This past weekend, we attended two excellent gatherings: Applied Research Center’s National Facing Race conference and the 7th annual Green Festival.
The Facing Race conference provided an important opportunity for national organizers, activists, elected officials, artists, academics, and everyday community members to sit together and develop strategies in order create a national movement whereof race could be the centerpiece. Sponsored by the Applied Research Center (ARC), which is the home for media and activism on racial justice, the conference introduced the Compact for Racial Justice as a plan for fairness in and across communities throughout the country. This conference proved to be an important learning experience for all of those involved, as the large plenaries engaged issues ranging from the current economic crisis to teaching participants skills on how to place race at the center of current social justice debates.
The conference also built in smaller sessions where specific issues, movements, and programs could discuss their work using the issue of race as the frame. For example, I attended a discussion on how to inject a racial justice perspective into the emerging debate on green jobs. The presenters included Maka Agbo from Ella Baker Center’s Green Collar Jobs Campaign, who described the ways the campaign moved between policy making to job training in order to provide a comprehensive pathway towards a green economy.
In the days following the event, ARC’s media team pulled together a great set of informational videos like this one from the plenary titled “Race & The Election: November 4th and Beyond”, which highlights key presentations from the conference. This, along with the many other informational sessions allowed for great discussions and a whole lot of learning.
The Green Festival was co-sponsored by Co-op America and Global Exchange and hosted 125 speakers, 350 local and national green businesses, and a number of community and nonprofit groups. All exhibitors were screened for their commitment to sustainability, ecological balance, and social justice using Co-op America’s green business standards. As a person who struggles to find consistent ways to incorporate a ‘greener’ lifestyle, I learned a lot from attending this event.
One of the most interesting speakers I heard was Dr. Ellis Jones, a professor from U.C. Davis, who has done extensive research on “the social and environmental responsibility of every company on the planet AND making it available in practical forms that individuals can use in their everyday lives.” This research was incorporated into a website, http://www.betterworldshopper.org/, that gives ‘grades’ to commonly used companies based on their environmental practices. If you’re curious about how the companies you frequently support are doing in the environmental arena, please check out the website. Dr. Jones said that every dollar we spend is a vote for or against environmental sustainability. I will definitely be tweaking the companies that I support as a consumer.
The most pertinent message that I took from Dr. Jones’ presentation is that each person can create a unique contribution in this movement to create a more sustainable environment. He said that our personal plans to improve our own ecological footprints will help change the world we live in. To me, this means that every effort that I make or that you make to recycle a plastic bag, or to support a local farmer, or to try walking to the train station instead of driving, or other achievable personal goals will contribute to this green movement.
I’m encouraged to push myself a little more each day, and as I travel home to Georgia this Thanksgiving, I will be sharing this message with my family as well.