In solidarity and love: reflections on PowerShift

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Image: PowerShift Canada/Facebook

Earlier this month, hundreds of youth from across Canada gathered in Ottawa for a climate justice conference called "PowerShift: Young and Rising". Raagini Appadurai attended PowerShift. These are her reflections on the PowerShift gathering and the state of the youth climate movement in Canada. 

I am finally sitting in exhausted gratitude for a challenging weekend at PowerShift that has reminded me why I do this work, and has affirmed where my heart stands in its fiery pursuit of justice.

As young people, we constantly bear the burden of the climate crisis and the many injustices it gives rise to. Many of us are from communities and parts of the world that have been, and will continue to be, irreversibly impacted by rising sea levels, extreme heatwaves, droughts, floods, and natural disasters. By no coincidence, these are the same communities that have already been divided and devastated by histories of colonialism, exploitation, and war. We carry the weight of this unseen and often untold story, felt in the many ways it manifests in our lives and work. And still, we are searching for the right ways to communicate with each other about the destructive forces that perpetuate climate breakdown and how we might work together to stand against them. 

It is never easy to bring your whole self -- in all its vulnerability, pain, intersectionality, and history -- to the forefront of this work. Committing to transformational social change means committing to doing this, every time, for the long haul, until we win. So as can be expected from a gathering of its size and of this nature, PowerShift was a powerful, prolific, and heavy time. This year's convergence brought together hundreds of passionate young people at the intersections of climate and social justice movements and produced an energy that could not be more necessary for this crucial historical moment we live in.

While tackling hard conversations around why we are divided and how we can do better, PowerShift participants also engaged in conversations and actions around what a Green New Deal could look like for us, and ways to strengthen the climate justice movement to unite us more strongly than ever. This is where the real work begins, where real change comes to life. 

At PowerShift, it became ever more clear that we need to be asking ourselves the hard questions and attempting to answer them together in powerful, loving, and grounded solidarity. How do we account for and honour intra-group differences? How do we provide a basis for forming coalitions and solidarities across groups and movements? How do we move away from a politics based on gaining recognition, and reorient towards a politics of deep transformation? How do we criticize the political language that has monopolized our spaces and that works to divide us? How do we learn to communicate differently? How do we become more gentle with each other, lovingly calling in to take action and holding each other accountable when it gets the toughest? 

As many of us departed from PowerShift, the yellow vest truck convoy of white supremacists arrived in Ottawa. Against the rise of the alt-right, the stakes of fighting racism and capitalist greed are higher than ever. These are the same people and forces that want to see us divided, precisely because they know what we can do when we are united. Their satisfaction will not be granted. We have a world to win, and nothing to lose but chains. 

Coming out of PowerShift, my hope and commitment for the coming months is to be fully immersed in relationship-building and cross-movement dialogue. I believe that how we support and show up for each other -- not only with our minds and hearts, but also with our hands and bodies -- is the basis for how we strengthen our movements and build a larger vision of the change.

I am deeply honoured to be in this work with the best comrades, who would choose the hardships, tensions, exhaustion, tears, and heaviness any day if it means having the opportunity for us build strategies for the solutions that our world and its communities deserve. I am inspired, nurtured, and fueled by the brave resilience of this community of warriors. Thank you. You are light, you are love, you are power.

Today, I am reminded that "if you still got breath, it's your time." And we're coming.

Raagini Appadurai is a consultant, educator, and facilitator in equity and social justice. Her work and passions lie predominantly around building creative and equitable educational platforms to social justice for young people in various different spaces -- through an anti-racist and anti-capitalist framework.

Image: PowerShift Canada/Facebook

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