By: Sachie Hopkins Hayakawa, Sally Bunner, and Lauren Ressler
February 24, 2013
This afternoon, as students take action at Swarthmore College we will be wearing orange squares pinned to our chests. We have chosen to wear this symbol today in solidarity with other student power movements internationally — most notably the Quebec Student Movement.
The red square of the Quebec Student Movement draws its origins from “carrément dans le rouge,” meaning “squarely in the red,” and refers to the condition of students trapped by immense debt. The red square was embraced by the 2005 student strike in Canada and became a symbol of solidarity for the student movement globally that signifies a belief in free education. “Institutional memory is critical to cultivating a lasting student power movement with graduation an ever present reality; sharing this symbol and the story of how this has grown is deeply a part of building that”, reflects Anthony Garoufalis-Auger a student from Concordia University, in Montreal.
written by Sierra Dickey, Whitman College ’15
Hello from Day 2 of the Students Divest Power Up Convergence!
Our first all-group panel discussion just finished to a standing ovation from all students and staff in attendance. This panel, “Resisting Fossil Fuels: Voices from the Frontlines” featured six activists all from front line communities oppressed and endangered by fossil fuel industry operations. Each of the panelists shared a brief anecdote of their experiences living in these communities and explained how they’ve been working and organizing for better situations. We heard first-hand accounts of the inconceivable medical dangers that these people face everyday inside their homes and neighborhoods, and got a new perspective on why divestment is necessary.
The panel was the first powerful example of how this convergence is posturing to redefine the aims of the environmental movement towards greater inclusivity. All weekend Twitter and Instagram posts have been hash-tagged with “solidarity”, and students have been discussing and pondering what solidarity, environmental justice, and owning our history means to our movement. This panel gave us a concrete idea of what it means to show solidarity with front-line communities affected by fossil fuel operations: Speakers suggested that college students come down to West Virginia and lock themselves to something, or spend some time in a tree in Pennsylvania, or, if direct action makes you nervous, make a campaign donation, share your skills, and invite community members to come speak at your schools. There is no lack of ways in which college student activists can show support for these front-line activists.
We write to you from the front lines. Some of our communities have been fighting the fossil fuel empire for generations. Others have only recently joined this struggle. We send our support and gratitude for leading this fossil fuel divestment campaign. This is a mighty cause you are joining: challenging some of the biggest threats humans have ever seen and committing to what must become a global movement.
Written by Betsy Helm, a student at Bryn Mawr College
Cross-posted from WeArePowerShift.org
What happens when you try to silence an important issue? Well, as the members of Swarthmore’s Social Responsibility Committee found out today, someone will be there to turn up the volume. Today, students participating in a march at Swarthmore College did just that–with silence.
Armed with a banner, signs, and orange patches to show solidarity with divestment, students from Swarthmore and several schools across the nation, coalition members, and supporters marched to protest Swarthmore college’s refusal to even so much as discuss fossil fuel divestment and show solidarity with Swarthmore Mountain Justice (MJ), the group spearheading the divestment campaign. Throughout the entire march, everyone remained silent, mirroring the silence with which the college has treated efforts to divest. Marchers walked from Sharples dining hall, passing through buildings and crowds and even a tour for prospective students and parents, all the way to the committee meeting displaying loud, bright signs stating “Divest Climate Destruction” and “Our Silence is Political.”
When marchers reached the site of the meeting, they lined the halls to greet all the committee members as they arrived for the meeting, offering fliers and orange solidarity patches to everyone. Some people eagerly the accepted fliers and patches, but others seemed less than enthused. There were definitely a few exasperated sighs, head shaking, and “I’m judging you right now” looks. But regardless, students kept up their silent support and solidarity with Swarthmore’s efforts.
When the two students with MJ, Maria Elena and Ben, went to take their seats at the meeting, a chorus of “solidarity snaps” broke out as marchers showed love and support, the only deviation from the silence yet. And when the door closed and the meeting began, marchers applauded each other and their supporters in honor of an action well done.
As marchers gathered their things and filed out of the building, one thing was definitely clear: some things can never be silenced.
Written by Sally Bunner, Earlham College ’11
What a wonderful opening day to Power Up! Divest Fossil Fuels: Student Convergence 2013! We have almost 180 students from 70 different schools represented at this Convergence! They come from all different backgrounds with many different entry points into climate activism, and show that in building a powerful student solidarity movement, we can use our differences to grow in so many ways.
The opening plenary highlighted the nature of this growing student solidarity movement and the principles behind the work we are doing together. Its amazing to see how engaged all of the students/staff/organizers/frontline community members here are. And, so exciting to begin our work together here this weekend.
60+ Swarthmore students led a silent march across campus to greet their Board of Trustees with demands of fossil fuel divestment, and to kick-off this weekend’s PowerUp! Student Divestment Convergence.
Hundreds of students leaders from over 77 campuses are converging at Swarthmore this weekend, just as the Board of Trustees is meeting to consider divestment, so Swarthmore Mountain Justice decided to kick-off the weekend with some action!
Right now our movement has some serious momentum. Last weekend 50,000 of us converged on the National Mall to demand we move Forward On Climate. And this weekend, momentum will continue to build at Swarthmore College.
On Friday hundreds of students from 77 campuses are coming together for the first-ever fossil fuel divestment convergence just as Swarthmore’s Board of Managers meets to consider divesting fossil fuels.
While we can’t bring 50,000 of us there, it’s a huge opportunity to bring that beautiful spirit of solidarity we felt last weekend.
It’s in this spirit of solidarity that we relaunched the Campus Climate Challenge. Youth and student leaders across the country are demanding bold action on climate from their campuses — and together we can support one another and take collective action to win our campaigns. Let’s make sure Swarthmore hears loud and clear that people across the country are watching and want to see them divest from fossil fuels.
Help us get to 5,000 signatures on the Campus Climate Challenge petition so that on Friday Swarthmore students can show their administration that a nationwide movement has their backs.
The economic and political power of the fossil fuel industry can only be countered by people power. When we divest from fossil fuels, we take one crucial step towards building the people power needed to achieve climate justice. Let’s take that step together.
Divestment Campaign Coordinator
Energy Action Coalition