And We Don't Stop: Voices for a Vibrant Future – A Recap of the 2024 Young Climate Leaders of Color Convening

February 22, 2024

The vibrant city of San Diego welcomed both the alumni and the new cohort to the 2024 Young Climate Leaders of Color (YCLC) Convening from January 29th to 31st. This year's gathering, themed "And We Don't Stop: Voices for a Vibrant Future," was a profound commitment to continuing the fight for climate justice. Amid the backdrop of San Diego's challenges, including severe weather events, the convening served as a crucial moment for young leaders to connect, share insights, and foster a community for a brighter, more just future.

Day 1: Grounding and Cultural Immersion

The convening kicked off under the shadow of recent severe rains, grounding attendees in the urgent reality of climate challenges. Taking a moment for reflection to underscore the importance of their mission and set a tone of resilience and solidarity. The evening was further enriched by an immersive cultural experience with Bomba Liberte, a Puerto Rican group that shared the power of Bomba, their ancestral music and dance. One of the performers in the group, Dr. Jade Power-Sotomayor highlighted the significance of Bomba as a practice of liberation and community connection, rooted and grounded by Enslaved Africans and their descendants,  setting a powerful emotional and cultural foundation for the convening.

Day 2: Deep Dives into Advocacy and Environmental Justice

The second day commenced with a powerful call to introspection and action by Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson, who led attendees through a reflective journey with three pivotal questions: the nature of the problem, envisioning a utopian vision, and identifying actionable steps towards that vision. This session not only encouraged a personal commitment to climate justice but also facilitated a shared understanding among the participants. The subsequent project discussion sessions, involving CI staff and YCLC Advisory Board members, fostered a dynamic exchange of ideas and experiences, emphasizing the diversity of perspectives within the group. This part of the day was crucial in deepening the connections among attendees, as they navigated through their passions, challenges, and aspirations in small and large group discussions.

The exploration of Barrio Logan organized by the Environmental Health Coalition provided a tangible context to the day's discussions, highlighting the real-world impacts of environmental injustice. Joined by other local organizations such as Chicano Park Museum and Cultural Center, Tierras Indígenas Community Land Trust, All for Logan and the Aztlán Youth Brigade visits to significant sites like Cesar Chavez Park and Perkins Elementary School, attendees were exposed to the lived experiences of communities battling against pollution and advocating for sustainable futures. The narratives shared by local activists and community members underscored the commitment and creativity inherent in environmental justice work. This immersive experience culminated in Chicano Park, where the history and cultural vibrancy of the movement were palpable, offering a profound sense of connection and inspiration. The day's events underscored the importance of localized action and the power of storytelling in the broader fight for climate justice.

Day 3: Building Skills and Community

The final day was marked by a series of workshops designed to equip the new cohort with critical communication skills and an understanding of justice-oriented language. Climate Innovation’s Director of Communications, Radiah Shabazz's session on framing and messaging provided valuable insights into crafting impactful narratives, while the alumni panel offered a lived perspective on maximizing the YCLC experience. The discussions were not just about imparting knowledge but also about instilling confidence and clarity in how to navigate the complexities of climate activism. For many, this was a moment of alignment, where the theoretical aspects of their work were intricately connected with practical strategies for change.

Parallel to the new cohort's learning journey, the alumni engaged in their own tailored sessions, focusing on the mechanics of effective campaigning and the personal care necessary for sustained activism. The workshop on constructing pressure campaigns illuminated the strategic aspects of organizing, while the session on cultivating resilience offered a much-needed space for reflection and self-care. These discussions were critical in acknowledging the multifaceted nature of environmental activism, where personal well-being is intrinsically linked to collective efficacy. As the convening drew to a close, the atmosphere was one of hopeful determination, with participants sharing their appreciations, wishes, and wonderings—a poignant reminder of the journey ahead and the shared commitment to a just and vibrant future.

Closing Thoughts

The 2024 YCLC Convening in San Diego was more than an event; it was a reaffirmation of the urgent need for climate justice and the power of youth leadership. As these young leaders continue to build their community and advance their projects, their voices and actions promise to shape a more just and vibrant future. This convening has laid the groundwork for enduring collaboration and innovation, demonstrating that, indeed, "We Don't Stop."

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