Once a year, environmental leaders from around the United States and around the world come together to meet in New York City. On my first big solo trip as an organizer, I too was blessed with the opportunity to attend, representing the North Carolina Council of Churches. My main aspiration was to connect with other environmental justice advocates and learn about the work others are doing in their own communities.
Being there in the space of organizers, I felt energized to continue on in the work of advocacy, mobilized to use my own voice to speak to the masses, and uplifted in my understanding of Eco-Justice and in my confidence that the role that we play is critical. However, another idea was also reinforced: we cannot do this work alone, for our job is only part of a much larger picture.
At the end of the day, all it really comes down to is people. People coming together to form communities, which can create collaborations, which can create coalitions. Energizing that movement is what keeps us together and growing strong, and that is where I personally would like to come into play.
Through my art, my words, and my actions, I feel called to breathe life into the people around me, especially those whose lives have been disproportionately affected, targeted, and overwhelmed by systematic oppression. People who oftentimes look like me.
In NYC, I had the great fortune of going to the Black Climate Leadership Summit, where I was able to engage in a space that was not only informing, but inviting, and invigorating in itself. It reminded me that we need to create spaces where Black passion can grow, flow, and be unapologetically free.
I was also reminded that environmental justice was born from the idea that we should all be free to live a life free of toxins and pollutants. That people of color shouldn’t have to suffer injustices at the hands of those with wealth and power (which often go hand in hand).
Instead of living in a toxic environment that makes thriving impossible, we are called to create a system of our own that will be conducive towards growth, change, and transformation. This is what Climate Week NYC was for me. A space where I was able to step away from the normal pace of life and focus on what matters. To be able to connect and create a sense of community. THAT is environmental justice. Not forgetting that we can never be free until ALL the people are free.
While we have a long way to go on our journey towards creating the climate future we want to see, for the first time in a while, I was able to feel a powerful presence wash over me—to get a glimpse of the light.
The Earth is our home
It ebbs and flows
Through the seas and the trees,
the Earth actually breathes.
The mycelium network of mushrooms
Connects our forests to one other
They provide for each other
Like the cells in our veins
They carry nutrients & warnings of the pain
We have afflicted onto our common home.
We are not only hurting a single tree or bird,
We’re destroying a network of love
The screams left unheard.
Let our faith guide us towards a new path
Lest we face climate devastation & Gaia’s wrath.
When we care for creation, we care for ourselves
If our body is our temple
The Earth is our village, our protective shell
From the ocean of the unknown
This is where we were raised and where we have
grown up for generations.
All of our nations
were started started around a river, an ocean, a lake.
A fertile crescent of hope
Where we could eat, rest, and wake
That’s what we have to lose and what’s at stake
This beautiful world the Lord has created and makes.
We lost the garden of Eden in a single day
But we are losing inches of the Earth in new ways,
every month, every year, every decade
By 2050 it is projected there may be no more coral reefs
By 2050 there could be no relief for island
nations that could’ve been protected,
because so many of them will already be affected and underwater.
Think of your daughters, your sons, your
children who have grown up in a world that
could’ve been powered by wind & sun
But is instead run on hatred, greed, and fossil fuels
The rich and powerful sit behind closed doors
Delegating death sentences for the poor,
for minorities, people of color
At the end of the day all we have is each other.
Jesus and Martin Luther King Jr both wanted us to love thy neighbors
To unite with our sisters, siblings, & brothers
Let us rise up! Bring hope and faith to the world
to know that nature cannot be ignored
That the people cannot be ignored
That those most impacted by climate
DESERVE. TO. LIVE.
and not only to survive, but thrive!
Let us live in a world where the voices of Black
and brown communities no longer hide
Where indigenous peoples are not pushed out,
but can live and lead with pride.
We all deserve to breath clean air
Let us come together in prayer…
Dear lord, I understand now
We cannot care for creation without action
Without knowing, acknowledging, and feeling
compassion for the history we share
Some of us have had our past, present, and
futures irreparably broken
But there are still things we can do to try
and repair our relationship with one another
To LOVE thy sister, sibling, and brother.
Lord, give us the strength to carry on
The wisdom to hear the Earth’s quiet songs
The power to confront and right so many wrongs
And the compassion to be there with those
whose homes, friends, and families are gone.
Oh lord, may you provide living waters
In a world where rivers & lakes are drying out as oceans rise.
Where island nations are being wiped out by rising tides.
At the end of the day,
After you have thought, after you pray
Remember there’s still actions and words left to say.
Through connecting our communities like the fungi and trees,
Let us all stay together in unity!
Let us not stray from our goals
But reenforce our roles
Where we can take collective action
To enrich the Earth and our souls.