What's Up?

As luck would have it, though I work with farmworkers in Florida, during the historic 2020 election season I found a home in North Carolina. As part of a statewide coalition effort, I helped the North Carolina Climate Justice Collective to make early voting locations into Safe Sites. Amid reports of voter intimidation incidents throughout the country, Safe Sites offered the opportunity for all voters to cast their ballots without fear for their personal safety.

The project aimed to create an atmosphere that would curtail any kind of problem between voters with different points of view before a potential situation could escalate. When I volunteered to help, I imagined myself being part of a human wall staring down would-be intimidators. However, the volunteers – including members of NCCJC, the Down East Coal Ash Environmental and Social Justice Coalition, and Friends of the Earth – created an environment reminiscent of a festival that worked more effectively to dissipate tensions that might arise.

For me, the experience was fun as well as insightful. I made new friends and reconnected with old ones. I got to visit parts of rural North Carolina I had not seen before. More importantly, in the time I spent offering bottled water, masks, and guides to voters, I saw in unfamiliar faces the familiar air of the folks I grew up with and the ones I work with now. I saw rural America struggling with the legacy of racial tension and economic inequality, and at the same time hopeful for a brighter future. Perhaps my vision of a brighter future for North Carolina, Florida, and the United States is different from that of many voters, but then again, perhaps it is closer than I imagine. The most valuable lesson for me is that despite our differences, the best democracy is the one where all citizens can freely exercise their right to civic engagement.

Nezahualcoyotl Xiuhtecutli

Farmworker Association of Florida

I have always had an interesting relationship with triangles. The groundedness of three sides resting on one another to embody strength and resilience in one shape appeals to me.

I've always considered myself more of a circle gal, though. A circle inspires movement and togetherness in my spirit, somehow. Power shines out of the whole circle image without separating a side or point of view. When I was in grad school, the professor that impacted me most, Janaki Natarajan, used shapes to interpret the complexities of people coming together, and the triangle often represented hierarchy or capitalism. Looking at the triangle, the top smaller part represented the smaller percent of people that owned economic and cultural power, while the majority was represented by the larger parts of the triangle, keeping the whole intact.

This piece is about the contradictions that come when we separate our material selves from our spiritual selves. When this happens, the natural world suffers and is caught in between. I am inspired by the NC Climate Justice Collective because it offers tools for me to create and embrace traditions that merge the metaphysical, cultural and communal (back) into our ecosystems. I hope that “The Earth Between Us” inspires you somehow, too.

Bevelyn Ukah,

Bevelyn is a member of the Collective's Leadership Team. She created this piece in response to an invitation to reflect on one of the collective's four approaches to our work, "re-imagine."

Resisting has always been a hard feat for me. I grew up around four headstrong siblings and, although I am pretty stubborn myself, it always felt more strategic to listen, wait, and stay calm. "An answer will come to you," I'd think. "Have faith," I'd coach. But what happens when that "cool" side of myself is surrounded by fire and blood? 

Since I was very young, I always learned that before my time, the world was a violent place to live. I promised myself that if I ever had a time machine, I would definitely go to the future, not the past. I'm sure you may resonate with the question I'd ask: "Why would a black woman want to live in this past I just learned about? Hmm??"

Yet, everyday I am realizing that my world is just as violent as the former that I so sincerely fear.  

Colonization, slavery, rape, patriarchy, exploitation... these words describe a way of life. These words also describe the flavor of air that we all breathe daily. I think in some ways, my 'cool' vibe is part of the mandate of that air. I am so used to the violence that my anger and pain is locked away, hiding somewhere within the fabrics of my spirit.  

The framework, Resist, helps me to release fear to act collectively with those who love this world as I do.

This piece is about recognizing the alien nature of our systems, while also acknowledging the power of "the small ones." When we join one another, recognize our differences, and work together against our common enemies, nothing can stop us.  

I hope that "Colonial Invasion" has inspired you to Resist with strategy and to practice restfulness in between actions.

Bevelyn Ukah,

Bevelyn is a member of the Collective's Leadership Team

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