By LYNSY SPROUSE
Race, climate justice and immigration are more connected than people may think, particularly for members of DivestUMW, who took their latest action in spreading awareness about climate change on Monday.
The group participated in the “Our Generation, Our Choice” march in Washington, D.C., where participants marched along Franklin Square and blocked the entrance to the White House in order to make their voices heard.
University of Virginia, Virginia Commonwealth University, George Mason University, James Madison University and Eastern Mennonite University also participated in the event. The purpose of the march was to get the “Our Generation, Our Choice” message across to the political leaders in D.C.
“We need political leaders with plans that are in line with the imperatives of justice on race, climate change and immigration,” the organization’s website said. “Keep fossil fuels in the ground. Protect the lives of black, brown, poor and immigrant communities. Reinvest in healthy jobs, renewable energy and an economy that works for all of us. Let’s get it done.” DivestUMW’s role in this event was to take a stand with other activists and fight for climate justice.
According to one of the group’s members, Sarah Kinzer, a sophomore English major, bringing this issue to the public eye is more important now than ever, especially with the upcoming 2016 election.
“This is a particularly crucial time for us to organize around important justice issues, given the proximity of the upcoming Paris Climate Talks, as well as the upcoming presidential election,” Kinzer said.
Group member Rabib Hasan, a senior sociology major, said this push to spread awareness is caused by discontent among students and others passionate about this issue. They do not feel like leaders in the country, particularly politicians, are taking adequate action to address climate change.
“Youths, students and other members of all sorts of movements are tired of the state of the country,” Hasan said.
For this event, organizations like Black Lives Matter and activists fighting for immigration and climate justice stood together in solidarity with one voice.
Hasan stressed that the issues of race, climate justice and immigration are more connected than people may realize.
“Lots of communities of color bear the brunt of fossil fuel product,” Hasan said. Fossil fuels are DivestUMW’s main concern, and it can damage people’s health even at a young age.
“Because of the plants near these [poor] communities,” Hasan said, “black children often get asthma before they are even teenagers. It impairs their lives and makes it harder for them to get better.”
As for immigrants, Hasan brought up the recent hurricane that affected parts of Mexico. Because of the extreme weather, Hasan noted that many people came to the country to seek refuge.
Hasan stated that, by addressing environmental issues, there will be fewer natural disasters. To him, this starts at taking care of the earth.
“We need to preserve the land,” Hasan said. Both Kinzer and Hasan emphasized the importance of speaking out together about issues dealing with race, climate justice and immigration.
“This demonstration is a crucial step in the fights for racial, climate and immigrant justice because it represents a level of solidarity, an understanding that none of these movements can succeed if the others fail,” Kinzer said.
Hasan echoed Kinzer’s sentiment. “Our fight for climate change is rooted in other people’s fights,” Hasan said. According to Kinzer, “Collective liberation must occur within all facets of life, and the best way to achieve that is by working together.”
The need for this collaboration can be seen in the harmful effects of fossil fuels on communities of color and on the poor environments of many immigrants.
This event was especially important for the young people of this nation, according to Hasan. They are the ones who are going to take the places of the older generation who will be retiring in the next several years.
“A lot of people think that maybe politicians are not listening to their votes, so they’ve found other ways to act,” Hasan said.
Hasan emphasized that it is important for anyone to get involved in these campaigns. “We grew up in a world where we’re taught to go with the status quo,” Hasan said. “To take action as an individual is empowering.”
DivestUMW is one of 400 divestment campaigns on American campuses. The group’s current goal is to bring energy back to the campus and to fight for climate justice for a better future for everyone.