By Deirdre Smith, 350.org Strategic Partnership Coordinator
It was not hard for me to make the connection between the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, and the catalyst for my work to stop the climate crisis.
It’s all over the news: images of police in military gear pointing war zone weapons at unarmed black people with their hands in the air. These scenes made my heart race in an all-to-familiar way. I was devastated for Mike Brown, his family and the people of Ferguson. Almost immediately, I closed my eyes and remembered the same fear for my own family that pangs many times over a given year.
In the wake of the climate disaster that was Hurricane Katrina almost ten years ago, I saw the same images of police, pointing war-zone weapons at unarmed black people with their hands in the air. In the name of “restoring order,” my family and their community were demonized as “looters” and “dangerous.” When crisis hits, the underlying racism in our society comes to the surface in very clear ways. Climate change is bringing nothing if not clarity to the persistent and overlapping crises of our time.
I was outraged by Mike Brown’s murder, and at the same time wondered why people were so surprised; this is sadly a common experience of black life in America. In 2012, an unarmed black man was killed by authorities every 28 hours (when divided evenly across the year), and it has increased since then. I think about my brother, my nephew, and my brothers and sisters who will continue to have to fight for respect and empathy, and may lose their homes or even their lives at the hands of injustice.
To me, the connection between militarized state violence, racism, and climate change was common-sense and intuitive.
Quickly understanding interdependence and connectedness here, and often elsewhere is, in part, the result of my experience of growing up black in America, and growing up in New Mexico, a place ravaged by climate impacts. New Mexico is, as Oscar Olivera noted, showing the early signs of what sparked theCochabamba Water Wars, yet another example of how oppression and extreme weather combine to “incite” militarized violence.
The problems of Cochabamba and Katrina are not just about the hurricane or the drought – it’s what happened after. It is the institutional neglect of vulnerable communities in crisis, the criminalization of our people met with state violence, the ongoing displacement of New Orleans’ black residents through the demolition of affordable housing for high-rise condos — that all adds up to corporations exploiting our tragedy using the tools of racism, division, and dehumanization. (Naomi Klein calls it the Shock Doctrine.) And it’s also about what happened before too: how black and brown communities have coal refineries, tar sands, and gas wells in their back yards to extract fossil fuels in the first place.
These divisions imposed on us prevent us from building the movement we need to create a new future for ourselves, a future where we have clean energy that doesn’t kill us, and creates jobs that provide dignity and a living. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, black and brown people were seen as “disposable,” and the powers-that-be sought to divide us by once again painting the victims and heroes as villains.
The hashtag #iftheygunnedmedown trended during the past week in reaction to the media’s portrayal of Mike Brown and countless other victims. Black folks asked: if I was killed by police, how would I be portrayed? It illustrated how a racist and victim-blaming cultural narrative is central to how the media responds to the victimization of a vulnerable community in crisis.
A discourse that dehumanizes and blames the victims makes black and brown communities even more vulnerable than they already are in the wake of climate disasters. If extreme weather is about droughts, floods, hurricanes, and wildfires, the way people get treated in the wake of disaster is about power.
Demonization and the illusion of the “other” allows mainstream US to feel unaffected and disconnected to the employment of unacceptable and institutionally supported militarized violence. If we hope to build anything together and employ our combined power we must deny that anyone is an “other” – denying this pervasive cultural norm isn’t easy but it’s a central challenge we face.
We’re all impacted by climate change, but we’re not all impacted equally.
Communities of color and poor communities are hit hardest by fossil fuel extraction, as well as neglected by the state in the wake of crisis. People of color also disproportionately live in climate-vulnerable areas. Similarly, state violence should concern us all, but the experience of young black men in particular in this country is unique. Those of us who are not young black men must step up to the challenge of understanding that we will likely never experience that level of demonization. That kind of solidarity is what it takes to build real people power — the kind of power that stands up unflinchingly to injustice, and helps us all win our battles by standing together.
This is difficult work. Some of it requires listening and working with racial justice organizations, and some of it requires introspection, questioning what we have been taught, and healing from internal oppression. Part of that work involves climate organizers acknowledging and understanding that our fight is not simply with the carbon in the sky, but with the powers on the ground.
Many people have pointed out that the climate movement needs to understand our internal disparity of power too: between mainstream and grassroots organizations, between people of color and white folks, between the global north and the global south. We need to account for these things if we truly want to build the diverse movement leadership that we will need to win.
The events in Ferguson offer an important moment if you’re a climate organizer, looking around the room, wondering where the “people of color” are. It’s a time to to dig deep and ask yourself if you really care why – and if you are committed to the deep work, solidarity, and learning that it will take to bring more “diversity” to our movement. Personally, I think the climate movement is up to this necessary challenge.
