photo of Nalleli Cobo

Nalleli Cobo

South Los Angeles Youth Leadership Coalition

Nalleli Cobo led a grassroot campaign to permanently shut down a toxic oil-drilling site in her community in March 2020, at the age of 19—an oil site that caused serious health issues for her and others. Her organizing against urban oil extraction has yielded major policy movement within both the Los Angeles City Council and Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, which voted unanimously on bans of new oil exploration and the phasing out of existing sites. Nalleli, 22, grew up in South Los Angeles and launched her activism as a 9-year-old after noticing foul smells emanating from the oil well across the street from her home. Over the years, she endured headaches, nosebleeds, and heart palpitations caused by pollution from the well. She began attending meetings and rallies with her mother and, at the age of 9, gave her first public speech on the issue. Even as a child, her skills as an orator caught others’ attention and paved the way for her to eventually become the leading spokesperson for banning oil extraction in Los Angeles. She co-founded People not Pozos, which aims to secure a safe and healthy neighborhood, and the South Central Youth Leadership Coalition, which focuses on environmental racism in the community. In March 2020, Nalleli’s tireless organizing culminated in the definitive closure of the AllenCo drilling site across the street from her childhood home. In addition, thanks to her work, AllenCo executives are facing over 24 criminal charges for environmental health and safety violations. Moreover, Nalleli’s leadership spurred preliminary votes in the City Council in favor of banning oil extraction in the city in 2020. She was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 19. After three surgeries and medical treatment, she was declared cancer-free but cannot have children as a result of her illness. In the end, Nalleli led a citizens’ movement that shut down an oil drilling site and initiated the process to phase out the largest urban oil field in the US.

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