Oakland, California, was the stage for the inaugural Young Climate Leaders of Color (YCLC) Convening. Aptly named The Future is Now, 37 climate leaders came together to learn from presenters and each other and build relationships as a cohort. Building off of the Young Black Climate Leaders (YBCL) program that launched in 2020, the YCLC program seeks to continue supporting the next generation of climate leaders through a radical transformation. Young folx between 18-28 years are given an opportunity to be in community together and immerse themselves in climate justice, arts, story-based advocacy, cultural strategy, and leadership development with amazing strategists, leaders, and political activators from across the country. We at the People’s Climate Innovation Center (CIimate Innovation) hope to elevate and support the gifts of these youth, while acknowledging those who came before us and laid the foundation.
This packed 3-day event started on Mon. Jan 30th with a land and labor acknowledgment led by Dr. Jennifer Lisa Vest, who grounded us with a beautiful land acknowledgment of the Oholone people who’s unceded land we were gathered on. To acknowledge their continued stewardship of the land, their fight and resistance and to honor the elders and communities that have existed on the land and their culture. Dr. Jennifer Lisa Vest also acknowledged the Black and Indigenous labor that has built the continued wealth of this nation and honored the resistance, the elders and communities that continue to fight for liberty and justice –all while holding the interconnectedness of these struggles with the Earth and all the species that inhabit it.
Tuesday was filled with movement as the young leaders were able to use image theatre to illustrate various aspects of the Spectrum of Community Engagement facilitated by Rosa Gonzalez of Facilitating Power. They used their bodies to shape what marginalization to full community engagement has looked or could look like. The day ended with a walk through Downtown Oakland and taking the Bart to the West Oakland Mural Project in West Oakland that celebrates the women of the Black Panther Party, which was a fitting activity on the eve of Black History Month. Museum operator Jilchristina Vest shared the story of each woman on the mural on the right side of her house that represented various survival programs of the Black Panther Party.
The importance of recognizing the work of our ancestors was highlighted on the final day of the convening. Dany Sigwalt, Managing Director of the Green Leadership Trust shared some examples of other movements such as the American Indian Movement and the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power that were successful in leveraging people power and utilizing political education programming to achieve their goals. The YCLC leaders also connected with Tatiana Chaterji on the topic of Healing Justice and how they can integrate those principles into their work. They also learned valuable skills from Radiah Shabazz, Climate Innovation’s Director of Communications, who discussed justice-based communications and how to utilize strategies such as storytelling and social media to amplify their work.
This convening is only the beginning of these young leaders’ time together. As they continue to water these relationships over the next 10 months we hope to support these Young Climate Leaders’ of Color in building networks and fostering an atmosphere where they can thrive. They will have the opportunity to learn together and share their own expertise through monthly sessions and mentorships. We know that the youth have the knowledge, passion and drive to advance climate justice work through its various intersectionalities with housing, economic, social and health justice. Therefore our goal is to uplift and acknowledge the expertise of young people while giving them the tools and ancestral knowledge to move forward.
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