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2011 April

27 Apr


IL: Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins

April 27, 2011 | By |

Congratulations to our May IMPACT Leader of the Month: Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins, Chief Executive Officer of Green For All.  Under her leadership, Green For All has become one of the country’s leading advocates for a clean-energy economy, and one of its most important voices on the intersection of economics and environment.

Phaedra has led Green For All to several groundbreaking policy victories at the federal, state, and local levels.  At the federal level, she led a successful effort to include two key provisions in the House’s climate and energy bill:  securing funding for job training, and guaranteeing broad access to clean-energy jobs.

Under Phaedra, Green For All has helped states like Washington and New Mexico pioneer state-level green jobs and energy-efficiency programs.  And the organization is helping cities like Portland and Seattle craft groundbreaking energy-efficiency home retrofit programs that use innovative financing mechanisms and community agreements about job standards to cut energy bills, create green jobs, reduce pollution, and expand business opportunities.

Green For All is redefining the face of environmentalism.  Through partnerships with popular artists such as The Black Eyed Peas, Drake, Wiz Khalifa and Wyclef Jean, Green For All is reaching new audiences about the benefits and opportunities of going green.

Prior to joining Green For All, Phaedra was a leader in California’s labor movement, heading both the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and Working Partnerships USA.  This has given her a unique perspective that has enabled her to bring labor, environmental, business, grassroots, and government leaders together in common purpose.  Her ability to speak to all of these groups has made Phaedra one of America’s preeminent leaders on green jobs and green pathways out of poverty.

The scope and scale of Phaedra’s many achievements have won her wide praise and recognition. In 2011, The Grio recognized Phaedra as one of their 100 History Makers In The Making.  In 2010, for the second year in a row, Ebony included her in its Power 150 and Essence named Phaedra one of the 25 Most Influential African in 2009 and one of the 21 Leaders of the New School in 2010. Black Enterprise Magazine honored Phaedra as one of their 2010, 40 Next: Emerging Leaders for Our Future. She has been featured in various outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, and The Huffington Post, and on ABC, BET, CNN, MSNBC, and NBC.

Phaedra leads on numerous boards including serving as the Chair of the Department of Labor’s Advisory Committee on Apprenticeship, the Commission to Engage African Americans on Climate Change for the Joint Center, the Economic Policy Institute, the Leadership Council of California Forward, the Tipping Point Community Board, and the Partnership for Working Families. Phaedra serves as a Young Global Leader with the World Economic Forum.


INTERVIEW | Getting to Know Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins

What inspired you pursue a career in environmental justice?

I grew up in a working-class neighborhood in a little town called Suisun which is in the SF Bay Area.  Although my community was full of love and support, it was a tough place to grow up, in part because it was surrounded by industrial plants and refineries which polluted our air.  Children throughout the neighborhood — including myself — suffered from asthma, yet our parents couldn’t move us to a cleaner and healthier environment simply because they couldn’t afford to.

I saw up close how poverty and pollution are linked, so rather than saying I pursued a career in environmental justice, you can say that it pursued me. I saw injustice on a daily basis.  And now, I’m really fortunate to be in a position to do something about it.

After years in the labor movement, I got this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to become CEO of Green For All, where I dedicate myself to helping build a clean-energy economy, one that both makes our communities cleaner, and creates new jobs — especially for those most in need.

I frequently think back to my upbringing, and work every day to ensure that children and parents don’t have to go through the same experiences that my community did when I was growing up.

What is the key to balancing your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?

The key for me and I think most who work in non-profit organizations is to remain focused on why we go to work every day: to help those who are shut out of the rooms where the deals and decisions are made.   Too often, the circles of power get so caught up in who is winning and losing that they forget about the issues facing people in need.  That’s why it’s so important for organizations like Green For All to serve as the voice for forgotten families and fight for their issues.  We can’t leave any communities behind. 

What is the biggest mistake young professionals make?

My biggest mistake came early in my career; I thought that being smart and being prepared were the same — they’re not.  It doesn’t matter how capable you are; if you’re not ready to seize life’s moments, you’ll get nowhere.  As people always say, success comes when preparation meets opportunity.

What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel in the nation’s capital? Specific ally, for other young women of color?

Creating networks are essential for success.  That’s why it’s important to get out there and not only build relationships, but also build a community that supports and lifts each other up.  It’s not enough for young professionals to get in the room; you’ve got to also help others follow you down that same path.  That’s how true progress evolves.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

I judge my success by the impact that Green For All has on others.  There is no more rewarding experience than helping put a person back to work in a quality job that helps the environment.  It simply doesn’t get better than that.

What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?

I will continue to help others make an impact.  I’m proud to be working with so many agents of change and, together, we’ll ensure that the next chapter of the American story is greener, healthier and full of equal opportunity for all.

Lastly, give me three words to sum up Phaedra.

Hope wins.

