Twenty-one Advocacy Corps organizers from the 2021-2022 class and the 2020-2021 class met for the first time in Washington, D.C. over Indigenous Peoples’ Day Weekend. The group shared stories, learned from each other, toured the Quaker Welcome Center and Friends’ Place, and built community.
In addition to some discussion around the 2021-2022 cohort’s focus on environmental justice, much of the weekend was devoted to informal conversations and meetings, where organizers had the chance to share stories about their lives, passions, and challenges in the times of the pandemic.
“A huge part of this program is building a cohort of young people who can learn from each other, support each other, and inspire all of us to do more,” explained Larissa Gil Sanhueza, FCNL’s young adult program manager. “There’s no perfect virtual substitute for face-to face interaction, so when we can meet safely in-person we want to take those opportunities. That’s why we are also planning to bring young people to Washington next March 12-15 for an in-person Spring Lobby Weekend.”
The weekend, carefully organized by Gil Sanhueza and program assistant Destinee Bates, began with dinner at a local restaurant with FCNL General Secretary Diane Randall. The carefully planned evening, with strict COVID restrictions in place, served as a welcome to Washington, D.C. for the organizers, some of whom had never been before, and was a chance for them to settle into the weekend after traveling from across the country.
The next day, former Native American Program Advocate Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco spoke to the group about sovereignty and solidarity in the context of FCNL’s Native American portfolio, and urged the group to lobby their senators to support the bipartisan re-introduction of the Violence Against Women Act. This legislation, she explained, expands tribal sovereignty and restores jurisdiction over non-Native perpetrators of violence in tribal communities.
Lacina also talked about environmental justice, emphasizing the importance of both acknowledging Indigenous people as the original stewards of this land, and working to return that land to Indigenous hands. Tangnaqudo Onco further noted the importance of FCNL’s acknowledgement of Quakers’ transgressions against Indigenous people, and underscored the positive work our community is doing to address this issue through the Truth and Healing Commission on Indian Boarding Schools Act.
Following a quick tour of the Capitol grounds and Friends’ Place, the current class (2021-22) trained the previous class of organizers (2020-21) on the Environmental Justice for All Act, our current legislative focus for the program. They took them through the provisions of the bill and helped them tell their own stories related to the issue.
Organizers also discussed the social norms that hinder us from fully stepping into the principles of environmental justice (as determined by the People of Color Environmental Leadership Summit), ending with an inspiring discussion of what an environmentally-just world could look like: peaceful, empathetic, and equitable.