Building Community Matters

Most of us arrived as strangers; twenty-five souls from around the country sharing a space and a desire to address climate change. By the end, we became a community woven together with love, and support. Being part of the Young Climate Leaders Network this past year has reminded me deeply of the power and promise of real community.

Formed over three years ago under the leadership of climate champion Betsy Taylor, the Young Climate Leaders Network is designed to support inspired leadership and bold strategies for addressing climate change. As the third cohort of its kind, our journey consisted of three structured retreats taking place over the last ten months in Massachusetts, California, and Louisiana, where for three and a half days, we were intentional about growing together. Through patient and self-assuring facilitation led by Gibrán Rivera, we were called to tap into our full potential in the individual and communal; discovering new understanding in how we interact with ourselves and the world.

All of the challenges and contradictions of working together surfaced. The more stories we shared, the more we learned what powers we own and how to best use them together.

And as our personal relationships grew, so did the support for each other’s work.

I started to see the value of what this network meant to my life when one of the Network’s members, Greg Grey Cloud, became in the middle of the fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

Here was one of the kindest, most amazing men I know on the cover of the New York Times. Prior to Standing Rock, I knew Greg as the humble and hilarious guy from our first retreat together. The stories we shared then had more to deal with his affirmation of who I am as a gay and Black man and his dedicated commitment to ending violence against Native women and children than it was about stopping dangerous pipelines. Though we were brought together as environmental leaders, we were friends first. And now, here he was on horseback with other men of his Oceti Sakowin tribe, standing at the frontlines against police and U.S. National Guard.

As I watched #NoDAPL happenings unfold on social media, I knew Greg was being a light to others on the frontlines of North Dakota much in the way he was light for me at our retreat. So when Greg couldn’t make it to our second retreat because he was needed at Standing Rock, me and the other Young Climate Leaders Network folks called him on Skype to send love and light, sharing a reading of a Hafiz poem and telling funny stories, like how we did a performance to Beyoncé’s Lemonade.

This is how we built community – expressions of love and unexpected dance parties that change how we show up for each other in hard times.

In this political moment where there is so much urgency, let’s continue to march and rally, but let’s not forget to make time and space for building community with each other. While we’re all not able to make time for retreats, each one of us have the power to get to know each other.

As we power ahead through uncertain times, let’s make a commitment to build community as we build power for 100% clean energy for all. Let’s learn from each other to build with each other. Now is not the time to be strangers sharing space anymore. As Albert Einstein once said, “We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

At the 100% campaign, we know solutions exists everywhere. For me, the Young Climate Leaders Network has become an embodiment of this – different perspectives and experiences coming together to make something that couldn’t have existed otherwise.

This is the joy and power of true community. Thank you to my new family of climate leaders committed to being there 100% for each other.

Follow Sean on Twitter (@seanieboyy6)