16 Apr


IMPACT + Urbane

April 16, 2011 | By |

IMPACT supporters have been given the opportunity to RSVP to the Art+Fashion Show mixer (in particular).  IMPACT supporters can RSVP for complimentary admission here: This the pre-party social to the Young Guru DJ set listed below that we also encourage you to attend.


DC’s #1 Party DJ & Jay-Z’s DJ Under One Roof on Sat April 30th.

Two Amazing DJs. One Night. One Dance Floor. One Party.

Wash, D.C. (April 8) – Mark your Calendars. Party people prepare. For the first time-ever Jay-Z’s DJ ‘Young Guru’ will come to Wash, DC to rock the party crowd along with DC’s #1 Party DJ, DJ Quicksilva. The event will take place on Saturday, April 30th, at Café Asia in downtown DC.

Presented by Urbane Lifestyle & Entertainment Group, the concept behind the party is to create a unique Saturday night experience.  Experience is the key word. Inspired by Gentleman Jack ‘s ‘Art, Beats & Lyrics’, the event will feature an art+fashion show with a transition to an ultimate DJ party experience. Nzinga Smith of Urbane DC will co-produce the art+fashion show alongside Dana James & Kenyatta Smith. Kenyatta is a former Fashion Market Editor for Giant Magazine and fashion stylist for numerous magazines including GQ, Elle, Uptown Magazine, and Marc Ecko Ad Campaigns. A few local, national, & International designers will participate in the show. Internationally, one designer based in London and a Toronto clothing designer will be featured. Doors open at 9pm.

DJ Quicksilva will DJ during the art+fashion show and transition into the late night party. Young Guru will take center stage shortly after midnight. The self-titled ‘DMVs Party Kingpin’. DJ Quicksilva, has been partying with Urbane DC for the past year. He is the resident DJ for “Park Thursdays” at Park at Fourteenth where Urbane host its weekly happy hour & late night party. Young Guru is currently in London with Jay-Z & Kanye West recording “Watch The Throne” compilation. Fresh from studio sessions, he will return to the states to bring DC an inspiring dance floor crazed, hands in the air, lose your mind, party experience.


This event targets creative and fashion-forward partyers, hip hop lovers, and dance floor enthusiast.


More details about the event will be released soon. Stay tuned to Urbane’s facebook page ( and twitter account ( Friends can RSVP in advance at  If you are an interested designer, model, or hip hop painter/visual artist you can contact us at


04 Apr


No Comments

IL: Michael A. Blake

April 4, 2011 | By | No Comments

M.BlakeCongratulations to our selection for IMPACT Leader of the Month, Michael Alexander Blake! Mr. Blake is a man of God whose family says went from no house to the White House.

His family is from Jamaica, West Indies has overcome remarkable adversity to get to where they at now – only thanks to the grace and mercy of The Lord.

Michael’s family history and journey is powerful.

He was born on Christmas Day of 1982 with a heart murmur and was named after his father’s respect of former Prime Minister Michael Manley and labor national hero Alexander Bustamante.

Michael survived four car accidents, his mother is a breast cancer survivor who also is an occasional in home nurses aide, his father just retired after 29 years of cleaning emergency rooms in Saint Barnabas Hospital and his oldest brother is a 21-year Army veteran who just returned from service in Iraq.

Michael’s elementary school in The Bronx (P.S. 79) is featured in “Savage Inequalities of Public Education” by Jonathan Kozol. But, Michael’s circumstances did not define him. He and his family continued to press on towards higher goals.

His mother, who for a time slept on church pews in Jamaica gives God thanks that the journey has led Michael to becoming the African-American outreach director for the 44th President of the United States Barack Obama.

The Bronx, New York native is an Associate Director for the White House Office of Public Engagement.

He nationally directs outreach to the African-American and minority business community.

He previously coordinated outreach to county officials, state attorneys general, secretaries of state and financial officers.

Blake worked on the Obama for America campaign, first as Iowa’s Deputy Political Director and Constituency Outreach Director and concluded as the Michigan State Deputy Director and Political Director.

Blake worked in 8 states over a 20 month period specializing in political and constituency outreach, especially to African American and faith communities.

Prior to the campaign, Michael was the Director of External Affairs for the Michigan House of Representatives serving in Michigan Speaker of the House Andy Dillon’s cabinet where he engaged with all constituencies to promote the Speaker’s agenda. Before that appointment, Blake successfully co-organized three state house of representative campaigns in the 2006 election cycle.

Before his career in public service, Michael was an Associate Producer for Comcast Sportsnet Chicago where he wrote highlights and collaborated on features for the daily sportscasts.

Michael Blake is a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism from Northwestern University. He is also an alumnus of the Yes We Can political training program in Washington, D.C. He started his political career as an intern for Illinois State Senator Jeff Schoenberg.

He is a proud member of Allen Chapel A.M.E. church in Washington, D.C. where he is a steward board member and co-chair of the 2010 Men’s Day season.

Back in New York, Michael was a Certified Lay Speaker in the United Methodist denomination and has preached around the country since the age of 13.

