Just a few weeks back, on January 26th, me and Marco—a YEA! MN Core Member—climbed the steps of the Thurgood Marshall Center in Washington, D.C. I was both excited and anxious. We were heading to the annual meeting of the Power Shift Network, a collective of organizations mobilizing to mitigate climate change and create a just, clean energy future and resilient, thriving communities for all. We arrived early, and I didn’t know exactly what to expect.
Before I knew it, Kendall from 350.org had convinced me to stand on the tippy-top of a folding chair, while she and two others weighted down the seat, so I could hang a banner from the balcony. I’m talking the tippy-top of a chair. Needless to say, the banner was pretty lopsided, but I was glad to have some new friends.
The network (the people)
The Power Shift Network (PSN) is a grassroots hub for young climate activists. It’s a network of organizations that, like Climate Generation, empower young people to create real climate justice. Together, we work on an incredible diversity of issues and campaigns, from fighting tar sands pipelines to building power and support for renewable energy projects. We had gathered that weekend to connect as a community and coordinate for the year ahead.
I’ve been communicating digitally with these fabulous folks from across the country since I started my job here at Climate Generation. But it’s different to break bread together, to play Taboo together, to dance to Smash Mouth together. Now when Ntebo from D.C. asks me to share a meme on Twitter through the network, I’ll know that not only is she helping to stop offshore drilling day-to-day, but she also can throw a sick dance party.
It’s amazing what a little dose of in-person connection can fuel. Most of us in the PSN see each other less than once a year, but together, we coordinate an incredible amount to amplify, advise, and expand each others’ work. Here are a few examples:
- Frontlines to Power is a PSN project preparing young climate leaders of color and individuals from frontline communities to run for local office
- PSN has created a map of fossil fuel resistance so people across the U.S. can learn from each other as we fight to stop tar sands pipelines, liquid natural gas projects, and more
- PSN is also an incredible source of shared knowledge. The Anti-Oppression Curriculum and Resource Bank (created by PSN partners) is a gem. More resource banks like this are coming soon.
The meeting (key takeaways)
The combined expertise of network members resulted in a weekend that was very skillfully planned and facilitated. I learned a ton from the organizers. Here are some of my key takeaways:
- Give credit where credit is due. The event organizers acknowledged that the meeting was held on occupied Piscataway land, a people who continue to fight for their sovereignty and for climate justice. Before we sang “I believe that we will win,” we honored the amazing Dream Defenders who popularized this as a social movement chant.
- Name power dynamics as they happen. When we had a break-out group about building a more diverse base in our organizations, facilitator Christina gave the following instructions: “The white people in the group had better not expect the people of color to give all the answers, unless we are pulling cash out of our pockets and compensating them for that labor.” During the groups, facilitators pointed out when mostly white people were talking (despite there being a majority of people of color), and invited people of color and indigenous folks to speak right there and then.
- We all need support. At the start of the weekend, we all were assigned a support buddy. Each morning and afternoon, we had time to meet with our support buddy and check in, asking “How can I support you to have a good experience during this weekend?” That simple conversation went a long way to help me feel more connected and cared for throughout the weekend.
- Lead with stories. Each facilitator took space in front of the whole group to share their personal story. Their vulnerability helped me to trust them, and modeled the kind of heart-centered, honest conversation that we would have throughout the weekend.
I left the weekend re-energized and feeling challenged to rise and meet the power of my friends in the climate movement. I saw that truly, the youth climate movement is unstoppable. Because we will not stop. We are beautiful, brilliant, loving, and fierce, and we can bust a move.I saw that truly, the youth climate movement is unstoppable. Because we will not stop. We are beautiful, brilliant, loving, and fierce, & we can bust a move. @powershiftnet #youthforclimate Click To Tweet