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Jill Mangaliman

Jill Mangaliman (they/them) joined Got Green (Seattle) in 2009 as a volunteer and left in 2021 after 7 years as Executive Director. They are a queer Filipino-American community organizer who helped grow Got Green’s budget ($350K in 2013 to $1 million in 2021) and potential over their tenure as executive director. They facilitated numerous collaborations between Got Green and other groups in Seattle. Since leaving Got Green, they have dedicated their time to organizing for the National Democratic movement in the Philippines

Getting Started

Jill was born and raised in Seattle. Their parents immigrated to United States from the Philippines in the 1970s, running from the Marcus dictatorship and state fascism in their home country. Jill grew up without much interaction with politics. As a young adult they had to work in order to support their parents, who had developed health complications. These health problems were one of the factors that spurred Jill into community organizing. In 2008, when Jill was in their late-20s, the dots began to connect. “At first, the environment felt far away, not really related to my life. But the environment is where we get food, eat, work, play, and live.” They began to realize that their neighborhood had large inputs of pollution, particularly due to a local steel plant. The health issues experienced by their parents were similar to other community members who lived in the same polluted neighborhood. They began to get involved in community organizing and collected petitions that focused on universal healthcare and immigrant rights. They learned how to canvas their neighborhood and learn about the issues in their community. In 2013, Jill went to the Philippines with a company called Bayan USA. Bayan is short for “people” or country.” The company works with faith groups and indigenous peoples. This particular trip took place in the same year Typhoon Haiyan ripped through the island nation, killing over 6,000 people and causing ~$3 billion in property damage. Jill saw the immediate aftermath and how it affected the people there. They began to realize the magnitude of climate change and decided to join Got Green’s staff in order to make a difference in their own community.

The Work

Got Green is a South Seattle-based nonprofit that organizes communities around issues surrounding green jobs, healthy food, energy efficient homes, and public transit, with a focus on low income communities and communities of color. “We look at root causes,” Jill explained. “Environmental Justice is very local. It might not be the Seattle that people think about. It’s not the high-tech, wealthy place that you might imagine. There are regions that are heavily polluted and under-resourced.” The “green economy” often ignores or excludes people of color from new jobs and opportunities, leaving already disenfranchised communities stuck in low wage jobs and the school to prison pipeline. Under Jill’s leadership, Got Green’s youth members successfully proposed an ordinance to the city of Seattle. The Green Pathways Out of Poverty resolution creates green job internships for young workers of color. Another important issue that Jill has worked on is food security. “We need to make sure that people have access to culturally significant foods,” Jill emphasized. Got Green surveyed POC women and low-income women in South Seattle and found that most live in a food desert (defined as an urban area in which it is difficult to buy affordable or good quality fresh food). “Seattle has some of the most expensive groceries in the nation and healthy foods will only raise in cost as climate change progresses.” They worked with a group of women in the community to create “Fresh Bucks” with the city of Seattle. The program provides low income families with a voucher to buy fresh, locally-grown produce from local farmer markets and participating grocery stores, including Safeway. “There were initial challenges for the Fresh Bucks program,” Jill recalled. “How do you get people to sign up initially? We had to work with communities and the city to show the benefits of the program.” Since those early stumbling blocks, the program has become incredibly popular, with so many people signing up that there is now a waitlist for the vouchers. But Jill thinks there are some major limitations to the program. “It is very limited and doesn’t address food sovereignty,” they said. “As urban people, how can we connect with the land?” In order to incorporate some of these concerns, Got Green began facilitating urban garden tours and healthy cooking lessons, in an effort to bring people closer to their food. They also connected with local farm workers, helping to make sure they have decent working conditions and pay. Gentrification is also a concern in South Seattle, that Got Green is determined to fight. Since 2000, 50% of census tracts have gentrified, with the percentage of people identifying as Hispanic dropping dramatically in several of these areas (Urban@UW). “We want to keep communities from being displaced, since it adds to the challenges that people of color and low income households already face. We also want to make sure that vulnerable communities have a safety net, not just for times of crisis, but also for daily struggles. People need a support system. When communities are displaced and scattered, people lose their support system.” There are also issues that are not always right or wrong. “There have been moments where we’ve been conflicted in the organization,” Jill admits. “For example, there was a youth jail proposed in the city. The youth leaders were very against it because of the school to prison pipeline. They believed there should be other ways to solve conflicts in our community. But Got Green’s job committees were told by the city that if they built the youth jail they could create something like 5,000 green jobs.” After a lot of deliberation and conversation, the organization decided to stand against the proposed jail, although it still ended up opening in early 2020 (South Seattle Emerald). “We made this decision by looking at the root causes. We saw that a lot of the issues in our communities were because of the over-incarceration of people of color and people from low income areas. Not only would there be a new youth jail, but it was also going to gentrify the neighborhood, which would have displaced parts of the community.” Only by looking at every angle were they able to come to a decision that would help their community the most.

“At first, the environment felt far away, not really related to my life. But the environment is where we get food, eat, work, play, and live.”

Environmental Justice

While Jill worked for many years at Got Green, they are a firm believer that climate change is an issue that needs to be addressed world-wide. “When governments ask what to do about climate change, we need to make sure the solutions don’t displace people. Instead, we need to give them enough resources to weather the storm,” Jill said. They are against carbon markets and cap-and-trade, because it allows the pollution to continue and increases pollution hotspots in already vulnerable communities. They were involved in the Shell No campaign in 2015, which rallied people to call for an end to arctic oil drilling. They collaborated with numerous other cities and communities for this and other carbon zero campaigns. Jill also stands in solidarity with Indigenous land defenders in the Philippines. “Land is life for these communities,” Jill said. “Even those that immigrate carry this mentality to their life in the USA. This land is their home and there are lots of mental healthy issues in these communities because they’re losing that connection to each other and their culture through displacement.” Many indigenous communities in the Philippines are being displaced by mining and logging companies, leading to land defenders being arrested or killed if they protest. “If you take away the land defenders, who is going to take care of the land?” Jill brings a similar mindset into their work in Seattle. They have done work with the Duwamish Tribe, which has not been federally recognized and as a result, does not receive federal benefits given to other indigenous tribes. “Some people talk about them as if they’re the past, but they’re still fighting to be here,” Jill explained. Jill also began to branch out and make connections with other communities. “Now that we’re meeting other groups that are working on similar struggles, it has made us feel less alone and given us the ability to share our strategies,” they said. “We’re not alone in this work. Somewhere out there is another Got Green that is helping their own community. We’re all fighting.”


There are going to be struggles when collaborating with other organizations. “I have definitely had my patience tried,” Jill said, in reference to working with people that should have been allies. “I had to learn how to fight in those spaces.” They explained that you can’t agree on everything. Sometimes you need to prioritize which projects you have the energy and bandwidth to deal with. Jill also believes that the devil is in the details. “Communities need to understand what politicians are doing. On the outside a policy might sound good, but if you dig deeper you find they can’t work.”

Relevant Links

Sources Cited

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