(Washington D.C.) After nearly two years, Tamara Toles O’Laughlin is moving on from her role as 350.org’s North America Director. As the world prepares for a new era of global climate leadership, she has fresh ideas for the next phase of climate action hardwired to racial justice and is stepping away to continue to pursue her vision for solutions. Tamara was the first African-American woman in leadership at 350.org, and its sister organization 350 Action, and the first in executive leadership in a historically white-led organization in the U.S. climate sector.
During her tenure, she drove the strategy of the U.S. and Canada regional teams, and oversaw the organization’s groundbreaking work supporting the 2019 Global Climate Strikes, where she built and strengthened partnerships and unprecedented collaborations across the movement, advocated for race forward leadership, feminist solutions, and climate change interventions rooted in racial and environmental justice. Tamara’s work behind the scenes included building progressive coalitions among the largest environmental and climate organizations, and long standing community thought leaders. Her strategic leadership and momentum building for climate ambition helped to define the issue as a top priority in the US election. As an accessible and strategic leader, Tamara supported internal and external campaigns to build a multiracial leadership structure to support a more relational climate movement. 350 remains committed to the long term work of allyship that builds a multiracial climate movement.
In a statement on her departure, Tamara Toles O’Laughlin said, “I am proud of what we were able to accomplish as a team. From the first assignment to the last, the work has been transformational. It was my honor to lead the region through the Global Climate Strikes, a pandemic, and the election of our lives. 350 is leaderful and creative, and in my time I have done my best to speak truth in power in this time of compound crises. It is my hope that what we have been able to accomplish will challenge the norms and push the boundaries on what climate action can achieve in the climate decade. I leave 350 U.S. with a women-led, majority Black and brown women leadership team, representing an incredible milestone in the transformation of a climate organization and the movement.”
May Boeve, Executive Director at 350.org, said, “Tamara’s dedication to purpose in the fight against the climate crisis would be notable at any time, but leadership of movement organizations in the U.S. has never been harder. We’ve collectively, and Tamara specifically, kept her eyes on the prize, pivoted, and responded, to a global pandemic in a country reeling from 4 years of Trumpism and a daily worsening climate crisis. Tamara remains a champion for what matters most: building a movement powerful enough to fight for the many against the few, tackling exclusion in all its forms, throughout the climate movement and beyond it.”
Thanu Yakupitiyage, U.S. Communications Director at 350.org, said, “Tamara is a force in demanding that any action on climate be inherently connected to human health, racial justice, and combating inequality. I look forward to continuing to see her transform the movement in her new adventures. Under her leadership, 350 solidified intentional hiring practices that has led us to where we are today, a 350 U.S. that is as multiracial as the movement we are helping to build. That’s no small feat and I thank her for her steadfast commitment.”
“Tamara is a powerful, indefatigable force for change. She cares deeply about climate justice, and shows that in the rigour she applies to her work. We will miss her in the organization not only for her work, but also for her good humour,” said Agnes Hall, Digital Engagement Director at 350.org.
Additional testimonials to Tamara’s work at 350 U.S. and in the broader climate movement include:
“Tamara’s commitment to transforming the environmental movement into a powerful, multi-racial, multi-generational coalition has helped shape our collective work profoundly. Her remarkable efforts to advance climate justice and capacity building programs are enduring contributions to restoring the right of every community to clean air, clean water, and a sustainable climate. The Sierra Club wishes her much luck on her next venture,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club.
“Tamara Toles O’Laughlin exercised transformational leadership. She understands the national significance of local frontline led struggles and was available and fully present to add support in meaningful ways. Her humility, sense of humor and clarity made the hard stuff easy – she is a climate warrior that makes Brooklyn proud everyday,” said Elizabeth Yeampierre, executive director of UPROSE.
“They say life shrinks or expands in proportion to ones courage. Tamara is one who has outstretched her arms to protect her people, community and planet, because of her fearlessness and talent; doors have been pushed opened; glass ceilings have been forever shattered and lives have been saved & she did it with grace and style!” said Mustafa Santiago Ali, Vice President of Environmental Justice, Climate, and Community Revitalization for the National Wildlife Federation.
“Tamara Toles O’Laughlin is a tremendous leader in our movement. She deftly operates at the intersection of grassroots campaigning and policy making, deeply embedding racial and environmental justice in the efforts she engages in. On a personal level, I deeply appreciate her candid advice and counsel as a friend and thought leader in our collective efforts to build a more healthy and just world,” said Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth.