A Tribute to a Fallen Climate Warrior

In the final days of 2019, a life was tragically cut short, a father taken from his daughters, and a city robbed of a rising climate warrior. Two days before he was to celebrate Christmas with his two young daughters, Tyshaun Turner was shot and killed in Washington, DC shortly after coming home from a day spent installing solar panels with New Columbia Solar, where he had worked for more than two years. Another tragic example of the senseless gun violence plaguing American cities – this time in the Nation’s Capital – his death, the 163rd homicide of 2019, marked a homicide peak our city has not seen in 11 years.

But Tyshaun is so much more than a statistic. He represented everything the District of Columbia – and the solar industry at large – should be proud of. Tyshaun came from an underinvested neighborhood and was not afforded all the opportunities that some of us have been given, but he worked hard to seek out his own opportunities. Those opportunities turned into passions and those passions bore a career. He got involved with the District’s River Corps, a 5 month environmental workforce training program run by the Latin American Youth Center that serves 18-24 year old District residents, and then took advantage of Mayor Bowser’s Solar Works DC program, a public-private partnership between Grid Alternatives, New Columbia Solar, and the Department of Energy and the Environment that trains residents in solar-related skills while installing solar panels for low-income residents. After graduating from Solar Works in the fall of 2017 he was permanently hired by New Columbia Solar. His impact was felt immediately.

Tyshaun was a natural leader and played a key role in keeping the days fun and lighthearted. He had a way of balancing the hard work that comes with ‘greening’ our city and making all of us just glad to enjoy one another’s company.

Tyshaun’s story is a shining light and one this city—no less this country— should want to emulate repeatedly: he overcame a lack of opportunity, sought out and found opportunity through clean energy, and was building a better life for himself and his family. Tyshaun’s story is one of inequality but also how a transition to a clean energy economy can make progress toward equality for those communities most in need.

Tyshaun cared deeply about resolving issues around inequality, and specifically the crisis of poverty and the violence he felt it caused. He was a truth teller who saw others putting money over people and envisioned a solution that required an intervention large enough to put whole communities to work. During his time with River Corps, Tyshaun began to evolve into a climate leader and demonstrated a passion to not only do the work but organize people to our cause as well. He gave interviews with several blogs and spoke at local climate events prior to the Climate March of 2016. While employed in the solar industry, he testified before the DC City Council about the need to expand renewable energy and helped to champion the Clean Energy DC Act. He was aware of the seriousness of both issues, believing in the need to provide a pathway for success and the need for humans to live in symbiosis with nature. In the blog he wrote before graduating the River Corps he stated that “we need to remember that we are just animals, and we too are only here for a short period of time. We are meant to be in a symbiotic relationship with nature — not separating ourselves from it.”

He saw us only overcoming the climate and violence crisis if we were able to be honest with ourselves, look past differences and take care of one another. He stated “While there are divisions among humans, the climate doesn’t care what color you are. The only question is: can you survive? Can your children?” This did not make him blind to the impacts disproportionately felt by low income people of color. This is why he felt the political fight needed to be led by youth. He stated that “youth will not listen unless they see a future in our environmental organizing. Part of how we do that is by engaging young people in the green economy beginning in traditional school.”

Tyshaun supported efforts like the Green New Deal and the District’s Solar for All and saw this investment as a large part of the solution for the crime he grew up around. He worked for its cause because he wanted the world to look different for himself, his daughters and his community. As mentors and cheerleaders of his life, we want him to be remembered for what he did and what he believed in, as each victim of gun violence deserves. We also want his family and friends to know how many he impacted around him by being a great father, lover of life and seeker of a just society.
Thank you Tyshaun, for giving us your gifts.

In this moment of tragedy, please consider supporting a fallen climate warrior’s family. We have established an education trust for Tyshaun’s two young daughters and encourage people touched by this story to consider donating via the following GoFundMe. We hope to raise $10,000 to put toward each daughters’ 529 plan.

– Michael J. Healy, Chief Executive Offer of New Columbia Solar, and Adam Angel, Deputy Director of DC based River Corps and Montgomery County programs at the Latin American Youth Center with Lupi Grady CEO of the Latin American Youth Center