Over the past year, I had the privilege of participating in the inaugural Democracy in Colour People of Colour Placement Program. In this program, I was paid, trained and supported to become a skilled campaigner in the progressive movement. From August 2019 to June 2020 my cohort of POC campaigners and I attended three retreats, 16 fortnightly workshops and received weekly support from some of the top campaigners in the country.
It’s been an action-packed year of learning, growing, adjustment and also heartache. Seeing the impacts of climate change in real-time with the catastrophic summer bushfires and the global pandemic play out has been hard for all of us.
To build power, we need to tackle our movement’s critical challenges, we need to expand our movements and bring new communities into them. And the only way we can do that is if our organisations are reflective of the communities that are most impacted by the issues we work on.
The environment movement as a whole is not reflective of the communities that are most impacted by the harsh realities of environment and climate inaction. EJA recognised this and partnered with Democracy in Colour to bring an emerging campaigner on board, me!
What I have gained from this experience will take me through the rest of my working and personal life, here are just a few of my takeaways:
1) Confidence to continue to carry myself and step out of comfort zones.
Being a part of the placement program has laid a solid foundation and a wealth of knowledge. It’s given me more confidence to continue to navigate the progressive movement as a person of colour. Through this program and with the encouragement of my Democracy In Colour cohort and my colleagues at EJA, I have begun to use my voice with more assertiveness and authority.
2) Continue to check your privilege and amplify voices of First Nations people.
As a person of colour, I am not excused from checking my privilege. I am privileged. I am privileged to not only to have been a part of this placement program but also privileged to live and work on Kulin Nation. The global conversation around Black Lives Matter may have quietened down on social media and in the news, but this is where the work we do to educate ourselves becomes more important. So, I intend to do just that, continue to learn and unlearn the systemic structures I was brought up on, and continue to listen, learn and amplify voices of First Nations leaders, and speak out when it’s important.
3) Without racial justice there is no environmental justice.
Systemic racism is at the core of environmental issues worldwide. In Australia, First Nations communities have had their land and cultural rights denied and degraded by environmentally destructive projects since colonisation. The global outcry over the killing of George Floyd speaks to the ongoing racial injustices that Black, First Nations and people of colour have been experiencing for generations. The same injustices are factors in why these communities are at the frontlines of the climate crisis. Without addressing systemic racism, we will not see environmental justice.
The work continues
The experience of being part of this program has been life-changing and liberating, I feel so privileged to have been able to have the chance to participate, learn and grow as a person throughout this program. I am also so grateful to Democracy in Colour and EJA for having the structures within both organisations to allow someone like me to come in and begin to thrive. We now live in a world where organisations are finally starting to discuss how they can be better allies and dismantle the systemic structures that have been put in place for generations. I am thankful for EJA for recognising that these issues need to be addressed within our organisation. The learning is only just beginning and I look forward to continuing the work.