The dedicated members of the Virginia Community Rights Network (VACRN) Council are actively working to support, expand, and enhance the protection of Nature and our communities throughout Virginia.
Heidi Dhivya Berthoud, President, has lived in the extended community of Satchidananda Ashram, Yogaville in Buckingham, Virginia since the early 1990’s. She is a founding member and Secretary of Friends of Buckingham, formed to oppose the proposed interstate fracked gas Atlantic Coast Pipeline in 2014. Founding Buckingham: We the People in 2017 with Mindy, and Hanuman was a beacon of light in the ecocide darkness. Rooted in deep ecology, she thrives by living close to the land. She is a yoga and massage therapist and retired dental hygienist.
Mindy Zlotnick, Secretary/Treasurer, lives in a small cabin in the woods near the Yogaville community in Buckingham, Virginia. A relatively recent transplant from California, she brings her decades of experience as a teacher, and national and international presenter to this project. Her meditation practice informs her worldview based in generosity, kindness, collaboration, and cooperation.
Chad Oba serves as the Director, Community Outreach Coordinator and Media Contact for Friends of Buckingham, a grassroots organization originally formed in opposition to the Atlantic Coast Pipeline and whose mission is to preserve the natural resources and cultural heritage of Buckingham County. She has lived in rural Buckingham County for 36 years. She has also worked in mental health providing parenting and family support to families in Buckingham and the surrounding counties for 25 years.
She has a strong interest and investment in developing sustainable relationships with her human, animal and plant friends and all the resources that sustain life on Earth. She is a mother of three adult children, grandmother of three, herbalist, wild gardener and partner to a crazy prolific stone artist who puts up with all her activism.
Swami Dayananda is a monastic and long-time student of Swami Satchidananda. Climate justice and interfaith worship intersect in her experience. A trained Climate Reality Leader, she has organized and participated in interfaith services and climate demonstrations at Standing Rock in North Dakota, at Ebenezer Baptist church in Atlanta, Richmond, and Buckingham County – to name a few.
As an immigrant from Japan, she is a strong advocate for Social and Racial Justice as they interrelate with Environmental and Climate Justice. Swami Dayanada has worked tirelessly in organizing and educating elected officials and the general public about this issue, and was honored with an award from the Interfaith Center for Public Policy for her Environmental Justice work.
As a part of her commitment to sustainability, she created and maintains Grown for Good Farm, where organic medicinal herbs, vegetables, and hemp plants are grown.
Swami Dayananda believes that giving Nature rights in the eyes of the law would contribute greatly to legally protecting our environment. She is honored to serve in support of this timely paradigm shift.
Queen Zakia Shabazz is an author, educator, lecturer, and environmental justice advocate. Her work began in 1996 when she discovered that her young son had been poisoned by lead, prompting her to establish United Parents Against Lead (UPAL). UPAL is a national networking organization of and for parents of children poisoned by lead that works to end the threat of lead poisoning and other environmental hazards through education and awareness, advocacy, intervention, and resource referral.
In addition to serving as executive director of UPAL, Shabazz is a local Stand for Children Organizer, a position she’s held since 1996. She currently serves as Coordinator of the Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative (VEJC) and is a member of the Lead Service Line Replacement Collaborative. Shabazz is an inaugural Community Partners in Residence fellow at the University of Richmond, and a former elementary school teacher. As an advocate for Adult Literacy she has served as a READ Center Board member and on the advisory board of the Senate Joint Subcommittee Studying Lead Poisoning Prevention. Shabazz continues to provide valuable insight, time and dedication towards the eradication of lead poisoning.
Queen Shabazz holds a bachelor’s in business administration and a paralegal certificate specializing in Real Estate and civil litigation. She is also a notary public. and a 2019 graduate of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) EJ Academy.
Jessica Sims is a Central Virginia-based environmental organizer who has worked on multiple campaigns to keep Virginia’s waterways and communities protected. With decades of experience in the non-profit sector, in both volunteer and professional capacities, Sims has served as a lead organizer for the Stop the Pipelines Campaign at the Sierra Club Virginia Chapter, co-founded Virginia Pipeline Resisters with Stacy Lovelace, and continues to work within the environmental community.
She is strongly committed to protection of Virginia’s rivers, including the James River, which she monitors as a JRA “River Rat;’ and to bringing awareness through public outreach, writing and artistic collaboration, to the environmental injustices faced by Virginians.
Bekura W. Shabazz is a Hampton Roads native and mother to 4 biological children plus 4 other children. BeKura has over 2 decades of grassroots advocacy and activism in the areas of criminal, policy, child welfare reform, environment, housing and economic injustice work. Once serving as the State lead for federal legislation on climate change and sea level rise with Virginia Conservation Network, she has added vigorous fighting against oppressive and systemic nonprofit culture against African Americans along side all.
She is currently the Social Justice and Health Disparities Committee Chairwoman of the Virginia Green New Deal, Chesterfield NAACP Criminal Justice Committee Chairwoman, Internal Policy Committee Chairwoman of the Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative where she also serves on the Board. Ms. Shabazz is the Founder and President of First Alliance Consulting LLC and The Criminal Injustice Reform Network. She also founded Mothers Against Mandatory Minimums and Legal Advocates of Virginia where she is currently a legal advocate.
Russell Chisholm organizes for environmental justice on Tutelo land in what is now known as Giles County in Southwest Virginia.
He serves as co-chair of Protect Our Water, Heritage, Rights (POWHR) and coordinator of the volunteer-driven Mountain Valley Watch pipeline construction monitoring program in defense of clean water and communities from fracked gas pipeline expansion.
Russell believes climate and economic justice are possible and worth fighting for from the mountains to the coasts.
Kendyl Crawford is the Co-Director of Virginia Interfaith Power & Light, an organization collaborating with people of faith to grow healthy communities and advance climate justice through education, advocacy, and worship. She has worked with communities across the state educating and organizing around climate and environmental justice.
She received a bachelor’s degree in Marine and Environmental Science from Hampton University and received a Master’s of Science in Environment, Science and Society from University College London on a Marshall Scholarship. In 2018, she received a Master’s of Nonprofit Studies degree at the University of Richmond. Kendyl served for two years as a Steering Committee Member of the Virginia Environmental Justice Collaborative and recently participated as a Fellow in the Virginia Natural Resources Leadership Institute.
Kendyl also currently serves on the Board of Virginia Conservation Network and is very appreciative to have been chosen as a member of the Virginia Council on Environmental Justice.