Jessie Brown, Mayan Water Protector: experiences on the frontlines of environmental justice at Standing Rock, North Dakota (Youtube)

Brandi Grayson, Madison racial justice activist: the role of white supremacist patriarchal capitalism in the environmental movement. (Youtube)

Madison Climate March Speaker Biographies

Beth Esser co-founded MGE Shareholders for Clean Energy with Don Wichert in 2014 after learning that her investment in her local utility was at risk from MGE’s over reliance on fossil fuels. As part owners of the company, MGE Shareholders for Clean Energy, use their voice to push MGE to be a national leader in clean energy.  With a B.A. in social work, concerns over climate change and environmental injustice are a natural part of her concern for a healthy & just world to live in. Her primary motivation for her work comes from the love felt for her two young children whom she hopes will have a healthy and beautiful planet to live on.

Brandi Grayson is a Black Community organizer with over a decade of experience in racial justice and program development movement work. Her passion for developing programs to build capacity within marginalized communities has lead her to work on police brutality, economic justice, racial justice and civil rights campaigns. She currently serves as the executive director of Urban Triage.  

David Newby, President Emeritus of the Wisconsin AFL-CIO, has been a scholar, a teacher, an organizer, and a political and social activist. He worked in Alabama with the civil rights movement in the 1960’s, and in the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan anti-war movements. With the emergence of a militant immigrant rights movement, he continues to be a strong voice for solidarity within the working class.
David is currently the President of the Wisconsin Fair Trade Coalition. He was the Wisconsin Coordinator of Labor for Bernie during the 2015-16 Democratic Primary and is an organizer of Our Wisconsin Revolution, the continuation of Bernie Sanders’ vision and the embodiment of the “political revolution” he spoke about so passionately during the campaign and beyond.

Eric Upchurch II is the Chief Visionary at Opportunity Inc. and one of the Lead Organizers for the Young Gifted and Black Coalition and The Council Of Communities. He’s a strategic development consultant, foreign economy technical analyst, community activist, educator and researcher. He teaches mindfulness and meditation in addition to stewarding entrepreneurial and economic empowerment initiatives.

Jessie Brown is an indigenous Maya Woman part of the larger Maya Nation in Guatemala. She has become very involved in the Madison community and also has become a Madison activist and a Street Medic. She has acted as a medic in different movements and actions around the region to ensure safety and wellness for all people. Her most recent work has been as a Water Protector against the construction of the North Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) in Standing Rock. She is currently a Bilingual Administrative Assistant and full time student at Herzing University.  

Tony Schultz is a third generation family farmer who owns Stoney Acres, a local organic diversified family farm in Athens, WI that sells organic vegetables, meat small grains, and maple syrup through the Wausau farmers market. They also have a community supported agriculture program and an on-farm pizza night with everything on the pizzas coming from the farm. Stoney Acres sustainable production practices include being certified organic, selling all products locally, using rotational grazing, diverse crop rotation, cover cropping, wood gasification, and producing 85% of it’s own electricity using solar power. Tony believes that the family farm has been a central form of economic democracy in our nation’s history and looks to reinforce this tradition to create a healthy and socially just world.


Lauren Peretz is a senior at UW Madison and will be graduating this May with degrees in biology, sociology and environmental studies. She has been a co-coordinator for Climate Action 350-UW for the past three years working on both UW fossil fuel divestment and tar sands oil pipeline resistance campaigns. In addition to these campaigns, she has dedicated much of her activism to the No DAPL movement helping to raise money, gather donations, organize rallies and volunteer at the camp. In the future she hopes to contribute to climate justice via public health research on the effects that climate change and fossil fuel pollution have on human health.

Abby Lois is a Senior at UW Madison graduating in May with a degree in environmental science. Throughout her college career she was active in ReThink UW, a group that encourages and facilitates sustainable waste management practices throughout the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus community. Additionally, she has been an activist for anti- fossil fuel and anti-pipeline campaigns.