By: Bertine Lakjohn, ’22-’23 Washington Fellow
Since my freshman year of college in the USA, it has been on my bucket list to visit New Orleans due to my love for Princess and the Frog. Unfortunately, no frogs nor princes were met on my trip to New Orleans but the experience was similar to that of a fairy tale. Thank you Our Climate for the many opportunities to learn, listen, and love the community the climate space offers.
This year I had the privilege of attending the Powershift 2023 (PSN23) Convergence with other Our Climate fellows and coordinators in Bvlbancha, Louisiana ACKA (also colonially known as) New Orleans. The Convergence was a massive youth gathering of climate, environmental, racial, and social activists from different walks of life. The PSN23 organizers did a stellar job with the entire event including the opening with the marching band, choices of sessions, topics, speakers, location, and accessibility. I personally appreciated the decision to have the conference be a fully bilingual event with Spanish and English translators.
Through this conference, I was hoping to network with other young professionals about their climate justice work and connect it to my own work at Our Climate. Specifically, I wanted to gain insight into effective communication of the climate crisis to predominantly rural and impoverished spaces. My biggest takeaway from these conversations include the importance of acknowledging my privilege when conducting this project. For example, I was asked by another youth activist a lot of why questions including why this project, why this area in Washington, and why me? I couldn’t properly answer the question at the given moment about why I was worthy of conducting my project but after thorough reflection, I asked myself why not me? I am passionate and eager to bring climate education to spaces often neglected within climate solutions. I am from a climate-vulnerable island whose needs are constantly overlooked by wealthy nations. It is within my right to fight for my people and those who need climate justice. Therefore, I appreciate the feedback from the youth activists because it helped me develop a stronger purpose for my personal climate project.
The highlight of the conference week for me was meeting the other fellows and coordinators for the first time in person. I’ve only ever experienced the fellowship virtually thus I was super excited to meet and get to know people. I was not expecting everyone to be so kind, caring, and pro-exploring Bvlnbancha as a group. I especially loved how we went out for meals together, strolled around the city, and also went out dancing. Moreover, rarely did people ever feel unsafe because of the buddy system in place where if someone was going somewhere they weren’t going alone. I personally felt like that was super helpful because I was so afraid of getting lost in a new city.
To finish this blog post off, I would just like to add a few final tips for attending future conferences with Our Climate:
- Go to as many sessions as you can
- Enjoy the moment and the space you are in
- Look forward to making amazing memories
Bertine Lakjohn from the Marshall Islands
Washington Our Climate Fellow