He is a life member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. and resides in Washington, D.C.

Recently, he was selected as one of Grio’s Top 100 History Makers in the Making. He was also named as one of MSNBC’s 10 Black Politicians on the Rise.

Michael goes by the motto – Dear God, may today be a great day. Greater than the great day I had a day before. But, my goal has not been met unless tomorrow is the greatest of them all.


INTERVIEW | Getting to know Mike Blake

What inspired you pursue a career in politics and to join the Obama campaign?

With all that I have been given and the multitude of blessings, I felt indebted to our people to give back.

When I was working for a TV station, I felt that I wasn’t helping people, and it was a time for a change.

I feel that the most comprehensive way to help people is through public policy providing changes in their lives.

So, when I was working in Michigan after the President began his run for the presidency and after going through then Senator Obama’s Yes We Can training and feeling a sense of duty to help the person who gave me a chance, I had no choice but to work on the campaign.

I did not see the campaign as just a historical opportunity. I felt it was a moment to bring transformational change to our people.

There’s nothing like the Iowa caucus. There’s nothing like seeing lines of people participating in the political process. There’s nothing like being apart of history.


What have you learned about the President through your White House or Campaign experience that you did not know before you met him personally? What is the key to balancing a your professional, philanthropic and social commitments?

I learned to not just be an organizer but be one who can organize, activate and mobilize people.

You can have a remarkable story to tell but need storytellers who continue to tell it even when you’re not around.

A validation of leadership and influential impact is can you mobilize the masses even when you’re physically not there.

It’s a skill I never thought about before embarking on this journey.

But, I also learned how to understand the concerns of stakeholders, feel their passion and see how much they belief but yet stay focused on realizing that I serve the President and the country.

You must remember who you work for and why. That sense of commitment and loyalty helps you balance your emotion with your purpose.

It is easy to get pulled into the emotion of the moment even if you may feel that your heart is taking you that direction.

But, it’s important to balance your beliefs with the execution of the mission.

Convey how we are helping our people & empower them, even in the moments of disagreement.


What is the biggest mistake young professionals make?

We focus on the immediate opportunity too often rather than what is the long lasting change we want to deliver.

We will get many remarkable opportunities presented to us – that is inevitable when you’re gifted.

But, we need to focus on the end goals and then create a plan where we work backwards from there.

Our impatience mixed with a dose of ability can lead to a combination that disrupts our pre-ordained position of favor.

We can get in our way because we think we are supposed to have it now.

The time will come for it – whatever the it may be.

We just need to be ready.


What advice would you give other young professionals who desire to excel in the nation’s capitol?

In an environment that is very transactional and there can be wavering focus on our purpose – which is to help people, plain and simple – do not become discouraged rather find a specialty, find your ability and stay committed to the end goal.

I understand that you think that we should be able to find ways to get through the haze of it all.

But, people are people.

So, let us not focus on why it is so hard and why people make it hard on us purely because of our age and perception that we don’t know as well as they do.

Let us focus on the reality that in this world with these remarkable challenges, we are here now for this moment and regardless of our age, our ability will shine through the clouds of disbelief and disenchantment.

Public policy is about people.

Let us not focus on how others make it difficult for us.

Let us focus on the difficulties that our people continue to face and that we are the new faces of hope, change and game changing solutions.

What’s been the best experience of your career thus far (or the most rewarding)?

By far, being on the campaign was my most rewarding experience.

Especially, the beginning & end shall forever stay with me.

Being in Iowa and seeing the momentum build over a ten month period and then ending in Michigan, the state where I started my career in public service, I felt that I was able to start something special and leave a lasting impact in communities in need.

The moment when tears flowed from my eyes on January 3rd, 2008 when realizing that we were going to win the caucus, the moment of watching on a TV screen that the President was the nominee or even sharing with the President that Senator McCain pulled out of Michigan and realizing that we were on our way, it solidified my decision to believe in change.

When I was on the bus heading to the inauguration with Dr. King’s family, it embarked in my heart the words of Jim Wallis, we are the ones we’ve been waiting for.

I’ve been given this surreal opportunity to be the national director of African American outreach for the 1st African American President.

Jena Roscoe – a remarkable woman who held my job under President Clinton once told me – for some reason, God decided that of all the African Americans who have lived on this earth and all those who follow, that he chose you to direct African American outreach for the first African American president.

It is far bigger than me. It’s about our people.


What’s next for you in your career? What should we look out for?

I honestly don’t know what specifically is next but do know it will achieve two goals: helping to provide transformative policy, communication and outreach change for African Americans and ensuring that the President gets more time to help our people win the future.

Down the line, I’d like to get a JD/MBA to enhance my critical thinking skills and abilities to consider legal, business and economic solutions for our communities.

Whether it’s in one of those fields or through public office, I wish to be apart of the coalition to provide global economic development and parity.


Lastly, give me three words to sum up Michael.

Not About Me