[Editor’s Note: In our latest column we revisit The JOBS Project, which is helping West Virginia coal miners learn about careers in renewable energy. Eric Mathis, executive director of this project, submitted the below to us from Rosa Esperanza González of Green For All, a national organization “working to build an inclusive green economy strong enough to lift people out of poverty.”]
Movement-building is a word I hear a lot. We need to be asking ourselves: what does it mean to be truly engaged in movement-building? How does this work look and feel?
Having the opportunity to collaborate with four of our Green For All Fellows to develop and present a panel workshop at the Good Jobs Green Jobs conference in DC provided a great opportunity to reflect on the nature of true movement-building.
Green For All Fellows, Eric Mathis, Zoe Hollomon, Selim Sandoval, and Sandra Yu, all work in very different parts of this country: Williamson, West Virginia; Buffalo, New York; Santa Fe, New Mexico; and Detroit, Michigan, respectively. Their constituents range from coal miners to Native American entrepreneurs and yet, they find themselves unified by a common vision and shared approach. Linked by a desire for economic and ecological sanity and a belief in bottom-up community development, these four local leaders are spreading the promise of a green economy that is for ALL Americans.
Movement-building is about identifying our common vision, while honoring our differing needs and interests as *essential* to that vision. Mathis & The Jobs Project in the heart of coal country teaches us that we cannot alienate coal-miners by vilifying the work they do to power the majority of this country. He shares the model they are building in West Virginia to address unemployment by diversifying the economy through the introduction of renewable energy and doing so in a way that honors the heritage and contributions of his constituents.
Meanwhile, Sandoval & Monica Niess of the Write Choice Network are working with Native communities whose health has been adversely affected by coal and uranium mining to build the infrastructure for a health and wellness village model of community development.
In the past, Mathis and Sandoval may have stood on opposite sides of the line, while today (connected within the Green For All network) they transcend divisions and find ways to support each other’s efforts and exchange best practices. The coalfields are in just as much need of health clinics as Native reservations are in need of economic opportunities generated by renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal. Movement-building is about intersecting circles.
And these circles are exciting and dynamic spaces. Intersecting circles generate critical dialogue, giving leaders like Hollomon & Yu the opportunity to help us expand our definitions and build non-traditional alliances.
Yu works with Detroiters Working for Environmental Justice, a group that has been at the forefront of the EJ movement and now serves as one of the best green jobs training programs in the country. Through the voice of leaders like Yu, DWEJ is showing us that for cities like Detroit green jobs need to be defined more broadly to include critical work like brownfield remediation and other toxic waste clean-up. She challenges us to think about how we can create more employment opportunities by partnering with labor unions and large contractors.
With a very different approach and from within a distinct sector of the green economy, Hollomon of the Massachusetts Avenue Project inspires us to think about youth workforce development with passion and creativity. She shares with us the Growing Green model of youth-led entrepreneurship that addresses food insecurity, builds real leaders/policy advocates and even involves skills in bio-mimicry!
Through their work together within the national Green For All network, local leaders like Eric, Sandra, Zoe, and Selim, are showing us that movement-building is about building cross-sector alliances, making local innovations replicable across the country and expanding our collective notion of what is possible.