It isn’t incidental, it’s institutional, and it’s rooted in history.
I can’t stress enough how important it is for me, as a black climate justice advocate, as well as for my people, to see the climate movement show solidarity right now with the people of Ferguson and with black communities around the country striving for justice. Other movements are stepping up to the plate: labor, GLBTQ, and immigrant rights groups have all taken a firm stand that they have the backs of the black community. Threats to civil dissent are a threat to us all. We’ve seen this kind of militarized police violence in the environmental movement before: in the repression of the Global Justice Movement, pioneered by police with tanks on the streets of Miami during the Free Trade Area of the Americas protests in 2003, to name just one example.
It has happened to our movements before, and it will happen again. As James Baldwin expressed, “if they come for you in the morning, they will come for us at night.” But solidarity and allyship is important in and of itself. The fossil fuel industry would love to see us siloed into believing that wecan each win by ourselves on “single issues.” Now it’s time for the climate movement to show up– to show that we will not stand for the “otherizing” of the black community here in America, or anyone else.
We have a lot of learning to do about how to come together, but we are in process of learning how our fights are bound together at their roots. If we knew everything we needed to know about navigating the climate and ecological crises, we would have done it already. Now is a time to stand with and listen to the wisdom of our allies in movements that are co-creating the world we all want to live in.
As crisis escalates, as climate change gets worse, we better get ready to see a whole lot more state violence and repression, unless we organize to change it now.
The first step to understanding is listening. The second step is digging.
I could tell you all day about the brilliant and strategic analysis and leaders that exist in historically oppressed communities. I could tell you…but your path to understanding why solidarity is important is your own. Don’t miss this opportunity to dig in and show up. Don’t miss this opportunity to leverage our power together. If we mitigate and adapt to the climate crisis it, will be because we understood our enemies and leveraged our collective power to take them down and let our vision spring up. Take a moment today to read the demands of the Dream Defenders, Freedomside, and Organizing Black Struggle. Read about solidarity and white allyship, and identify anti-blackness showing up in your spaces. Take a moment today to really think about how we really should confront the climate crisis and ask yourself if you’re willing to dive into the long haul and complex work it will take.
I believe in us.
I am grateful that amidst all my anger, frustration, sadness, determination, and exhaustion that I am left with one resounding thought: I believe in us.
Doing climate work takes a lot of courage, and I am endlessly inspired by my comrades’ and colleagues’ abilities hold the contradictions, complexity, and overwhelming reality it is to take on this challenge. I am excited by the deepening and aligning I’ve been seeing happening in cross-sector movement spaces over the past year especially. The more complex (and less comfortable) we allow ourselves to be, the more simple things actually become: we are in this together and our fights are connected. We don’t know everything by ourselves, but together we know enough.
One week after the murder of Mike Brown by a Ferguson police officer—people in St.
Louis gathered at the location where Mike Brown was shot in the Canfield Apartment
buildings. Groups on the ground in St. Louis called for nationwide solidarity
actions in support of Justice for Mike Brown and the end of police and extrajudicial
killings everywhere. This included family and friends of Ezell Ford in Los Angeles,
who was also shot and killed recently by LAPD officers as he lay defenseless on the
ground. The brutal murder caught on video of a homeless man, James Boyd, brought
international attention to the Albuquerque Police Department’s long history of
shooting and killing unarmed people.
More than one person per day is killed by local police officers in the U.S. And
according to data reported by local police agencies to the FBI, white police
officers on average kill two Black people per week. Black men make up more than 50%
of the youth under twenty years of age killed by police.
As frontline, environmental justice communities, many of these killings are taking
place in our neighborhoods. Decades of wars, fortifying the borders and the War on
Terror has led to a militarization of police forces across the country that are
increasingly heavily armed, unaccountable and deadly. This is manifested by police
brutality and murder, the growth of the prison industrial complex and persecution
and incarceration of migrant families. This is in direct contrast to our vision to
build local, living economies.
CJA is building a movement that affirms life and where everyone has a place in the
rebuilding and stewardship of our communities – not where people are killed,
warehoused or discarded. Part of our task is to develop a fair and just system of
justice, safety and accountability, and we stand in solidarity with the families and
organizations in our communities fighting for such a system.
The Jemez Principles of Democratic Organizing, one of our guiding documents, calls
on all people to allow affected people to speak for themselves and to follow the
lead of those affected as we act in solidarity.
This was the call to action issued by local organizations last week: In the wake of
the murder of unarmed teen Mike Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, MO, many
people are seeking ways that they can help. We encourage everyone to take part in
the following actions, as well as helping to educate your community on systemic
violence upon communities of color.
If you are not in St. Louis, find an event near you or register one here.
