxic and nuclear waste environmental justice campaigns throughout the 80's and 90’s. As a commissioner on the United Church of Christ's Commission for Racial Justice, she played a significant role in the Commission's environmental justice work including as a member of the Planning Committee for the First National People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit. She was the founding Director of the national racial and economic justice program of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, directed the cultural programming office of the North Carolina Indian Cultural Center, and served as Executive Director of NCGives. She has served on the Boards of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation, the Fund for Southern Communities, the Changemakers Fund, Robeson Health Care Corporation, the Robeson County Humane Society,  NC Center for Nonprofits, the National Advisory Committee for the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Healthy Kids, Healthy Communities childhood obesity initiative, Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, and Wildacres Leadership Initiative. In her current role as Senior Fossil Fuels Campaigner for Friends of the Earth, Donna is leading the campaign to halt the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, the only pipeline on President Trump's list of 50 National Security and Infrastructure Priorities. Born to the Lumbee people, she resides in her home territory of Pembroke, North Carolina with her spouse, Mac Legerton. They are the parents of four and grandparents of four children. She graduated from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke with a BS in Math and Psychology.

Alecia Gaines, NCCJC Programs and Media & Communications (she/her)

Alecia’s passion for the earth and its care began early in her childhood growing up in suburban Kansas City, Missouri. After moving to North Carolina in 1985, she gravitated to the forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the state’s many beaches. It was after hiking a trail in North Carolina’s Piedmont that she found her calling in environmental justice and advocacy. Alecia has served in leadership roles in the North Carolina Sierra Club; first as a local group chair – the first African American woman in its 30+ year history –  then later as a member of the Equity, Justice and Inclusion committee as well as the Steering committee of the NC Sierra Club. She is an at-large member of the Greensboro Sustainability Council, a founding member of the Solar Power Now Coalition, and the volunteer coordinator for Greensboro’s 2017 Women’s March. Alecia has guest lectured for environmental studies courses at UNC-Greensboro and Guilford College served as a panelist for discussions on Urban Sustainability and Public-Private Partnerships at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment. She is a board member of the Haw River Assembly. She has a BS in Political Science from Winston Salem State University, and a Master's degree in Adult Education from North Carolina A&T State University. A plain speaker, Alecia is a fighter for environmental justice and peace, an agent for supporting resiliency among at-risk communities, and an advocate for those most-harmed, least consulted communities of color affected by climate emergencies.

Liz Kazal, NCCJC Fundraising & Finance (she/her)​

Liz Kazal is the North Carolina state director for America Votes, which works to coordinate progressive organizations to elect progressive champions and expand access to the ballot. Her roots are in environmental organizing, first organizing college students in Mississippi, then in North Carolina organizing to fight the expansion of oil and gas in the state. Liz is from the Mississippi Gulf Coast, which has fueled her love for Southern organizing and cheese grits. She lives in Raleigh with her husband and adorable dog, Freddie.

Jodi Lasseter,  NCCJC Founder & Co-Convener; Programs and Organizational Development (she/her)

Originally from Asheville, NC, Jodi is an educator, facilitator, community catalyst, and cultural worker. Jodi has engaged at every level of the climate justice movement to build grassroots power and alignment. Through previous positions as Organizational Development Director of the international Amazon Alliance, Program Director for the national Engage Network, and Climate Justice Director for the statewide program PowerUp NC, she has worked closely with hundreds of grassroots leaders throughout the U.S. and abroad. Through her own consulting practice--Turn the Tide--Jodi offers popular education workshops, meeting design and facilitation, strategic organizational development, ecofeminist trainings and spiritual activism circles.  She co-founded the Healing Our Movement Ecosystem (HOME) Jam and is a facilitator of the Work that Reconnects.  She is the Energy Justice NC Campaigner for Friends of the Earth and serves on the steering committees of the Climate and Jobs Roundtable and Energy Justice NC coalition. She also serves as Co-Chair of the Just Recovery Working Group of the Climate Justice Alliance. Jodi has a B.A. in Women’s Studies and Anthropology from UNC-Chapel Hill and was a Social Change Fellow at Clark University where she earned her M.A. in International Development, Community and Environment. She currently lives in Durham, where she delights in community singing, walking in the woods, playing frame drums with the Just Jammers, and scouting out the best local swimming holes.


Gregg Lasseter, NCCJC Fundraising & Finance and Organizational Development (he/him)

Gregg Lasseter is a career accountant with 50 years of experience working in nonprofit, government and private sectors. He is now semi-retired. Gregg has worked in the hospitality industry, for municipal government, a large regional hospital, and various small businesses. He left the corporate world in 2001 after 17 years as the Vice President of Finance for Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC. He and his wife, Betty, moved to Columbia, NC where they built and ran a Bed & Breakfast on the beautiful Albemarle Sound. After closing their B&B in 2008, Gregg started his own accounting and consulting business working predominantly with nonprofit organizations in the Triangle. He taught QuickBooks classes for 3 different community colleges and was Director of Finance for Urban Ministries of Durham and the Jewish Federation of Durham/Chapel Hill. Gregg now works from home through a new virtual Intuit bookkeeping service. When he’s taking a break from crunching numbers, you can find him with Betty observing the abundant wildlife in the area--including eagles, herons, ospreys, otters, foxes, red wolves, and an occasional black bear. Gregg and Betty are committed to climate justice to ensure that every being and every place is respected and cherished.

