Travel Log: Growing OPAL’s National Base

Picture of Vivian at a podium by a microphone.An important part of our work in movement-building is strengthening and supporting our relationships to allies across the country. Recently, Deputy Director Vivian Satterfield went on a two-leg trip across the US to do just that.

In mid-April, Vivian first traveled to Chicago for the PolicyLink Equity Summit, where she had the opportunity to join a Portland delegation assembled by the Portland African American Leadership Forum. Overall the summit had more than 4000 people in attendance, a huge national gathering of policymakers, organizers, and experts in the issues in their communities. “Our delegation is one of 11 representing cities in the All-In Anti-Displacement network,” Vivian says. “The cities are receiving targeted technical assistance from PolicyLink and network support to address displacement in our communities.”

The summit included multiple “tracks” for different intersecting issues such as transportation and transit justice, housing, food security, and climate justice & climate change. “Because it’s PolicyLink, they of course also covered how to be effective in policy spaces,” Vivian says. “I enjoyed format of the panels I went to, and the workshops. They created workshops and places for sharing information and self-organizing. I found those spaces and different formats really valuable.”

The background of Chicago, where Vivian was born and raised, and the many people brought together, created, “a high energy setting rooted in Chicago’s unique history, where some dynamic, radical organizing is happening on the frontlines of many of the issues being explored by the Summit. I wasn’t able to take part in a lot of the local tours,” Vivian says, “but [as a Chicagoan] I encouraged my delegation members to get out of downtown to explore the neighborhoods and learn the history for the few days we were there.”

Asked about key takeaways from the Summit, Vivian remarks: “I’m looking forward to the work ahead. It will be difficult. The Portland delegation has reps from institutional partners Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability, Prosper Portland (the Portland Development Commission), Portland Housing Bureau, and the Mayor’s office, Portland State University, as well as our partners and comrades at the Community Alliance of Tenants and Portland African American Leadership Forum. We’ll be continuing to learn from our collaboration with PolicyLink to envision and fight for the anti-displacement policies we can move to keep our communities stably housed, with housing choices for all races and incomes. We can not let up in the fight for more and better.”

After four days in Chicago, Vivian boarded a plane for Miami at the invitation of the Climate and Energy Funders Group.

“One interesting illustration of the times we are in was leaving Chicago at 5am in a winter coat, because we had a freak snowstorm, and stepping off in Miami in mere hours and changing into sandals and skirt. Both communities experience our rapidly changing climate.”

Vivian enjoyed the company of philanthropists strategizing how to invest their resources in the people, organizations, and communities most impacted by climate change. “It’s all of us, obviously.” Vivian says. “But those most directly impacted and the frontlines of this crisis are low income people, people of color, whether rural, urban, or in tribal communities.”

Because of the short time frame, Vivian didn’t explore Miami much, but hopes to build connections to Catalyst Miami, an Environmental Justice organization in Miami whose base of supporters and programming align with OPAL. “Catalyst and OPAL are both funded partners in the Kresge Foundation’s Climate Resilience and Urban Opportunity cohort,” Vivian says. “Adapting to and mitigating climate change requires strong relationships, and we know we have much to learn from national partners in this work.”

This was a single day engagement but deepened our relationships with climate justice movement leaders. Vivian connected with Anthony Giancatarino, Just Transition Fellow from the Movement Strategy Center; Jessica Azulay, Program Director at AGREE – Alliance for a Green EconomyAdam Mason from the Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement; and Dwayne Patterson at Partnership for Southern Equity.

“Those are just a few of the people I connected with,” Vivian says. “With so many inspiring and important people in one place, there are always missed opportunities to build relationships. But all those I did meet inspired me.”

Vivian participated in a panel where she answered questions like “What does energy democracy mean to our community?” and heard examples from Georgia, Iowa, and New York. These are disparate places in far flung regions but panelists all connected a common thread: community decision-making, meaningful involvement, and having control over the means of energy production.

“Opportunities like these two events remind us of the interconnectedness of our work and communities. They highlight how we cannot work in silos,” Vivian concludes. “To achieve equity and true justice, we have to take the time to build relationships.”

Posted in Against Enclosure of Wealth and Power, Against Extraction, Against White Supremacy, Climate Justice, Coalition Building, Housing Justice, Invest in the Good, Just Transitions, Policy Advocacy, Transit Justice.