The COVID-19 pandemic has altered a lot about how we interact with and learn from one another, but one thing the pandemic has not been able to change is the way PRC partners show up and show out for the annual convening as they engage with one another and develop new ideas and strategies to work toward a more equitable and sustainable future.
The 2021 Convening, titled Rising in the Face of Adversity: They Tried to Bury Us, but They Didn’t Know We Were Seeds was held on April 28 and 29th via the virtual platform Hopin. More than 100 individuals from across the United States registered for the convening – including our amazing partners and invited guests from like-minded organizations doing important work in the field of climate resiliency.
The two-day event was a buzzing hub of peer-learning events that kicked off with the opening keynote by Dr. Carolyn Finney, titled We the People: Playing the Long Game and the Possibility of Us. In this rousing address, Dr. Finney acknowledged how difficult it can be for Black and Brown people to continuously engage and be present in a world and in a space such as climate resiliency, that often has no real intention of including and listening to truly diverse voices. Nonetheless, “we the people,” Dr. Finney noted, continue to show up, shine, share our voices and do the work that needs to be done for us and our communities.
On both days of the convenings, partners had their choice in varying concurrent sessions that would spark conversation and innovation, including panels about Clean Energy and the Evolution of Community Resilience Hubs; The Rising Biden/Harris Agenda: Influencing Equitable Climate Policy; What The Health? The Intersection Roots of Health, Climate and Equity; The Next Generation of Climate Resiliency Professionals and many other timely topics. The sessions lit up with discussions, as attendees chimed in both on video and in the chat as they bounced ideas off of one another and made deep and valuable connections.
When partners weren’t engaging in rousing conversations and participating in learning events, they were laughing with one another in the event chat, virtually dancing and jamming to DJ Asha’s amazing sets for the event or forming business connections in Hopin’s networking space. Partners also enjoyed each other’s company during the Paint & Sip event that was hosted by artist Justin Young that featured more laughter and amazing results on canvas.
Perhaps one of the more powerful moments of the convening was when representatives from the PRC organizations took the stage themselves to share some of their ideas and renewed commitments after two days of community discussion and comradery. A common theme that came out was the desire to bolster capacity and leadership through the continued engagement of community members, particularly the youth.
Part of what we’re going to continue to commit to is around youth leadership and youth development, how do we pass the baton, what does community succession planning look like,” Jessica Clemente, representing Nos Quedamos, said.
“We want to commit to…building up our local leaders, and especially their capacity around climate issues,” Mike Tomas, representing Garfield Park Community Council added. ”Continuing to develop the next generation of our youth leaders in our neighborhood who will ultimately be the leaders in our community and our city.”
The convening was capped off with an equally poignant closing keynote, Climate Change: Birthed By injustice, delivered by attorney and national climate justice leader Elizabeth Yeampierre. Yeampierre addressed the racist, colonial roots that still impact the field of climate resilience today as Black and Brown lived experiences with climate crises, and the solutions that Black and Brown people have built up to heal their communities are constantly appropriated. Yeampierre encouraged the community to stand boldly in the face of a green industry that is too often tainted by capitalism and white supremacy because our very lives depend on it.
“We won’t be stopped. But in order to not be stopped, we must be leaderful, we must resist celebrity culture and allowing others to select our leaders for us,” Yeampierre said. “We have to remember that media and visibility is just an organizing tool and that shine is meant to be shared, just like power, just like resources.”