Climate justice leading the way

NOC members, chanting "Power to the people!" and "It takes roots to weather the storm," marched with other climate justice communities at the very front of the People's Climate March in New York Sunday. The march, with an estimated attendance of 400,000, was the largest climate march in history and one of the largest demonstrations of any kind in the U.S. in recent history.

The NOC delegation lined up at Central Park West to join the first section of the march with other frontline and climate justice communities, symbolizing that the people first and most impacted by climate change are those who are leading the way forward. When NOC member Filsan Ibrahim volunteered to help lead chants, marshals escorted the NOC delegation to the very front of the march.


Fathi and Filsan leading chants at the very front of the 400,000-person march.

"It was great to meet a lot of people from different communities and different environments, all coming together as one community for climate justice," said Fathi Mahad. "It's interesting to see how people are affected differently by climate change--everything is intertwined, but it all comes from the same source."


 NOC delegation meets Tibetans for Climate Action! "If Tibet dries, Asia dies."


 Fathi with climate justice organizers from Mexico and Nicaragua.


Climate fighters from Rockaway, Queens, New York.


Sandy didn't defeat us; we continue walking in the struggle.

Groups representing Hurricane Sandy survivors were particularly inspiring to Fathi. "If another hurricane like Sandy happens, they want to make sure people will be able to make it through--and so hurricanes like Sandy don't happen," explained Fathi. "They're here for their community."

Tiana Bellamy, an Augsburg College freshman, appreciated how the march put frontline communities in front. "I've got a huge stake in environmental impacts in my community," said Tiana. "I see it happening all the time." Tiana's from the Midway neighborhood of St. Paul, a traffic-congested area with lots of air pollution. Tiana grew up seeing her sister struggle with respiratory issues and dealing with high levels of environmental-related diseases like cancer in her family.


Tiana, left, making noise at the march.

Tiana's interest in the environment began when she worked at the Como Zoo as a youth volunteer. As a result of her work there, she got the opportunity to go to a polar bear research conference in Manitoba her junior year of high school. It was an incredible experience for Tiana, but she was frustrated by the lack of racial and social justice literacy at the conference, including proposed solutions to environmental issues that would only exacerbate race and class inequities. "What's missing is community development," says Tiana. "I was always interested in environmental science and social justice, but wondered why the two never seemed to intersect." She came to the climate march because of its emphasis on environmental justice.

"The symbolism of 400,000 people coming to New York to say they care about the environment really inspired me to do more work about it," she says. "This is the momentum that the movement needs."


NOC crew at the end of the march.

Although Filsan was leading chants all day, her favorite part of the march was the moment of silence in honor of people who have already been affected by climate change. The moment of silence ended with a whistle and then a wave of noise down the parade to sound the global climate change alarm. "I feel like we accomplished something," said Filsan. "I thought there was only a small group of people who cared. But all of us came together, young, old, from different walks of life, for the same cause."

Filsan plans to be more vocal about these issues when she goes back to Minnesota. "It gave me more power to use my voice and try to organize my community."


Former NOC board chair Sunday Alabi with Fathi at the march.



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