Sunrise Principle #5 is: We tell our stories and we honor each other’s stories.
So in that vein, why I was in Detroit a few weeks ago.
I owe a lot of my passion and interest in the environment to my father, who, for some reason, invited me along with him on fishing trips when I was younger. He couldn’t have known it then, but those trips to the bait shop, to the sad little pond near the forest preserve by our house, way out to LaSalle lake, pink Barbie fishing rod in tow, sowed seeds that have flourished into an unwavering love for the natural world.
So in a way, a lot of the decisions I’ve made in my life led up to the weekend in Detroit.
A program at the Shedd Aquarium that turned into a science trip to the Bahamas. That turned into an environmental and sustainability science major. That turned into five weeks in Hawaii, studying oceanography. That turned into a summer in California studying how climate change impacted marine microbes in Monterey Bay. (Which is where I realized I would never waste 6 years of my life in a lab when there were more radical ways (that engage people) to address the climate crisis.) That turned into a 16-week semester abroad program, where I studied climate change through the food, water, and energy nexus. Which radicalized me, showing me the systems (capitalism) that have put us in this climate crisis we’re in now.
Each of these experiences, like sediment piling at the bottom of a lake, began to build the foundation for my understanding of one, what was at stake if we, as humans, continued business as usual, two, who was responsible for said crisis, and three, what needed to be done.
Each of these realizations led me to Sunrise on a cold, snowy day in January. And since January, I have, in fluctuating capacities, given the mighty gravitational pull of full-time work, immersed myself in Sunrise.
From our Chicago Green New Deal Town Hall, where I got to stand on stage (eeee!) and call out fossil fuel billionaires and CEO’s, the Koch brothers, and comprised elected officials who push false, pseudo-science, motivated by disgusting greed and desire for power and money.
From a two day training, understanding the fundamental DNA of Sunrise, learning about the Reagan and New Deal Alignment, discussing the importance of 1:1’s to build movements and why public narratives and storytelling is so important.
To the Midwest Summit, where in Detroit, I got to meet a bunch of amazing human beings from all across the Midwest who came together for three days, united over a common desire to stop the climate crisis.
I left Detroit in a haze. (And a need for A LOT OF JOURNALING + REFLECTION) Partially because I had found more joy in a weekend that I had from anything else I had done in the past few months. Which of course meant that whatever I’m doing habitually, is not enough to satisfy a yearning deep inside of me to connect with other people and restore the relationship/inherent beauty of the earth. (Or at least stop the people/corporations/etc. who are responsible for damaging the planet.) (I am also young and naive to think that every minute of my life will be occupied with things I love and desire doing.)
I was moved in so many ways. To be around people deeply committed to protecting the environment that they’d spend several days sleeping on the floor of a hot, old, theatre in Detroit.
I was moved by the genuine interest we all had in each other's stories. In the ease I felt walking up to a stranger, or chatting it up with the person in front of or behind me in lines for food.
I was moved by all the black people I saw around me at the Cass Park action, (seriously men who looked like drummer boys off the expressway or my aunt or uncle or my hairstylist) marching for a Green New Deal, for a climate debate, for clean and fresh air/water/communities. BLACK PEOPLE. Many or most of the environmental spaces I had meandered through were sparse on black folks. What could I do or what could we do to change that, to bring that energy and diversity of movement to Chicago?
Being in Detroit solidified this deep yearning I have for community (but not just any community, but a community gathering with the purpose of collective social change), and for building and creating things that make the world/planet safer.
Also. I’d hope to avoid, at all costs, the hell of a world in the future in which black people, marginalized groups, low-income folks and people of color, etc. etc. have it even worse than they do now. A future that is foreseeable, say, given our past with incidents like Hurricane Katrina and the Chicago heat wave in 1995. Given the impacts of climate change, if we do nothing, we are headed towards that future.