My mind was going in two different directions when I was trying to write the blog post Chaos and Hope recently. The Chaos related to the multiple, deepening, crises of the Republican administration.
As troubling as all that was, I was focused more on feeling pumped up from the amazing online meeting I was blessed to be part of the evening of Dec. 20, 2018, “Sunrise 101: Leadership Orientation Series.“ This was the first of several training sessions to prepare those of us who want to help lead the Sunrise Movement.
The Sunrise Movement is the main organization working to build support for the Green New Deal. “Together, we will change this country and this world, sure as the sun rises each morning.”
Although so much material was covered in the first meeting of the course that I have 6 pages of notes, what I’m reflecting on now is not that, but what the meeting revealed to me about the Movement itself.
I’ve been an organizer in one way or another most of my life. As a High School Senior at Scattergood Friends School I organized a draft conference. (This was in 1969 at the height of the Vietnam War.)
More recently I became involved in community organizing. In 2013 I was trained as an Action Lead in the Keystone Pledge of Resistance. I learned how to use the Internet to build communities of activists and organize actions. I had similar experiences related to the Dakota Access pipeline, both in Indianapolis, and now in Iowa.
The main thing I have learned from these experiences is the strength and resilience of a successful movement is always based on building strong personal relationships. The quality of these relationships ends up being more important than the particular issues you are working on.
This is what Arkan Lushwala is talking about:
“everywhere people ask, “what can we do?”
The question, what can we do, is the second question.
The first question is “what can we be?”
Because what you can do is a consequence of who you are.
Once you know what you can be, you know what you can do”
From September 1 – 8 of this year I was part of a group of about 40 Native and non-native people who walked 94 miles, from Des Moines to Fort Dodge, Iowa, along the route of the Dakota Access pipeline. This was the First Nation-Farmer Climate Unity March. As Manape LaMere said during the March, the reason we are marching together is so we can work together in the future. To do that, we need to begin to trust each other. To trust each other we need to understand each other. From all I’ve seen and heard, I believe we did begin to build that understanding and trust.
Returning to the Sunrise Movement, I’m impressed with the breadth and depth of the plan that was developed over a year’s time in 2017. But what makes me most hopeful about the Movement is the emphasis on finding ways for us to get to know each other. I have really been impressed with how using the Zoom application helps. With Zoom everyone can see everyone else (those who have computers with cameras anyway), and everyone has the ability to speak to the whole group.
Several times we were split up into small groups of 3-6 to talk about an assigned topic. Seeing each person’s facial expressions and hearing the tone of their voice really gives you a sense of beginning to know that person. Two others were present in my group when we were asked to tell how climate change had affected us personally. One person had a friend whose home was destroyed by the Paradise fire recently. The other person talked about violent storms causing damage and flooding where he lived on the East coast. I shared about the tornado that hit Marshalltown, and the rains this fall that delayed the corn and bean harvests. Hearing these personal stories is powerful.
One of the Principles of the Sunrise Movement is (5) we tell our stories and we honor each other’s stories. We all have something to lose to climate change, and something to gain in coming together We tell our individual stories to connect with each other and understand the many different ways this crisis impacts us.
I’ve shared this about stories often:
ALL THAT WE ARE IS STORY. From the moment we are born to the time we continue on our spirit journey, we are involved in the creation of the story of our time here. It is what we arrive with. It is all we leave behind. We are not the things we accumulate. We are not the things we deem important. We are story. All of us. What comes to matter then is the creation of the best possible story we can while we’re here; you, me, us, together. When we can do that and we take the time to share those stories with each other, we get bigger inside, we see each other, we recognize our kinship — we change the world one story at a time.
Richard Wagamese (October 14, 1955-March 10, 2017)
Ojibwe from Wabeseemoong Independent Nations, Canada
Another Principle is (2) We grow our power through talking to our communities. We talk to our neighbors, families, religious leaders, classmates, and teachers, in order to spread our word. Our strength and work is rooted in our local communities, and we are always growing in number.
And (8) We embrace experimentation and we learn together. We welcome imperfection, share innovations, and learn through honest mistakes followed by honest conversations that help us move forward together. If we see something we don’t like, we contribute with something we do like, modeling an alternative.
(11) We shine bright. There are hard and sad days, to be sure. This isn’t easy work. But we strive to bring a spirit of positivity and hope to everything we do. Changing the world is a fulfilling and joyful process, and we let that show.
You can see all of the principles and the rest of the plan here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1lcpb6Tuyh4-mEjGV7aO8b8Hq9zkQ782w/view