Connie Leeper, NCCJC Co-Convener; Fundraising & Finance and Media & Communications (she/her)

Originally from Kannapolis, NC, Connie has prioritized building an intersectional justice movement for the past 45 years. As a community organizer and popular educator, she has first-hand knowledge of how the poor, working class people of color, LGBTQI+ people, women and youth have been continuously marginalized and discounted.  Helping individuals and groups find their voice to overcome internalized oppression has been at the center of her work throughout her life. She is the Organizing Director at Durham-based NC WARN, a 32 year old climate and energy justice nonprofit working for a swift transition to clean renewable energy.  Previously, she worked at several other nonprofits serving impacted communities such as the Piedmont Peace Project, Highlander Research and Education Center, and the Southeast Regional Economic Justice Network.  She has served on various grant-making committees and boards, and currently serves on the leadership committee of the Pauli Murray Project and the board of directors of the Southeast Climate & Energy Justice Network (SCEN). SCEN is the largest regional collaborative of clean energy and climate change advocates and organizations across twelve Southeastern states. She earned her B.A. in sociology at an HBCU, Barber Scotia College.  Currently living in Durham, Connie enjoys treasure hunting at thrift stores, playing all forms of percussion with the Just Jammers, and bringing the beauty of gourd art to the masses. 


Mark Ortiz, NCCJC Media & Communications  (he/him)

Mark received a BA from the University of Alabama and is currently a PhD student in the Department of Geography at UNC Chapel Hill where he studies youth climate activism and international climate politics. He was named a 2018 Graduate Public Scholar by the Humanities for the Public Good Initiative, an award that recognizes work engaging the public on climate change.  He loves playing jazz on his guitar and dancing salsa. 


Bevelyn Ukah, NCCJC Programs and Organizational Development (she/her)

Bevelyn Afor Ukah is dedicated to co-creating multi-generational learning spaces that focus on building humanity and justice in community.  Bevelyn coordinates the Food Youth Initiative (FYI) Program of the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), supporting a network of youth who are doing food justice work across North Carolina.  She also works heavily on supporting a statewide network of practitioners who are committed to racial equity in our food system. She serves on the Transplanting Traditions Community Farm Board and the National Rooted in Community Leadership Team. She received her BA in International Studies and Sociology/Anthropology and MA in Intercultural Service, Leadership and Management at the School for International Training. Bevelyn loves to travel.  She has lived in three countries and has been committed to exploring ways to support youth travel as a platform for developing mindfulness and global awareness.

Ayo Wilson, NCCJC Fundraising & Finance  (he/him)

Over the course of his life, Ayo has lived and worked in impacted frontline communities in North Carolina and Ohio, and used his skills in nonprofit management, organizational management and development, and community organizing to support and empower impacted people through the arts, climate/environmental justice, and health/group fitness. In 2013, he traveled to Liberia, where he analyzed and provided recommendations for a national land records digitization project managed by Liberia’s Center for National Land Documents and Records Agency funded by the World Bank. He holds a B.S. in Communication, Electronic Media/Broadcasting from Appalachian State University and a Masters in Public Administration, cum laude from NC Central University. He serves on the Board of Directors for Haw River Assembly and NC WARN, has taught Zumba classes in North Carolina and Texas in conjunction with climate justice work with his brother Omari as Twin ZIN. He enjoys offering cultural work through Just Jammers, NCCJC’s own drumming group.


Omari Wilson, NCCJC Organizational Development and Media & Communications   (he/him)

Omari M. Wilson was born in Jackson, Mississippi, but he moved to North Carolina with his family in 1987 and was raised in the West End community of Mebane – his father’s hometown and a historical Black community founded  in Alamance County by former slaves after the Civil War.  During the past several years, the West End Revitalization Association (WERA), a nonprofit community improvement organization founded by his parents and other concerned neighbors, has led the effort to provide basic amenities to the community such as adequate water and sewer services, paving of roads, and repair and clean-up of failing septic systems.  Since he was in high school, Omari has worked with WERA to help provide healthy and sustainable solutions for impacted communities. Deeply inspired by the efforts of his parents and neighbors, Omari received his B.A. in psychology from Appalachian State University and earned his Juris Doctor in 2005 from Capital University Law School in Columbus, Ohio.   Omari recently completed a 13-year period as a Staff Attorney at the Land Loss Prevention Project (LLPP), a non-profit public interest law firm in Durham, NC. Omari had also served on the NC Environmental Justice Network’s Planning Committee for several years, completing his term in December 2019.  Since May 2016, Omari has been serving on the Advisory Board of Directors for Audubon North Carolina.  In addition, through his passion for physical fitness, Omari became a licensed Zumba instructor in July 2018 and now offers Zumba and group dance fitness classes with his brother Ayo as Twin ZIN. 


Advisory Council

Jayeesha Dutta, Another Gulf is Possible

Randolph Keaton, Men and Women United for Youth and Families

Ife Kilimanjaro, US Climate Action Network

Sarah Vekasi, Eco-Chaplaincy Initiative


Partnering Groups

Appalachian Voices 
Alliance for Climate Education
Black Workers for Justice
Center for Environmental Farming Systems  - Food Youth Initiative
Climate and Jobs Roundtable
Dogwood Alliance
Downeast Coal Ash Environmental and Social Justice Coalition
Friends of the Earth
Fund for Democratic Communities
Growing Change
Men and Women United for Youth and Families, CDC
Paperhand Puppet Intervention
RedTailed Hawk Collective 
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