Meet the Team
Committed to a Just and Equitable Gulf
Executive Director and Co-Founder
Ruth Yvonne Story was the former president of Gulfport Branch of the NAACP, prior to making her longtime dream a reality and establishing the Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate, and Health Organization (EEECHO). Under her leadership, the Gulfport NAACP branch earned two prestigious National NAACP Thalheimer Awards for outstanding programmatic activities. Ruth had been an outspoken advocate against an aging Gulfport coal plant, cited as failing in the NAACP’s ‘Coal Blooded Report’. The plant ceased burning coal in April 2015. She also opposed a port connector road which posed environmental hazards to historically minority neighborhoods. She continues her activism through her EEECHO coalition.
Program Director and Co-Founder
Katherine T. “Kathy” Egland is the Program Director and Co-founder of EEECHO. She is a native of Gulfport and has been active in the local and global community in addressing climate change and environmental injustice. Kathy chairs the Environmental and Climate Justice Committee for the National Board of Directors of NAACP. Her committee is in charge of governance responsibility of raising awareness of environmental and climate issues from a civil rights, social justice and equity perspective. As a residence of Gulfport, Mississippi, she survived Hurricane Katrina and was instrumental in the restoration efforts in its aftermath. She endured the BP Deepwater Horizon Gulf Oil Spill in 2010, which contaminated the Mississippi Gulf Coast waters located a few blocks of her home. Kathy’s home is located less than four miles from Plant Jack Watson, a former coal fired plant which scored a failing D- on the NAACP’s ‘Coal Blooded’ Report. She organized community trainings and joined forces with The Sierra Club and other organizations, in efforts which led to the plant’s cessation of its coal burning operation in April 2015. This coalition has also led efforts promoting net-metering; commented on Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality’s Proposed State Implementation Plan Amendments in Response to EPA’s Startup, Shutdown, and Malfunction SIP Call, which led to revisions; and submitted testimony before the Public Service Commission opposing a rate increase to fund a portion of the cost of a failed carbon capture sequestration in Kemper County, Mississippi.
Arthur Barber Hawkins
Arthur Lee Barber Hawkins is a life member and Executive Committee member of the Gulfport Branch NAACP, Red Hatters (Sassy Sisters), the Trustee Board of Greater Mount Olive Baptist Church, WIA (Mission), Beautification and Kitchen Committees of the church and a member of the Mississippi Gulf Coast Black Nurses Association. She is Co-Director of Medical Programs for the Education, Economics, Environmental Climate and Health Organization. EEECHO is a coalition of diverse, consensus-based group of educational, economics, health, environmental justice, climate justice, religious, and policy advocates and professionals that represent the interest of building better communities. Mrs. Barber-Hawkins is a retired L.P.N., formerly employed by the University Medical Center – Blair E. Batson Children’s Hospital in Jackson, Mississippi for thirty years. She is a former member of the United States Army Reserve – Serving eight years and the Mississippi Army National Guard – also serving eight years
Joel Birdsong is the Inventory Manager at the Naval Battalion Construction Center, working at the Department of Navy since 1987. Joel has attended Tennessee State University, Indiana University, Purdue University, American Business College, and received an Associates Degree in business from Community College of the Air Force. Working for Ford Motor Company for in Indianapolis, Ind. since 1967, Joel started his service at the US Air Force. He served eight years in the Air Force. After his military career, Joel started working for the Department of Defense School in Spandalum, Germany. When Joel returned from Germany he was assigned to Gulfport. Joel is a member of Goodwill Baptist Church in Pass Christian, MS. He is a member of Rectitude Lodge # 323 and Bennett Johnson Consistory # 242. Joel served as the Worshipful Master of Rectitude Lodge # 323 from 1990-1993 and served again as Worshipful Master from 2000-2003. Joel also is a Noble of Karun Shriners Temple # 48. Joel currently serves as Past Commander In Chief at Bennett Johnson # 242. Joel is also a member of the Gulfport Branch NAACP.
Sister Martha Miller
Sister Martha Milner is a member of the Sisters of Mercy of the Americas, a Catholic Women Religious Order, and native of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She currently serves as Vice-President of the Board of Directors of Coastal Family Health Center, Director of Sisters of Mercy solidarity ministry, Project Walking Together in Hope, providing research/analysis and community organizing for low-wealth communities, especially in the hurricane-ravaged East Biloxi, Mississippi. She is a member of a national team that provides systemic change education and facilitation for local, regional, and international organizations and UN-based NGOs. She is also a founding member and President of Mississippi Mercy Services, a non-profit organization that partners with local churches and agencies to support homeless families and individuals. She is a member of the Biloxi Branch NAACP,
John Johnson previously served on the Harrison County School Board for over two decades and was appointed to fill an unexpired vacancy on the Harrison County Board of Supervisors. He has served 8 years as a Planning Commissioner for the City of Gulfport and served 29 years as an elected member of the Harrison County School Board. He is the 1st Vice President of the North Gulfport Civic Club, 1st Vice-President of the Gulfport Branch NAACP and is a deacon. He is a Viet Nam veteran.
Sarah Barnes was born and raised in Gulfport Mississippi. Early on she developed her love for serving her community and others from watching her two grandmothers and mother be active in their community, as well as taking part in her local church's community service ministry. She has been involved in an 8-week summer program, meal programs for the underprivileged, as well as organizing a rally to discuss combatting police brutality. She plans on returning to school next year to pursue her degree in sociology.
Mattie Brewer Jordan
Mattie Brewer Jordan is a retired educator. She has B.S. in elementary education from Mississippi Valley State University and a Master’s Degree from the University of Southern Mississippi.
Mayukh Datta is a junior at Mississippi State University studying Chemical Engineering with a minor in Environmental Economics. Mayukh is a part of MSU Engineers Without Borders and the Climate Reality Project. He is also a board member for the Educational, Environmental, Economic Community Health Organization (EEECHO). He hopes to attend graduate school for environmental policy so that he can return to Mississippi to focus on environmental and climate justice advocacy.