In Case You Were Wondering: Behind the Scenes of the CSSC Power Shift Convergence
A reflection of the 2016 Power Shift West Convergence and a message to future CSSC convergence organizers
The first time I had heard of California Student Sustainability Coalition (CSSC) was when I was going through what I will call, “my Reddit phase.” After being accepted to Cal, I searched “clubs UC Berkeley” on Reddit, and CSSC was on that list.
Fast forward to Spring 2016: I became a Council Representative for UC Berkeley’s CSSC Chapter! After finding out we would be hosting the Fall 2016 Convergence, I realized that I would be able to do what I care about — helping bring awareness to marginalized voices — in a way that I had never done before: environmental activism.
From this experience, we not only tried to help give a platform to share the voice(s) of others, but I myself learned to have a voice. I went from a quiet student to an activist with a megaphone.
Getting Down to Business
Why your university should host a future convergence:
Skill Building Experience
Last semester, I had the privilege to be among several unbelievably talented climate activists at UC Berkeley. Though I had the least amount of organizing experience on our team, I was the Outreach Coordinator for the Power Shift Convergence Fall of 2016. This role gave me the opportunity to learn beyond what I expected.
Our CSSC team consisted of three groups: outreach, programming and logistics.
Although we were all in our designated groups, we oftentimes would help wherever was needed; there were hands everywhere from keyboards to the phones to chips for the chunky guac at our outreach emailing parties.
For the Outreach team specifically though, our team created an Outreach Partner Toolkit to set forth our strategy plan.
Check out our Toolkit here.
In addition, we also reached out to various local papers and put up posters across campus.
CSSC Team Meetings:
With all the phone calls and group meet-ups, there was one meeting that stood out in particular:
We were trying to come-up with keynote speakers for our event and team members were flushing out about twenty possible speakers each. As I quietly listened, I quickly grabbed my computer and typed up all the people of color* guest speakers that they were naming and knew on a first-name basis. My eyes widened because all the speakers did unbelievable work in regards to combatting environmental injustices. It was then I realized, I was not teaming up with your average students, but rather environmental justice superheroes, without the cape and tight pants.
At this convergence, we only had speakers of color to bring light to marginalized voices in environmentalism.
Make Like-Minded Friends:
To put into perspective how tight-knit our community is, I actually met one of the Power Shift organizers, whom I had been communicating with through email and phone calls for months, for the first time in Standing Rock!
We met on Highway 1806, which as some of you may know as the spot where many of the actions were held. This bridge was the divide between Standing Rock supporters and DAPL police. The weekend we were there, there were two trucks that divided our side from that of DAPL. The trucks were abandoned, yet guarded by the police from a distance, up on the hill about half a mile away.
This family, much like many of those who were in Standing Rock that weekend, had walked to the reservation, on foot, from their hometown.
“We walked here for three days from Canada. We forgive you,” as the family member held up a feather to the DAPL police who were there on the other side of the trucks.
From this moment, I realized that it is not about being on sides, about seeing good versus evil, rather it is about unity. His powerful statement showed that we must not forget that life is so much more than looking at the world from an us versus them perspective.
As we sat down on the highway asphalt, I could not help but think about how this commUNITY I had joined a few months earlier and how they genuinely care about the well-being of all people.
After coming back from Standing Rock, I felt like I had a whole new perspective on life, not only because of visiting Standing Rock, but also because I broke away from the Berkeley bubble. That twenty-five hour car drive back gave me a lot of time to be deep in my thoughts, especially in regards to how this experience would shape my views on the upcoming convergence.
The Big Day
To think the six months prior had led up to this one moment is unbelievable. It was in these moments where I learned to organize and incorporate social media into activist events.
Media and Activist Experience:
Not only did our Outreach team utilize social media outlets like Facebook, Snapchat and Twitter through livestreams and posts, we also were in collaboration with local organizations in putting together two actions:
The first was the ‘tour of shame’ where we teamed with Rising Tide/Idle No More marching from campus to Downtown Berkeley in an effort to shame the banks that funded the Dakota Access Pipeline.
During the march: It was here where I was honored to speak with local indigenous environmental activists. Being a quiet reserved college student, I felt that being in this community helped me find my voice.
For the second action, we teamed with the RainForest Action Network to create a human wall on Memorial Glade. We called on partners of PepsiCoto stop palm oil, which displaces elephants and orangutans caused by deforestation of unsustainable palm oil plantations.
A big takeaway from this experience was being able to meet like-minded individuals to build a sense of community, which is vital for environmental change to be made.
Let me just end with this:
When they say, not all superheroes wear capes, believe them, but note they click attending to environmental justice Facebook events and push for a greater liveable future for all.
What you can do NOW:
CSSC will be hosting another convergence in the Fall! If your university would like to host the upcoming convergence, then please contact us at [email protected]
We hope to see you there!