Posts Tagged ‘activism’

posted by | on , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Why Should You Care About Community?

By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin

Think big potato, act small fry

The conclusion of COP21 created much needed space for serious efforts to incite comprehensive, structural change for the planet and its inhabitants. By whatever means, we’ve got a critical mass that at least agrees that merely mitigating the most damaging effects of climate change isn’t enough.

The next challenge is to break from the attitudes, systems, and assumptions that got us into this mess. Huzzah! We are, at long last, looking at the scope of environmental questions through a lens of global, geo-political, inter- and intra-governmental equity, and with no time to spare.

As we shift from old methods to new practices, we rouse the bulwarks of fossil fuel energy—coal, oil and natural gas. We take on a future filled with more people and considerably less time, natural resources, or room for error. And we look with no shortage of hope for technological advancement to make ends meet.

GratisographyIt’s an awesome time to be alive! Each of us has in her own way accepted the vexation of big environmental questions because we are Ecowomen, actively creating kinship to face the challenge of our time: survival.

I propose that in contemplation of the big deal we draw our response to scale. Let’s take ownership of the future with our present day decisions.

As engaged Ecowomen, it behooves us to link grand efforts to ground level actions that support the nearest and most immediate form of power available to us: community.

Who are the people in your neighborhood?

Community is a combination of persons with shared aims, interests, or ends.

Functionally, community is a living thing, composed of living things, organized by choices. It performs as a series of relations characterized by the raising up and pulling down of interpersonal boundaries, replicated in reality. Consequently, community is a construct of our experience and our making.

Community as a creature of proximity

Last year, I heard Bryan Stevenson speak on the subject of pursuing justice. In his conclusion, he issued a challenge that struck me as an entirely elegant mode of approaching problems. He dared the audience to get into proximity with the things we find most uncomfortable. In discussing the tragic folly of mass incarceration, he implored us to “find our way to justice” by avoiding the temptation to sidestep problems that seem too big or scary to handle.

So, let’s start there. As Ecowomen, we unite in concern for the health of our planet. We nourish our bodies with foods on the low end of the food chain, choose glass over plastic, and conserve resources to diminish our ecological footprint. Collectively, we a force for sustainable economics, politics and bionetworks. We begin with people we know and increase capacity in our spheres of influence,plying our individual skills and abilities in the places we work, live, and play.

Neighborhood Gratisography135H

Make yourself at home

In the District we don’t need to look too far to find the makings of community. There are truly local environmental concerns of every stripe within the 68.25 square miles we call home.

  • There are trash transfer stations in the Fort Totten, Brentwood, and Langdon neighborhoods that cause residents to question the effects of commercial activities on their long term health.
  • In recent years, the Capitol Power Plant was at the heart of local debate on coal fired plant conversions and the changeover to natural gas.
  • Months ago, residents of Northeast’s Ivy City took up the fight against pollution clustering from a planned bus depot, and won.

Free stock photo dc metro

Community as a creature of necessity

The national news is flush with stories about communities of necessity. Groups who may be friends or neighbors who transcend those associations when faced with out-sized danger, from ecological events or man-made forces.

Communities of environmental concern stretch across borders and boundaries because they are forged by the power of empathy. Its members arrive as strangers drawn together to address a common plight. Whether the cause is contrived deprivation, or rising tides, those who are able go where needed to join with vulnerable peoples fighting corruption and the unfettered evil of scarcity or degraded resources.

There is strength in amalgamated capacity. It supports transformation or avoids catastrophe in the making. When the need arises, community comes together as quickly as is dissipates. And it has, in Virginia, Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, and North Carolina, among others.

As change agents, we should add our voices and leverage the strength of whatever agency we possess to tackle local, regional, and national environmental issues because we see ourselves in the plight, the fight, or the solution. And we don’t need permission to do it.

Multiracial earth photoThe larger environmental movement is an aggregate of the actions we take in community. Our level of engagement aides our sophistication; it colors who we see as victims or victors, what we see as wrongdoing, and our response to the call.

So, what are you waiting for? The issues are the invitation.

Tamara is an environmental advocate focused on civil society and justice issues. She holds degrees from The City College, City University of New York and two advanced degrees from Vermont Law School. Her hobbies include reading boring books about politics and neuroscience, writing diatribes about what she reads, traveling, and yoga. 

posted by | on , , , , , , | Comments Off on A Shining Example: Josephine Butler Sets The Stage For The EcoWomen Gala

Meet The Woman Behind The Josephine Butler Parks Center

Written By Alexandra Gilliland

This April, EcoWomen and its founding chapter, the DC EcoWomen, will be celebrating its 10th Anniversary, and holding an amazing 10 Year Gala to commemorate this occasion! There can only be one place for the location: The Josephine Butler Parks Center.

The Josephine Butler Parks Center is the perfect location for the event. Not only, is it a gorgeous piece of 1927 Renaissance revival architecture, designed by George Oakley Totten Jr., but the center’s mission is to advance the revitalization of diverse community green spaces across the metropolitan area. This alone would make the location great for the event, but what really makes this location ideal is that it was named for one of Washington D.C.’s very first EcoWomen: Josephine Butler.

Here’s a little bit more about the woman behind the park…

Josephine Butler was born on January 24, 1920. The daughter of sharecroppers, and the granddaughter of slaves, Butler would grow into one of D.C.’s most respected community leaders. At a young age, Jo (as she was known) suffered from typhoid fever. To receive medical treatment, Butler moved from the sharecropper farm, where her father worked in Brandywine, Maryland to Washington, D.C. There she would flourish into one of D.C.’s greatest advocates of social initiatives.

Butler had the admirable habit of turning every instance of her life into a cause to champion. She began a career in laundry, and was able to organize her fellow workers into the first union for black women launder workers. This would be the start of her life-long commitment to labor unions and women’s rights.

Following the historic Brown v. Board of Education ruling, she helped to lead the effort to peacefully integrate the white-attended John Quincy Adams Elementary School and the black-attended Thomas P. Morgan Elementary School in 1955. The neighborhood of Adams Morgan, a combination of the schools’ names, now stands as a reminder to honor racial and cultural differences.

Continuing her trend of turning life’s instances into causes to champion, after a bout with tuberculosis in the late 1950s, Butler became a volunteer for the D.C. Lung Association. There, she would become the association’s community health educator, where she would educate thousands of children on the hazards of air pollution, long before air pollution was became a prominent environmental or health concern.

Community was especially important to Jo Butler. She believed children needed a safe outdoor space to develop community. To help create this type of community, Butler campaigned for the revitalization of the Meridian Hill Park, also known as Malcolm X Park. This area had previously been known as one of the most violent parks in the Washington metropolitan area and as a breeding ground for vandalism and drug dealing. Butler and fellow community organizations worked tirelessly to transform this park. They organized nighttime patrols to combat crime, planted trees to beautify the property, and held community arts and educational programs in the park for residents. Gradually the park became the sort of community that Butler had envisioned. In 1994, Butler and the other members of the Friends of Meridian Hill (a community organization partnership) received the National Partnership Leadership Award from President Bill Clinton, to recognize the work that they had done to transform this once crime-ridden and dangerous park into a safe community park that is used and enjoyed by the local residents.

A holistic activist, Butler fought for a sustainable community way before it was trendy. She dedicated her life to economic, environmental and social justice, and believed in the self- determination of all. She was a true DC EcoWoman, a lover of the great outdoors, and a believer that change can happen with hard work and passion.

The festivities, including a keynote speaker, a silent auction, a DJ, unlimited beer and wine, and even a signature cocktail(!),  will take place on April 24th Josephine Butler Parks Center. Get your ticket today!