Twenty-one Advocacy Corps organizers from the 2021–2022 and the 2020–2021 classes 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. Organizers had the chance to share stories about their lives, passions, and challenges during the pandemic.
The group shared stories, learned from each other, toured the Quaker Welcome Center and Friends Place, and built community.
“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.”
With strict COVID–19 precautions in place, the weekend began with dinner with FCNL General Secretary Diane Randall. It served as a welcome to Washington, D.C., for the organizers, some of whom had never visited, and was a chance for them to settle into the weekend after traveling from across the country.
The next day, former Native American Program Congressional Advocate Lacina Tangnaqudo Onco (Shinnecock/Kiowa) talked about sovereignty and solidarity in the context of FCNL’s Native American portfolio. She urged the organizers to lobby their senators to support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. This bill expands tribal sovereignty and restores tribal jurisdiction over non-Native perpetrators.
Onco 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. She also cited 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.