Shale Maulana is Northwest summit coordinator for the Center for Environmental Citizenship and a student and activist at Seattle Central Community College.

Monday, 25 Aug 2003

SEATTLE, Wash.

This summer, I’m interning with the Center for Environmental Citizenship (EnviroCitizen), helping to organize a student summit, “Powered By Justice: Skills to Build Energy Alternatives.” It’s a 10-week internship, working on recruiting college students and getting media for our event.

The goal of our summit, and many of our other programs including student-led campaigns, is to develop students’ organizing skills so they can use them at their respective schools to build student power and effect political change, primarily around issues of clean energy.

One of our priorities in this summit (and all the work we do) is diversity. Why diversity? The environmental movement is dominated by the white middle and upper classes. If a movement is to benefit the people, it needs to reflect the people. Poor people and people of color are often most impacted by environmental destruction. In urban areas, corporations and the government are likely to pollute in poorer neighborhoods that have fewer resources to stop them. Our goal is to engage these people and act as allies to work with them to stop the destruction in their neighborhoods.

Within EnviroCitizen, staff undergo and facilitate “Dismantling Racism” training and participate in a caucusing process, developing a critical analysis of race and power in this country. At our summit, we will have a workshop on “Dismantling Racism,” to begin to change the patterns of the environmental movement and society as a whole.

As a woman of color, EnviroCitizen’s dedication to anti-racism was one of the things that made me consider this internship. I’d done a lot of other kinds of organizing at my college (anti-war, anti-FTAA [Free Trade Area of the Americas], anti-globalization, anti-tuition increase). I was continually making the connection between what I was opposing and racism. I could also see the connection between environmental destruction and racism in my own city, Seattle. I was turned off by the environmental movement for the most part because it was dominated by the white middle class and seemed disconnected from communities. I later learned about resistance to environmental oppression in communities of color and became more interested in that sort of environmental movement. I found more information on how communities of color are specifically impacted by the politics of environmental decision-making, and I wanted to get involved. EnviroCitizen was offering an internship, and as I learned more about the organization, it seemed in line with what I was interested in doing.

My internship is ending in a few weeks, and I’ve been reflecting quite a bit on what I’ve learned and the work I’ve done. I’ve learned a lot while planning this event and doing recruitment. I’ve learned the importance of making connections with people and organizations as well as relationship building. I’ve learned how to get donations, and I can make a mean flyer. I’ve learned about making detailed plans and following through on them (something which is often lost on student organizers). All of the skills and connections I’ve made here I will take with me when I go back to Seattle Central Community College in the fall.

Stay with me this week and see more about the great work I’ve done and am doing, and my experiences at EnviroCitizen!