ELIZABETH YEAMPIERRE, Chairperson of UPROSE
PERSONAL LIFE: Elizabeth Yeampierre was born in Manhattan, and spent her childhood moving from school to school. She was enrolled in five schools over eight years, and consequently was “tremendously shy.”
She moved to Clinton Hill in 1990, and was “imported to Sunset” by her husband shortly after; the couple still resides there with their son and two Chihuahuas, Dash and Lola.
“The longest and happiest and I have ever lived anywhere has been in Brooklyn,“ Yeampierre said.
CAREER: Yeampierre received her BA in Political Science from Fordham University and her law degree from Northeastern University School of Law. She currently serves as director of legal education and training at the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund, director of legal services for the American Indian Law Alliance, and on the National Institute of Environmental Health Advisory Council.
Yeampierre also served as the first Latina chair of the United States EPA National Environmental Justice Advisory Council, where she has had the opportunity to influence numerous scientists and engineers to think about science in a different way: “How do you make it relevant on a community level?”
She also practiced civil rights litigation for a couple of years, mostly regarding employment and sex discrimination cases. Yeampierre has also spoken at the White House three times.
Despite her many prestigious titles, Yeampierre stays true to her mission, saying, “I’m really grass roots, and community matters more than anything.”
COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT: Yeampierre is the chair of UPROSE, an organization dedicated to the empowerment of Southwest Brooklyn residents through broad and converging environmental, sustainable development, and youth justice campaigns.
Additionally, Yeampierre worked to expand the Fourth Avenue corridor to make the strip “more friendly for pedestrians—it’s easier now for children and the elderly to cross the street without becoming road kill,” Yeampierre said.
“We listen, and then we identify resources to make those community priorities become real. Anything from infrastructure to building youth leadership happens because we are listening.”
Yeampierre is committed to her job around the clock, saying, “Justice doesn’t happen nine to five. You have to be there when the community needs it. This is not a job, this is a life.”
BIGGEST CHALLENGE: According to Yeampierre, fundraising has proved to be the most difficult task in her endeavors.
“We make it possible for the community to become resilient. We often find that resources are based on the size of the organization, instead of the size of the impact,” said Yeampierre, “It’s always a struggle to raise the kind of resources that would allow us to expand.”