When Tommy Minor was growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, he didn’t hear much about renewable energy. Yet his winding path through various worlds, including community ties in downtown Cleveland, Bowling Green University, psychology studies at Morehouse College, hip hop act tour management, and work with a social justice non-profit led him to land in his current position with GRID Alternatives North Valley as the Workforce Development and Volunteer Coordinator. With a unique vantage point on the job training that GRID is equipped to do in the community, Tommy is poised to leverage GRID’s most compelling opportunities in the service of societal support and environmental justice. His skillset, focused on seeing patterns and strategically making connections, is uniquely suited to the task. “I really like connecting the dots in life – connecting different ideas and people. I get a kick out of being behind the scenes and making things happen. My work here at GRID plays an important part in equality, in the sense of working with job placement. I can be proactive in making sure that our training opportunities are offered equally across the board, and this effect can snowball [in a community] over time.”
In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the vision of unity and justice his legacy offers us, Tommy’s thoughts on how GRID’s work interfaces with the work of social change are relevant, powerful, and productive. He sees one of the most pressing issues affecting underserved communities throughout the US, and disproportionately affecting minority populations, to be a pattern of incarceration for nonviolent drug offenses undertaken by people who, in many cases, are simply motivated by a need to make money. “In this day in age, we often see nonviolent drug offenders who are trying to make money to help their families, and they get convicted. The laws associated with this affect people of color more on average. It’s a systemic trap. If a person needs to make money to feed their family, instead of drug trafficking, they can get a job.” And that’s where the tremendous opportunity that GRID Alternatives’ Workforce Training program offers comes in. Tommy has a clear and focused interest in expanding the work GRID does with those previously incarcerated individuals who are motivated to re-engage with society in a productive way and looking to develop skills that will put them back on their feet, make a living wage, and contribute to support the community and the environment. With a job growth rate of 20.2% in 2015, the solar industry offers a critical pathway for this population. And training them can make a clear and immediate difference in their lives. Tommy believes in the power of this opportunity to make strides toward balance and justice. “One of the best ways to help out a neighborhood that a formerly-incarcerated individual will be returning to is to get them a job. This can have an economic impact on a community, which can get the ball rolling in different areas that may need support. If a person has meaningful employment, this can prevent them from re-offending.“
Tommy offers an integral perspective within the GRID Alternatives community. As we look back on the teachings, work, and inspiring vision shared by Martin Luther King Jr. and adopted by families and communities across the US and the world, as we look forward towards a society marked by peace and justice predicated on the embodied idea of the dignity of each human being, and as we look around us at our communities as they are today, we can see how GRID plays a critical part in bridging worlds and viewpoints, creating a platform for disparate groups to work together upon common ground, a platform for social and environmental justice.
“We at GRID are in a position to make a difference. We help people see the bigger picture because of the values we hold as an organization. We show them career pathway opportunities and help them get checked off on certain skills. Reaching out to underserved communities can really upset the established order to make a difference. I think that’s where GRID can step in and do something from where we are right now.”