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COURTESY PHOTO: WHITE HOUSE - Portland's Desiree Williams-Rajee spoke Friday afternoon during a meeting of Champions of Change at a White House program in Washington, D.C.Portland’s Desiree Williams-Rajee was among 10 people honored Friday as White House Champions of Change for Climate Equity.


Williams-Rajee is an equity specialist for Portland’s Bureau of Planning and Sustainability. She works to shape the city’s urban planning and sustainability programs, policies and services with an eye on equal treatment for all communities.

“I’m thrilled about this honor,” Williams-Rajee said.

According to the White House, Williams-Rajee worked with groups that serve communities of color and low-income residents to create a local plan to reduce carbon emissions and the impacts of climate change.

She also was a founding board member of the Center for Diversity and the Environment and a member of the inaugural cohort of the Young Climate Leaders Network.

“I think it’s incredibly important that Portland’s work on advancing equity be elevated in concert with our reputation as a sustainable city,” Williams-Rajee said. “And while this honor is being given to me, it is for work that acknowledges how we are shifting our paradigm for better governance; it is one that is more responsive to the needs of all communities.”

Desiree Williams-RajeeWilliams-Rajee and nine other people from across the nation were honored Friday afternoon, July 15, in Washington, D.C., for their work at a White House ceremony. She left for the nation's capital Wednesday morning.

“We are so grateful for Desiree’s contributions to Portland’s groundbreaking work to ensure equity is a central theme in our Climate Action Plan," said Portland Mayor Charlie Hales. "It is incredibly exciting to see the White House recognize her contributions on the national stage.”

During Friday’s meeting, Williams-Rajee told the Champions of Change gathering that her work was to make sure that every community in the city had a voice in decisions that affected residents. Her job also involves breaking down institutional racism that in the past left some people behind in citywide programs and decisions.

“What we've done in the past hasn't worked to bring prosperity to our communities, inequity is a drag on our economy and communities,” she said. “Equity requires creativity because for much of this there isn't a reference point.”

The Champions of Change program was created as an opportunity for the White House to feature individuals doing extraordinary things to empower and inspire members of their communities. The event will be live streamed on the White House website at www.whitehouse.gov/live/ at 11:30 a.m. in Portland. Follow the conversation at #ActonClimate and #WHChamps.

Others who will be honored are Esau Sinnok of Shishmaref, Alaska; Colette Pichon Battle of Sidell, La.; Vien Truong of Oakland, Calif.; Gilbert Campbell of Washington, D.C.; Cecilia Martinez of Minneapolis; Michael Durglo of Pablo, Mont.; Susana De Anda of Visalia, Calif.; Kristin Baja of Baltimore; and Michael Green of Boston.

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