During a meeting of the Moving Forward Network last week, the group spent an entire morning talking about storytelling. The leaders felt it was so important because facts and data do not change people’s minds, but stories do. I was fortunate to attend this meeting of environmental justice advocates through my work at the USC environmental health outreach program, helping support this work since 2005.
We were all asked to share our stories. Often I shy away from this question, because I worry my story sounds bland and cannot relate to others’ stories, with their firm sense of place and purpose. But the workshop convinced me of the power of sharing our stories to bond together and making our voices heard. Let’s continue sharing our stories at our meetings.
I grew up in a suburb of Minneapolis, and early on the leaders of my Girl Scout troop exposed me to the values of protecting the environment and reducing our impacts. Even as kids, we talked about what it meant that we consumed more resources than other parts of the world. Coupled with watching Captain Planet, it just seemed like the right thing to do. In college at Hamline University was the first time I heard the phrase “creating community ” in the programs in the dorms. As a student and resident assistant, I went through trainings, discussions, and experiences that led me to work to create a community where we talked about everything. The programs and current events on campus also taught me about social constructs and the privilege I had, and the realities faced by students of color. There were many ways to get involved in activism because we were centered around this campus base in close proximity, had time between classes, and because this was in the spirit and atmosphere of the university. These are things I wish to re-create. The shared learning, cooperation, and action that is inherently part of a space.
In environmental classes, I kept reading about the glittering places in Davis and other parts of California, the places that were the leaders in sustainable living. It was the place to be. After college I moved to Long Beach with my husband, and quickly fell in love with the landscapes, the problems, and the people who were dedicating their lives to solving those problems. I met many inspiring leaders of nonprofits and felt lucky to work among them. After time that word “community” kept coming back to me, and by searching online I found Our Time Bank and others interested in living cooperatively as a means to help one another and change the place we live.