One month ago in Pittsburgh...

“I aint gonna go to bed! I slept already during the day cause I knew you guys were coming!” Pastor Phillip Battle Jr. said to us as we were curling up in our sleeping bags, “Oh! And don't forget about the pizzas in the morning when you get up!”

 

During the three-day-long conference in Pittsburgh, my friends from Middlebury College and University of Rochester and I stayed overnight at the New Light Temple Baptist Church with Pastor Phillip Battle Jr. It was nothing less than a memorable stay, because Pastor Phillip was understanding, generous, and just extremely loving in general. He told us that we were doing something very important, so he supported us – although we never asked for it, he even offered to extend our stay until Monday night. He bought us pizzas on the first night, and chatted with us until it was two. We discussed his experiences in the army, and he was very curious to find out about each of our own passions. 

The conference itself was exceptional. I heard that compared with previous years, this year’s program included more workshops on environmental justice issues, which I valued highly. Although I recognize that some people would have liked even more workshops surrounding this topic, the ones that were there opened my eyes to this often-neglected aspect of the environmental movement. To carry this great work further, I believe that we must build an inclusive progressive movement with environmental & social justice at its center. 

At Powershift, I was greatly encouraged by all the people who were taking active steps to stop Climate Change on their own or with their affiliated groups. I met with the rest of the divestment organizers and discussed strategies, and heard from grassroots organizers from the field who are already paying the bulk of the costs of our energy extraction industries. The latter group touched me deeply: to this day, Kandi Mossett’s sharing about the injustices brought about by the development of a fracking ‘boomtown’ still unsettles me and motivates me to do more for her – our – cause within my capacity.

I realized that this is a movement which should concern anyone who has a race, a gender, a class, an age and drinks water and breathes air. How could any of us live our lives in spite of a deep understanding of all these forces that have been shaping our experiences, and thus our thoughts and perspectives, and will continue to do so in our lives relentlessly? The first step towards true independence, personhood and individualization is a self-recognition of ‘who I am’. It is then that we will acknowledge that nothing is inevitable, that we can enjoy the liberty to choose our allies and our values.

Powershift made it clear to me what my lifelong goal has to be, and helped me to identify some amazing and wonderful people who are doing this work already, most of them out of desperation. The task now is to reach out to more people to help them investigate their identity and privileges. Nothing is inevitable, if only we stand up on our feet to live out the values that we profess.

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