Archive for February, 2015

Reflections on Virginia Power Shift

~by Anne Davis

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The weekend of Valentine’s Day, hundreds of students gathered at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia for Virginia Power Shift, hosted by the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition (VSEC) and Virginia – Student Power Network. The weekend kicked off with a vibrant march of over 200 students — the third  largest action in North America as part of the Global Divestment Day – sending a clear message: “Virginia Board of Visitors: Whose side are you on? Virginia > fossil fuels.”

An open mic night provided a forum for all participants to creatively express their art and stories, through spoken word poetry, DJ-ing, even opera. The rest of the weekend was full of workshops, panels, and speakers all surrounding different environmental and intersecting social justice issues. As one of the organizers of the convergence and member of the VSEC core team, it was truly an overwhelming honor for me to watch and experience our hard work and fruits of our labor come to life in such an amazing way.

….However, had you gone back in time – say three years ago – and told 18-year-old me I’d be standing here where I am now, I probably would have laughed in your face.

Sure, I have been passionate about environmental issues for a long time, but it took me a number of years to realize there is so much more to it than just reduce, reuse, recycle. At that point, I was incredibly confused and uncertain of my future life path, only certain that I was ready to be out on my own. This is why I see student coalitions and college initiatives as such an important part of fostering engagement with environmental and social justice issues. For many, it’s the first time you have opportunities to take classes and explore subjects and activities you haven’t before or didn’t even knew existed; Performance Art in Feminist Movements? Rad. The Politics of Race and Class in American Sitcoms? Sign us up! Underwater Basket Weaving? Why not?!  This brimming exploration and craving of knowledge leads us to take what we learn in the classroom and into the streets through community engagement and social movement building.

I count Sprog, an amazing week-long environmental organizing summer training camp, as the kickstart to my involvement in environmental organizing and activism. But had it not been for Sprog, which provided me the tools and skills on how to run campaigns and create change, and most importantly, a support network of like-minded young people – there’s a good chance I would still be floating around directionless; caring about an issue, but undeveloped and untrained as a leader. For this reason, I see convergences like Virginia Power Shift and sustained leadership development opportunities for social movements and activism for students as key. Working with VSEC and VSPN have also taught me the importance of united student power and amplifying student voices across the state, for inaction from our government and administrators will affect our generation most directly.

As s keynote speaker Rev. Lennox Yearwood put it best, “The great movements that have happened have started with one-on-one relationships… Power is in the relationships.” In my Social Movements and Social Change class, we are studying some of the motivations behind why people join or stay in a social movement – whether for material incentives or emotional support, among other theories and reasons. I can’t speak for everyone, but I can say that Rev. Yearwood’s quote rings true for me and why I do (and am still doing) this work. It’s the connections, friendships, and powerful networks that I’ve built up with so many along the way. Going forward, I hope that William & Mary VA Power Shift participants will use this opportunity as a catalyst for change on campus, spreading leadership development and sustaining the relationships built over this past weekend to inspire the next cohort of student activists and power shifters. Virginia, Dominion, BOVs and more better watch out because its students are organizing – and they’re doing it at unified and escalating levels.

February 28th, 2015


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Welcome to Hark Upon the Green! This blog is a shared space for members of the sustainability community at William & Mary to write about sustainability topics on and beyond. If you would like to contribute to the blog, contact Madeleine Boel, Committee on Sustainability Web Assistant, at mgboel@email.wm.edu.
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To learn what William & Mary's Environmental Law Society is up to, visit their blog at http://envirols.blogs.wm.edu/.

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