The effects of environmental and climate catastrophe are devastating communities on a global scale. Right here in the Central Valley we can feel our summers getting hotter, we taste our water becoming unsafe or scarce altogether, and we see our politicians continuing to collect major dollars from the fossil fuel industry. Climate change is a threat to all, but people from the most vulnerable communities, who are already fighting so hard to thrive under systemic oppression, are being disproportionately affected by environmental racism, violence, and corruption. And the deep pit that should form in your stomach when you read that sentence is why I wanted to be at the #fresnoclimatestrike.
The day is Friday September 20th
by 9 A.M.
The news has already flooded with climate strike action happening around the globe, even though the sun is just beginning to fill an-almost empty, Eaton Plaza in downtown Fresno…
by 10 A.M.
Lead youth organizer Kieshaun White and mentor Marcel Woodruff are joined by youth leaders and adult allies from Fresno’s Building Healthy Communities, Boys and Men of Color, Barrios Unidos, and Insight Gardens for set up…
by 11 A.M.
A local activist group known as The Raging Grannies comes out in support of the youth organizers with burritos, water, and compelling signs, and a few early birds trickle into the grassy space, unsure of what’s ahead…
The day is Friday September 20th.
It is 12 P.M.
Fresno’s Global Climate Strike has begun.
I am constantly floored by the ingenuity, passion, and resiliency of the young people at the BMOC table, but never surprised. When Kieshaun White reached out for support on this event, I thought: of course he’s the person in Fresno taking the lead to organize the city’s first-ever climate strike action–and on the week of his birthday no less! Kieshaun had designed a powerful itinerary for that sunny day, which would see his brother Keion as MC helping the group to warm up our voices and bodies together, create signs, and march to local decision-makers’ offices, saving time at the end for youth and other community members to speak up. Before the strike was in full swing, me and the other organizers all huddled around blank posterboard and a small megaphone with our nerves and excitement bubbling over just a bit, hoping people would actually show.
What began as a quiet and sparse grouping of people that morning quickly grew into a crowd that filled the concrete amphitheatre by the afternoon. We saw folks representing zip codes from across the county and people, ages 6 to 83, pulling inspiration from different lived experiences, but all present to fight for climate justice. Nearly 250 people showed up to strike, and there was a power in the smiles that spread across Kieshaun and Keion’s faces from the stage when over 200 voices echoed, “We walk as one. We breathe as one. And we’re not gonna stop ‘til the work is done!”
That same energy carried us through the streets of downtown Fresno, and back again to Eaton Plaza where even a shy 6-year old Adriana took to the stage to demand in a small but sure voice that we protect our earth.
Annie Ngyuen (age 15) stood up in front of the crowd to say, “We can’t rely on false hope. We have to take action!”
After the event Maria (18) reflected, “I want there to be a change. The way we live is hurting the place we live. We should all come together and make a plan of how to make the situation better. Joining in a climate strike is a good first step.”
At the end of that empowering day, which saw two different youth-led strikes in Fresno, Kieshaun spoke to a young person from the kNOw youth media to reiterate the significance of the strike: “I was able to speak about the passion for environmental justice and also get the youth involved and aware of what’s going on, not only on a local level but a global level. And I was able to do that not only with my mentor Marcel, but also some partners such as yli, Fresno Boys and Men of Color, Faith in the Valley, and CMAC. We were able to branch out and get a lot of people brought in…the biggest thing was that youth were able to speak: put in their voice, and were able to elevate other youth to get involved.”
These are our demands:
- Environmental justice
- A Green New Deal
- Respect of indigenous lands and sovereignty
- Implementation of sustainable agricultural practices
- Protection and restoration of biodiversity
These are our next steps:
On Friday September 27th, we’re calling on U.S. Rep. Jim Costa — the congressman for the 93706 zip code — to endorse the Green New Deal resolution and to sign the No Fossil Fuel money pledge. Meet at 12pm at Courthouse Park. For more information text fresnoclimatestrike to 66866