By BEATRICE OHENE-OKAE
Last month for Martin Luther King, Jr. weekend, some students got to relax and debrief on their day off. However, a dedicated few went before the General Assembly in Richmond, Virginia to lobby their representatives about relevant issues, such as debt-free higher education and proposed pipeline routes.
This group of students included some from the University of Mary Washington joined by a large number of their peers from other universities around the state, such as UVA, VCU, GMU and JMU. Together, these students and community members from all different backgrounds shared their stories and came together as an example of student solidarity. The students involved were part of the Virginia Student Environmental Coalition (VSEC) and the Virginia Student Power Network (VSPN).
VSEC is a statewide coalition of students aiming to promote solidarity in city and campus communities across Virginia to collectively improve environmental issues and to create a network for advocacy, education and action.
VSPN is a statewide grassroots network of students organizing for accessible, democratic and diverse education in Virginia, as well as social, racial and economic justice. We seek to create intersections between social issues in order to address the common roots of each social justice issue. The two organizations believe that the convergence of their organizations will create the necessary platform for students in Virginia to join forces against social and climate injustice.
These two organizations are hosting the third annual Virginia Power Shift conference here at Mary Washington. From Feb. 13 through 15, hundreds of students will converge in Fredericksburg for two days packed with training, strategizing and network-building to get mobilized to act on the most pressing issues we are facing on our campuses and in our communities. VSEC and VSPN are planning an array of panels, projects, breakouts and actions to facilitate these discussions and build a platform for grassroots student activism at the state level. Current themes include environmental justice and divestment, racial, gender, social justice and economic justice. Art, music and culture will be incorporated heavily into the conference. Keynote speakers for the conference include Reverend Lennox Yearwood from the Hip-Hop Caucus, Grammy Award-winning producer Malik Yusef and the 2014 Women of the World Poetry Slam Champion Dominique Christina.
If you’re interested in being a part of the Power Shift conference, you can register here.