Follow events/discussions on Facebook
You can also help by:
Contributing to the bail fund.
Contributing to the organizer fund.
Actions and protests continue to be organized, and we encourage CJA member
organizations, allies and friends to support this effort by organizing your own
activities about police violence in your community. You can register your event at
the above website.
Climate Justice Alliance Steering Committee
Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Black Mesa Water Coalition, Center for Earth,
Energy and Democracy, Communities for a Better Environment, East Michigan
Environmental Action Council, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Indigenous
Environmental Network, Institute for Policy Studies, Movement Generation Justice and
On Aug 6-9, the Our Power Campaign National Convening brought together 450 frontline community members from across the country joining in Richmond, CA to “build the bigger we” for a just transition toward local, living economies.
Co-hosted by the Richmond Environmental Justice Coalition (REJC) and the national Climate Justice Alliance (CJA), we’d like to give our thanks to the many dedicated community members who gave so many hours to the success of our convening.
We kicked off the week with a public vigil commemorating the 2012 Chevron refinery explosion that sent 15,000 Contra Costa county residents to the hospital.
We spent three beautiful days together to educate, inspire and strategize with one another, including a powerful plenary on the history of the environmental justice movement, some of which we captured on film.
We ended three days later with a vibrant day of action and art on the Richmond Greenway.
Don’t miss the beautiful “storify,“ created by MG’s Ellen Choy, that tells the story of the Richmond convening using social media, photographs, videos, and press articles.
On the Our Power Campaign website, you can see the press release, opening day announcement, and a media advisory about the day of action.
We are also very fortunate that highly talented photographers contributed their time and energy to photo-documenting the convening and day of action.
Take Direct Action for Climate Justice!
Join the Our Power Campaign in New York City for
The People’s Climate March
The People’s Climate Justice Summit
September 22 & 23
On September 23rd, political and corporate leaders are meeting at the United Nations in New York City for the Climate Summit 2014. This summit represents yet another step towards the corporate takeover of the UN climate negotiations, and the privatization of land, water and air resources under the guise of a global climate compact. If they have their way, we will remain mired in the status quo of climate change, when what we need is a fundamental systems change.
The Our Power Campaign is mobilizing for the People’s Climate March to send a clear message to global leaders that It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm. The only solutions to the climate crisis are community led solutions.
The March will be on September 21st in New York City. Following the March, we will be hosting the People’s Climate Justice Summit concurrently with the UN Meeting, on September 22nd and 23rd.
Stay tuned for more information next week about how you can join the Our Power Campaign in New York. In the meantime, read our People’s Climate March Call to Action and begin making your plans for action in September–either in New York or in your own community.
We are asking you to help us spread the word by circulating the People’s Climate March Pledge, to your members and networks.
Check out our new creative resistance campaign to spread the message that It Takes Roots to Weather the Storm–consider creating a piece art that we can share as a poster or image to share via our social media sites.
Finally, in the coming months, be sure to keep up with us on Twitter and Facebook.]]>
Charity Hicks Presente!
Charity was a warrior on the front lines of the fight for the human right to water in Detroit. Catch her power and wisdom in this informal interview with her about Detroit’s current water crisis:
And we were moved by these words (below) from comrades of La Via Campesina in Haiti, written when Charity was hospitalized. Charity played a major role in hosting the delegates from the G4 and Dessalines Brigade in both New York and Detroit last October, when they were awarded the Food Sovereignty Prize. When they heard about what happened to Charity, they put together this message of love and solidarity to her, her family members and compas:
Haiti, June of 2014
To family members and comrades of our beloved Charity,
From our hearts, embraced to Charity’s, we salute fraternally her family and we are strengthened in our thought of her, our tireless comrade in the struggle for a more just for all world and all. We think of the cheerful and energetic sister and her hunger for life and the struggle.
And we know, she has not surrendered or will not surrender today. We are at her side. She represents the seeds, fruit of life, wisdom and love; and we – women and men – peasants are the guardians of the seeds and are attentive to see it germinate and fill the fields of hope.
We are sending an empowering energy from Haiti through the Caribbean Sea that will reach New York and Detroit to touch the hearts of Charity, her family and comrades.
By La Via Campesina in Haiti and 4 G Kontre:
Peasant Movement of Papay
Tèt Kole Peasant Association
Congress of the Peasant Movement of Papay
Regional Coordination of Organizations of the Southwest Region
Internationalist Solidarity Dessalines Brigade in Haiti/Via Campesina-Brazil
We also encourage folks to consider donating to the Charity Hicks “Wage Love” Fund – for her family and community.
This fund will specifically go towards:
-Covering immediate costs of bringing Charity home to Detroit and holding a proper home going service.
-Sustaining Charity’s husband Louis while he takes unpaid family medical leave from work.
