Stephanie Hicks Willett
Supporting the development of the future generation of African American environmentalists from Cumberland, Virginia.
Affiliations & Roles
Organizer, AMMD Pine Grove Project
Stephanie Hicks Willett is the granddaughter of Rev. Sam Henry Miller and Susan Taylor Miller, and the daughter of Rev. Richard Ross Hicks and Thelma Miller Hicks. As a child Stephanie spent summertime on the Miller family home in Cartersville, VA located in Cumberland County, VA. Later, as Grandpa Sam began to age and need care, the Hicks family returned to Cartersville to live and support him. As a result, her feet daily touched the sacred soil of her ancestors.
After graduating from Cumberland High School, Stephanie attended Virginia State University in Ettrick, VA and graduated four years later with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. Eventually became employed as a food safety chemist in the US Department of Agriculture in the Washington, DC area. Black scientists in the federal service are rare now and were even more so back then.
Stephanie went on to hold many other positions with expanded responsibilities within the federal government. She spent over 20 years at the Environmental Protection Agency. While at EPA she became aware of the horrors and injustices that greed and capitalism can exact on the natural environment, the constructed environment, and the people who are intimately integrated within them. It was there that she learned that like other injustices, environmental
injustices tend to roll down onto those who are least likely to be able to defend or speak up for themselves. This awareness motivated her to enter graduate school at Morgan State University in Baltimore, MD. There she earned a Master’s in Public Health with a focus on minority community health. The interconnectivity of science, environment, creation, God, and justice recently inspired her to obtain a second master’s degree in Divinity from Wesley TheologicalSeminary, in Washington, DC.
Stephanie retired from federal service in 2018. Soon after retirement, the Agee Miller Mayo Pine Grove Project (AMMDPGP) was established under the leadership of a family matriarch and retired historian, Rev. Muriel Miller Branch. AMMDPGP acquired the historical Pine Grove School, which was constructed in 1917. Pine Grove School is a community and national treasure because it one of the remaining Rosenwald Schools constructed to educate black children before schools were integrated. During the same timeframe, Green Ridge Waste Management unveiled their plan to construct a landfill that would engulf the school and the entire historical African American Pine Grove community. The proposed placement of the landfill has all the characteristics of exploitation of minority communities that have been committed throughout the nation and the world.
Stephanie has a lot to share with her hometown community because of her experiences and is happy to do so. She is drawn into the AMMD Pine Grove Project by the call of her ancestors. The passion, tenacity, and dedication of “Cousin Muriel” and the other family members and community activists who give their time and talents to AMMDPGP sustain her involvement. She believes she has come full circle and that her work with AMMD PGP is a divine assignment from God. Within AMMDPGP she primarily focuses on grant writing and program planning. In addition to AMMDPGP’s partnership with WEA and the Virginia chapter of the Sierra Club, we are also partnering with Virginia Organizing located in Charlottesville, VA to solidify our presence as an environmental leader in the state of Virginia.