Celebrating Black Achievement at GRID: Terea Macomber

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February 23, 2021

GRID is honoring Black History Month and Black Futures Month by celebrating Black Achievement at GRID -- in February and all year. Follow along as we introduce GRID staff members whose work and influences are driving our vision of a just energy future.

Meet Terea Macomber, Electric Vehicle Director and Project Director of Access Clean California. Since 2018, Terea has been working to make clean mobility solutions accessible to environmental and economic justice communities.

How did you come to GRID?

I came to GRID as a CORO Fellow in Public Affairs, and GRID was my business placement. CORO is a 9 month post-grad fellowship where folx get experience in all of the different sectors (nonprofit, business, advertising, etc). At the time, Zach Franklin (Chief Strategy Officer at GRID) was in a business development phase trying to build out our clean mobility program, which was still a pilot project. I worked under Zach for 5 weeks, attending meetings, and being a thought partner to challenge ideas and bring in a new perspective. After my business placement I decided I would love to stay at GRID for my independent placement. I loved the intersection of race, equity, and transportation and I could continue the work that I had started. 

What is your favorite part of what you do at GRID?

I get to think about how all the technologies around clean mobility will come together to create an energy efficiency package for communities that need it the most. I also get to bring that to conversations with people who have power. I get to add another perspective that is missing from the conversations about clean mobility and clean transportation.

Who is a current Black history-maker that people should know about, or has influenced your work?

The first would be Gretchen Sorin who wrote a book and produced a film called Driving While Black. It documents the history of car ownership, transportation, and movement for the Black community. Even before I read that book I would often share on speaking panels (I had 12 last year alone) that clean mobility is really cool, but it’s nowt new. The most efficient form of transportation is actually wind. The transatlantic slave trade, which shipped over 12 million Africans around the world, was fueled by wind power. I loved her book because it’s a history lesson on how transportation has been a source of liberty, freedom, and survival for our community, but also used as a form of oppression and erasure for our community. I’m always thinking about this book, and would encourage everyone to read it or watch the documentary.

The second person is Adrienne Maree Brown, an incredible human being who exploded my mind with the book Emergent Strategy. I use it as a reference book to think about building processes, building programs, and what it means to redesign the world we live in--how to grasp pencil and paper and figure out how to design what the future looks like.

And finally, Ru Paul is amazing. I love him and I love her--and I say both of those very intentionally. He has really given a queer Black person like myself the ability to live authentically and be artistic, creative, and genuinely Black the the same time. There isn’t an either or in the black queer community. He’s iconic, she’s iconic and has been making history for the last 30 years.

What’s one thing GRID is working on now that you’re really excited to see happen this year?

In my work we have a big milestone coming up--publicly launching Access Clean California. It's really important to me because it is an opportunity to expand access to clean mobility in California. I've reminded folx that what we’ve built in the benefits finder and the resource hub is a tool to help outreach partners bring this tool and awareness about clean cars to their communities. And these communities aren’t lacking; they may have time limitations or language barriers, but there are so many people who are curious about this work and how they can engage or receive funds that they totally deserve to support them in the transition to clean mobility. The Benefits Finder is exciting specifically because so many people are wanting to engage in these technologies. I can’t wait to get lots of people using the tool and giving us feedback.

What is your vision for an environmentally just future?

I think an environmentally just future sometimes romanticizes a communal-small-town-everyone's-growing-organic-produce-on-a-farm ideal. That’s great, and that dream, for some folx, is an incredible way to think about this future world. But it’s also a romaticization or feticization of a utoptia, and we’ve learned through philosophy that utopias don’t exist.

We must have diverse perspectives designing the systems that we all rely on: energy, transportation, healthcare, housing, food. These all require a major overall. We can do it. We’ve done it before. It requires a mixture of policy and community-based organization to ensure that our spaces are planned with inclusion and diversity in mind. And we have to answer the question ‘Does this work for everyone? Does it work for the person with the biggest barriers to finding housing, transportation, or healthcare?’

I’m also hoping to see a democratization of the companies that are disrupting our systems. What if Uber and Lyft were owned by the 40 million people of California? How would they work differently or become better for the population? I think that the best individual example of an environmentally just future is Wakanda!

The biggest thing that will get us here is continuing to reduce the amount of time that BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) have to explain why race and identity is a fundamental part of the conversation to an environmentally just future. I want to reduce the amount of time spent on conversations and persuasion for people who don’t get it. I want us to give them space and time, but not coddle them, or feel like it’s our responsibility to ensure others get it. We have much more important things to do.