Donate here online.]]>
Going green is about more than buying all the gluten-free quinoa you can fit in your Prius. It’s about community organizing against corporate polluters and challenging environmental racism — and then enjoying your quinoa. That’s the message from MG’s newest video satire, The Greenest Man In America.
Written by our own Josh Healey, the video features Healey alongside Richmond, CA environmental justice activist Lipo Chanthanasak. A refugee from Laos and long-time leader in the fight against Richmond’s destructive Chevron oil refinery, Lipo is unexpectedly named the “Greenest Man in America.” Playing off a certain popular commercial, the video invites viewers to question our concept of what — and who — makes for an environmental leader.
Movement Generation is excited for the video to amplify the Our Power Campaign, which is building a just transition from an extractive economy run by corporations to local, living economies that are healthy and thriving. This summer, Richmond will host the Our Power National Convening from August 6-9, coinciding with the second anniversary of the massive Chevron refinery fire.
To learn more about the Our Power National Convening, click here.
To learn more about APEN and Lipo’s work, click here.]]>
Co-sponsored by Jobs with Justice San Francisco
Race, Class, & Ecology is MG’s new series of free public events to amplify and advance the vibrant social movement leading the Just Transition away from profit and pollution and towards healthy, resilient, and life-affirming economies. From labor to land reclamation to black & brown liberation, the series will feature organizers, intellectuals, and ecologists who are building grassroots people power in the US.
MG will launch our Race, Class, & Ecology series with a conversation between workers, union organizers, and climate justice leaders on moving from “Jobs OR the environment” to “Jobs FOR the environment.”
Stay tuned for more details, including an announcement of our featured speakers!
Questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Join us in supporting our friends and allies at theSouth Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA)! Help persuade the South African Government to drop the South Durban Port and Petro-Chemical Expansion for the betterment of local communities and society at large, and, if they disagree, launch divestment and financial sanctions campaigns against TransNet, Shell, BP, Engen and other companies involved.
In the port city of Durban, South Africa, petrochemical conglomerates are pushing a $25 million Dig-Out Port expansion project that will wreak untold havoc on the surrounding communities’ ecology, economy and safety. The project would also displace thousands of people from their homes. SDCEA and other environmental groups are working hard to stop the large petro-chemical and shipping corporations from moving forward with the expansion. Join us in calling for sustainable and environmentally sound alternative development that puts people over profit.
Sign this petition now to add your voice and support their call for international solidarity!
For more info, click here.]]>
Sponsored by MG and co-hosted by Full Harvest Urban Farm. Installation led by Dig Cooperative.
Saturday, June 14
@ Full Harvest Urban Farm
3732 39th Ave (off of Macarthur), Oakland
Access to clean water is a human right. Only 2% of earth’s water is fresh and available for people to drink, but big business has polluted half of it! The remaining 1% of clean water has been scarce in many places due to the global ecological crisis. In California water shortages caused by drought have become the new normal. The Central Valley’s farmland is slowly becoming a desert and water rationing is likely to occur in the very near future. We must rethink our relationship to water if we are to survive the crisis.
Our pee and poop belong in the Earth as nutrients for trees and fertilizers for soil.
Join us for a training on water-less compost toilet installation. Under the professional instruction of Dig Cooperative you will learn how to build a simple waste management system that reduces the pollution of clean water and increases our resilience in the face of drought.
Space is very limited and we are near capacity! Please click here to sign up for the waiting list.
As space becomes available you will be contacted to reserve a spot.
Childcare and Spanish Interpretation available – please let us know if you will need either, by emailing Quinton (contact below).
For more information, please contact Quinton Sankofa with MG at: email@example.com | 510-969-6228]]>
(Limited Seating…so get there early!)
Sponsored by Movement Generation
After an incredible show last fall, we’re back for another round to celebrate new voices, stories, and the art of resistance. All new performers, all new stories, all new mix of arts & activism to shake this crazy world up and make it fresh.
Led by MG Culture Shift Fellow Josh Healey, Make It Fresh is an eight-week workshop for 20 emerging writers, activists, & all-star movement-builders to write, learn, and share their stories. Stories of our neighborhoods, our struggles, our place in this crazy, beautiful environment we call home.
Join us for this one-time-only performance showcase, where the newest Make it Fresh storytellers will share their new creations with the community.
Participants are coming from groups like: Forward Together, Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), Unite HERE 2850, Brown Boi Project, Causa Justa, Anakbayan East Bay, & many more.
We use our stories to change the larger story towards justice and ecology. We talk about pollution AND poverty. Mother Earth AND Mac Dre. We have asthma in our lungs, joy in our hearts, and we’re ready to shout our stories to the world.]]>
Click here to listen.
(Right click to download the mp3)