Back to Black: Change is Here YBCL Dream Lab Summary

August 16, 2023

Our first in-person Young Black Climate Leaders (YBCL) Dream Lab convening on July 25-July, 27 2023 in Chicago, IL gave all the vibes as we planted seeds of community to continuously water for our collective growth and liberation. We stayed at the Black owned hotel the Sophy, in Hyde Park. New cohort members, four current alumni cohort members, and a few of our esteemed advisory board members joined us to celebrate our first in-person Dream Lab. We had a time at our welcoming reception, complete with land acknowledgment for the Ojibe, Potawatomi, and Owada folx, who were the original stewards of the land and continue to resist settler colonialism and a labor acknowledgment to honor those African, African-American, Afo-Indigenous, and Black folx enslaved and not, who's labor and good works continue to advance society and who's labor was the backbone globally building up capital and empire. We set up our community altar, and attendees were encouraged to bring an item of significance to share. 

Destiny Hodges, YBCL alum and YBCL advisory board member offered iba, giving us a chance to pay tribute and practice reverence for those we are in community with (both living and deceased). We pour libation for our benevolent ancestors and celebrate a safe space for Black folx to dream, create and live. Both cohorts got to know each other, network about their projects, and share fun facts about themselves, along with Climate Innovation staff and the advisory board members in attendance. We acknowledged Emmett Till's 82nd birthday along with the July and August birthdays participants with caramel cake and a resounding rendition of happy birthday- Stevie style. We were hosted by the Black owned Green -Village Building organization Blacks in Green (BIG) which owns the Emmett Till, Mamie Till-Mobley, and Gene Mobley home. BIG  is committed to preserving heritage and building strong Black ecosystems and economies through horticulture, energy, housing, and tourism. We enjoyed a variety of soul food from the BIG kitchen Chef Gwen and Chef Lydia with Roe's gratitude, a mix of vegan pan-African fare.    

On the second day, we visited Sistas in the Village, an Urban Black female-owned farm and community healing space. Unfortunately, the poor air quality prevented us from working on the land and engaging in a fully immersive experience. Still, we learned about the deep connection to the community that Ms. Mecca and Bweeza established and continue to grow. They were harvesting the morning we arrived and offered us a mini tour. The farm is a beautiful testament to loving our ancestors, our roots, and manifesting and envisioning a bright future. While at the farm, it started to rain, and we wrapped up the mini-tour. Some danced in the rain, full of gratitude. We then headed to a community-owned coffee shop to hear more of their story and hold a fireside chat and a Q&A session. 

We then headed back to Blacks and Green for lunch and additional programming. We had powerful and deeply engaging workshops Dream, Create, Live – which created the container and grounded our intention to create a Dream space that encompassed Sankofa and Afro-futurism led by our Director Corrine Van Hook- Turner, and then a deeper dive project discussion, Dreams to Reality! led by Program Director Jaime Love. And a thought-provoking YBCL Alumni Panel consisting of Destiny Hodges, Kieshawn White, Andrew Chambers, and Justina Thompson and Q&A, moderated by Climate Innovation Program Manager Latriece Love-Goodlett. We returned to the Sophy to recharge, reconnect and remember the importance of self-care, community care, and relationships. Folx set out to enjoy a bit of free time in Chicago. 

We returned to BIG for our final day of programming and took a bus-assisted walking tour led by Ms.Naomi (BIG), visiting the Till-Mobley home and garden, which will be turned into a museum in 2025; we toured the Mamie Till forgiveness garden and meet the horticulturalists Lucia who is a young BIPOC person who shared their journey into their role and how they came to impress the importance of this work and find their place. We also got to experience the Orchard of the Ancestors' Orchard, the fairy garden installation, the lead garden, a sustainability teaching garden, and finally, the senior victory garden.  

We rounded out our programming with a Communications and Storytelling session led by Climate Innovation Communications Director, Radiah Shabazz. Which shared concepts and framing to stand solid in our authentic truths as Black folx and encouraged us to walk in our full power as if we have 1000 ancestors walking with us and whose shoulders we stand on. Folx walked away with some tools to use, and we will pick up the conversation for further discussion for a deep dive in March. Next, we had a Fireside chat and Q&A session with YBCL Advisory Panel members Colin Cook-Miller and Mrs. Margaret Gordan, moderated by Climate Innovation Program Manager, Latriece Love-Goodlett. And closed our programming in a circle to reflect with gratitude, purpose, and solidarity. We said our goodbyes, certain that the struggle may continue but victory is certain and that we must move forward as the change we wish to see in the world collectively in the spirit of Ubuntu.     

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