The morning started with blue skies and a slight breeze. Soon, a southern wind gave rise to foreboding clouds. In downtown Lawrence and the KU Wescoe Beach, there was another storm head brewing. On September 20th, 2019, the Sunrise Movement and Sierra Club organized a walkout and rally to bring awareness on the urgency and importance of climate change. Numerous similar events were happening across the world in solidarity with the Global Climate Strike. Many students and people of the Lawrence community came to show their support and voice their concerns.
Around noon there were two protest demonstrations: one at Wescoe Beach on the University of Kansas campus and another at the Lawrence City Hall on 6th St., at the north edge of downtown. Then at 5 pm, the same day, there was a rally at South Park on the southern edge of downtown. Here the Sierra Club and Sunrise Movement brought together notable speakers to bring to light the environmental and political issues we face.
Kate Lorenz, an organizer of the Sunrise Movement Lawrence chapter, was able to answer some questions regarding the protest and rally.
I understand the Sunrise Movement is a nation-wide movement, how long has this chapter been in Lawrence?
The Lawrence hub began planning events around the Global Climate Strike and the upcoming City Commission election in June 2019. We’ve mainly been a small group of co-organizers so far, but we plan to start holding open meetings in October to plan the next action steps and community initiatives.
What are the main issues are you are hoping to address with the Sunrise Movement?
The focus of the national Sunrise Movement organization is to “stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process.” Sunrise Movement backs the Green New Deal as a way to create change that lifts everyone up and addresses the inequality that has been built into our political and economic systems. Locally, Sunrise Movement hubs work on issues that are specific to their communities, such as joining protests with social justice organizations.
You were able to collaborate with the Sierra Club, are there other organizations you are hoping to also col- laborate with?
Yes! For the upcoming Climate & Environmental Justice forum where we’ll talk to City Commission candidates, we have several co-sponsors in addition to Sierra Club: Cleanairnow; LETUS & WAT; Sustainability Action
Network; The Merc Co+op; Lawrence Kansas Branch NAACP; and Sanctuary Alliance Lawrence Kansas. We’ve also worked with the Climate Energy Project, and we hope to collaborate with the Lawrence Community Shelter. There is a KU Sunrise Movement organization now, and we would love to work with Haskell students in any way that supports their work.
What are some ways you are hoping to grow?
We are hoping to bring more people in at our events to show the strong community support for climate action, and it’s also important for us to have more diversity at both the membership and leadership levels.
What are the ways individuals can get involved?
People who are interested can follow us on social media (currently Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) and can join our email list! We’ll be sending out information about upcoming meetings for individuals who’d like to get more involved, or people can always just attend Sunrise Movement actions if that works better for their schedules.
Any plans for future events?
We have the Climate & Environmental Justice Forum on October 2nd. After that, we’ll talk with new members about community projects to begin or support. Sunrise Movement will also be joining in several more large-scale actions before the next presidential election.
As stated before, there were many students and community members who were able to attend and voice their concerns. This included Haskell Indian Nation University students. Kaleb Proctor (Senior/ IAIS program) and Jamie Colvin (Senior/ Environmental Science program) attended both the walkout and rally. They were able to answer a few questions about the experience and their involvement in the community.
Did you go to both events that day?
Kaleb: Yes, I went to both events that day with a few of my Haskell peers/colleagues.
Jamie: I attended both of the events; I was at City Hall for the noon event.
Was this your first demonstration?
Kaleb: I have participated in a few demonstrations in the past few years [with] Black Lives Matters and Stomp with Standing Rock.
Jamie: No, I also went to other demonstrations. My first encounter with these sorts of demonstrations of resiliency towards things that are impacting the climate was at the Standing Rock protests; I went four different weekends. There were also many others throughout the Midwest.
What are the main issues you are concerned with?
Kaleb: The issues that we face today stem from the commodification of nature, which will continue unless our perspective […] changes from commodification to relation. If nature is to continue being mistreated/mis- used, it will lead to not having anything left that will allow our existence to continue as well. The reciprocal relationship between humanity and nature is forgotten by the majority that holds “authority” today and is shown in how [governments] treat nature today.
Jamie: The main issue I am most concerned with is the knowledge about the issues. I wish more people knew the facts and became more aware. Everyone should be more concerned about something. I also really try to advocate for our non-human relatives that are here with us; they can’t really speak, so I’m here as one of the many to speak for them.
Are there other ways you are hoping to get involved?
Kaleb: I am always trying to find new ways I can get involved that fit my passions/ interests, which include social and environmental justice. I like to be around people that have the drive to be involved in helping one another. Zach A and I recently met with the University of Kansas’ Chapter Sunrise Movement and are going to attempt to build a relationship to see if [we can] collaborate. Building relationships based on communicating can help provide platforms to be heard and gives more chances to be involved with future work.
Jamie: I would like to be a part of more demonstrations for sure. This is also something I would like to showcase in my career. Such as one day work with BPA or another organization to promote [regulation reform]. I would also like to get in touch with groups such as the Sunrise Movement and Sierra Club. Another thing is calling our [government officials] more to let them know the issues that mean the most to us.
Do you have any advice for people who like to make a change?
Kaleb: Build relationships with those that help you grow, and those that help put you at ease. Trying to make a change can be non-stop work, and we cannot do this work by ourselves. Having relationships that help educate one another can be refreshing by bringing insight to new perspectives (an IAIS student discussing Indigenous Philosophy to an Environmental student, while sharing concepts of Sustainable Watersheds to the IAIS student). Having relationships that help to unwind is also very important for people as burn-out is a real thing. Helping Haskell Sustainability/Gardening to put gardens around campus helps me unwind by reconnecting to the land and plants, but also connecting to those helping with the gardens. Spending time with each other and helping each other is the way I try to make a change daily, but maintain a balance so I don’t become overwhelmed or anxious from doing nothing.
Jamie: Use your voice; it is the most powerful thing I think anybody could have. Just to able to communicate with other people about your passions, hobbies or loves in your life that you want to promote to other people. Then once other people know about it, you can form a group with a voice that is even stronger.
Are you voting on the upcoming election in 2020?
Kaleb: I am planning on voting in the upcoming elec- tion and hoping it will actually count. I think Bernie Sanders would be the candidate most likely to have Native communities’ interests to be heard more than other candidates. […] Bernie Sanders is attempting to create acts addressing climate change, income inequality, medicare for all to create an equitable environment to grow from.
Jamie: I plan on voting. After I research the candidates more on their prospective ideas and implementations for our country, I will have a better idea of who.
After the rally at South Park, the group marched to Lawrence City Hall. There were many onlookers and people driving by who cheered or honked to show their support. Of course, there were individuals who voiced their opposition. The demonstrators stayed completely respectful as those people drove off with the ignorance they showed up with.
As the 2020 elections breach the horizon, the necessity for such movements to bring awareness is ever more important. The demonstrations across the world illuminated how many people are concerned with protecting our environment. Expressing your voice in these issues is essential, in not only making a political and social change but also in inciting hope. I hope for a future we can all be proud of; a future where we can confidently pass down this Earth to the next generations. The Earth gives us the means and power to create. The storms and wind we create today will nourish and spread the seeds of hope sowed yesterday. With many other events planned, our storm is just beginning; the hope for the next generations germinating within each of us.
If you would like to get involved with Sunrise Move- ment or Sierra Club, you can contact them at the following email address, firstname.lastname@example.org or through any of their social media pages. There are also many other ways you can help in your community and school, bring awareness for the issues, and advocate for a cleaner, more sustainable environment. It just may take an effort to reach out and make your voice known.