A year of youth power

“P-O-W-E-R we’ve got the power, because we are with YEA! MN!”

Youth in the climate movement made waves across the globe this school year, and Minnesota youth working with Climate Generation played a big part. Check out our “advocacy recipe” of ingredients we used this year when organizing for power — and the importance of putting relationships at the center.

Starting with community

Youth with our Youth Environmental Activists of Minnesota (YEA! MN) program started new environmental clubs at several schools, with support from Climate Generation and alumni of our youth and teacher programs. Meanwhile, teens from the Fond du Lac Reservation, Forest Lake, and Red Wing built trust and confidence together with our Youth Convening MN project, hosting events convening their local communities to learn about climate solutions they can participate in right now.

Building coalition

In the fall, youth from multiple MN climate campaigns joined together to build a united statewide effort, called MN Can’t Wait. Youth with iMatter built off their experience charting paths for cities to reach zero carbon emissions. Youth petitioners with MCEA added the call for statewide greenhouse gas regulation. With support from the Power Shift Network, youth joined the movement to stop Line 3 and called for a ban on any new fossil fuel infrastructure. Leaders with YEA! MN brought their outreach and training experience to build new leaders in the movement. MN Can’t Wait began meeting with state Representative Frank Hornstein to draft a bold policy calling for zero carbon emissions statewide by 2030. At the same time, the national youth movement popularized the Green New Deal. MN Can’t Wait strategically built off this momentum to propose a MN Green New Deal. YEA! MN held monthly trainings for youth joining the movement to get involved and build community.

Youth march through the streets of St. Paul to call for climate action. Their signs read “See you in court” referencing the Supreme Court case Juliana v. US.

Flexing our power to influence leaders

This year, youth took public action relentlessly. We marched through the streets in October. We overflowed the Governor’s office in January to meet him and his incoming team on their third day in office. We packed the halls of the Capitol in February calling on legislators to get behind the MN Green New Deal. We showed up in the hundreds in March to lobby those legislators — and one week later, youth across the state went on strike from school, joining the global action to demand climate justice. Not to mention testifying in hearings, blowing up social media, and striking again in May.

“Adults — if you feel uncomfortable now, you’re going to feel uncomfortable for a while. Because we’re never going to back down,” Isra Hirsi told Greenpeace in an interview.

Climate Generation youth leaders and staff directly spoke with thousands of teens across Minnesota, with over 300 youth showing up to events led by Climate Generation and over 600 youth to signing up to stay involved. This does not even count the strikes, led by partners.

Seeing oppression, repairing harm

But along the way we made mistakes. As the MN Can’t Wait movement grew rapidly, we had conflict, and we all didn’t know each other enough to have strong trust. We set a fast pace. MN Can’t Wait did not feel welcoming to many students who joined, particularly youth of color and low-income youth. They persisted, but were often the only youth of color to speak on a panel. Or, one of a handful of youth of color showed up to an event with a hundred white youth, and it felt isolating. We are steeped in oppression as a society, often without deep work to shift the culture of oppressive practices. This article from SURJ outlines some of the habits of white supremacy culture that tend to play out in white-dominant organizations, that happened in MN Can’t Wait.

In April, MN Can’t Wait made the difficult decision to halt public-facing work in order to focus on these dynamics. YEA! MN hosted a training on environmental justice and white supremacy culture. MN Can’t Wait held several retreats to deepen community and discuss the conflicts that emerged. This summer, many of us are joining an online training for white allies, and we are working with partners to convene community building space for youth of color in the movement. We are hosting a summer book club reading Emergent Strategy by Adrienne Maree Brown, which offers a perspective outside white supremacy culture for building effective social movements.

Looking ahead

There is a lot to be excited about. YEA! MN will be expanding our leadership team to support deeper involvement from Greater MN youth. We are growing smarter, stronger, and closer in our relationships as we build the movement we all need. Youth and adults will be going on strike and taking action Sept 20-27. We hope you’ll join us.

Together,

Sarah Goodspeed
Youth & Policy Manager

Jason Rodney
YEA! MN Coordinator

 

Thanks to our funders that support our youth program: Askov Finlayson, Hennepin County Green Partners, McKnight Foundation, Still Ain’t Satisfied Foundation, and Helgeson Foundation.

 

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