About 75 people participated in the two-day assembly, starting off with a protest on Pickett Bridge, named after George Pickett, a general of the Confederate Army who lived in Bellingham for a period of time, and who played a role in keeping indigenous people off their land.
Participants were introduced to the term Just Transition, and were split into three tracks (food sovereignty, criminalization, and false solutions) to make the connections between Just Transition and their work.
Farmworkers are at the forefront of the fights around food sovereignty—from the use of pesticides that are used, to workers conditions to where and how the food is distributed. Alicia is a 16-year old farmworker. She helps to take care of her younger siblings and her wages supplement her mother’s income, also from farmworking. She started out in the fields with her mother when she was eleven years old. Even though she is a child, she is forced to meet the same quotas as the adults, having been told that her age didn’t matter. While Alicia has the desire to do things that other 16-year olds do, she has also become a leader in the farmworker union, an elected body made up of other farmworkers who are fighting the Sakuma Brothers company. They supply the berries that are packaged as Driscoll’s berries, and sold to companies like CostCo, Haagan Daz, and Whole Foods. The farmworkers union has been in a protracted struggle over the right to unionize, and have won victories around having break times (http://boycottsakumaberries.com/). In the context of Just Transition, farmworkers are at the frontlines around food sovereignty and how we relate to the land, how we produce food for what we need to survive and thrive, and how we value work.
Both in Bellingham and Seattle, racist policing has been a practice that began with keeping indigenous people off their land, through targeted stops of Black and brown people, and immigration enforcement of farmworkers at all times. During the assembly, C2C director Rosalinda Guillen met with the mayor of Bellingham to tell him predictive policing is a form of profiling and does not work for the community. From structural and institutional racism like the naming of Pickett bridge to every day microagressions about who belongs and who doesn’t belong in the region, the experience that people of color have experienced in the Pacific Northwest is very much a part of the legacy of racism in the United States, and needs to be recognized in any conversations around Just Transition. The participants in the assembly spoke about a world without borders, where indigenous soverignty and land rights are recognized, and where Black and Brown people can live their lives the way they want to.
Together, Community to Community and Got Green? are part of a state-wide effort, Communities of Color for Climate Justice, that are working to push back a proposal from Governor Inslee that includes cap and trade as a solution to regulate carbon emissions. The participants in the assembly learned from Alvina Wong of the Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN) about some of the lessons coming out of the fights in California around the same issues, what some of the challenges were. The community in Bellingham and Seattle are determined to continue to fight against these kinds of false solutions even as other organizations have shifted to supporting them. A Just Transition away from false solutions would prioritize repairing the damage that's been done to the Earth, and would think about local and regional economies.
Other highlights from the assembly:
- Welcome to the land by Darrell Hillaire, a leader of the Lummi Nation. He shared that the land we were on that day, belonged to his grandfather, whose house was burned by colonial settlers, and that the Lummi people are still connected to this land despite being forced to move.
- Lessons from Brandon King with Cooperation Jackson, on the best practices in building economic democracy in Jackson, MS. Brandon shared the context of the Jackson-Kush plan, and how they are incubating their own cooperatives that are regenerative and self-sustaining.
Coming out of this assembly, we are more clear that a Just Transition in the Pacific Northwest connects the rural and the urban, understands that the liberation of women farmworkers is tied to how they think about family and community, makes connections between economic and immigration policies, takes action around policing and state violence in all its forms, and prioritizes the voices and leadership of indigenous peoples connected to that land.
See photos from the assembly here: