On Saturday, October 24, 2015, ACE Action Fellows in North Carolina joined with our partner, North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, for the Power Up NC DIY Block Party for local residents in Southeast Raleigh.
In October, I was lucky enough to be able to participate in a Power Up NC DIY Block Party, a campaign devoted to energy justice in North Carolina, organized by the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters. The idea behind a DIY Block Party is to bring the community together and help people learn more about climate change, energy justice, and what they can do as individuals and a community to try and effect positive change. My North Carolina ACE Action Fellowship program helped organize and run stations at the Block Party in Southeast Raleigh, along with community volunteers and other partner organizations.
The event itself was a lot of fun. Food and music added to a celebratory atmosphere. I arrived with the other ACE Fellows (and a variety of homemade signs), met volunteers from Power Up NC, and helped setup for the Block Party in a local park. We were all really excited, as this was our first major event as a Fellowship, and the first time we got to really go out and meet people in the larger community.
Energy injustice is a huge problem in North Carolina, and the Block Party helped a lot of people see that it’s not just their problem; everyone is affected.
We’d barely finished setting everything up when the first people began to arrive. I spent the first couple hours with another ACE Fellow at a station where we helped people figure out how to keep their appliances as energy efficient as possible. We also had a number of coloring sheets for the younger kids at the event, and our station quickly drew a large crowd of kids. The kids were great; you’ve never seen a more enthusiastic, cheerful and creative group of kids, much to the delight of my fellow Action Fellow, Maya Rabins. Later in the day, I helped fill a vacancy at a station helping people construct reusable air filters for their air conditioning systems.
A large part of the event was focused on helping people save money on energy bills. Power Up NC was offering home energy audits to help people figure out how to save money, in addition to teaching people how to weatherize their own homes and giving out reusable HVAC filters. The event also featured a graffiti wall where people could write anything they wanted to say about how energy inequality affects them. Energy prices in North Carolina are incredibly high, and the energy bill for a lower or lower-middle income household takes up a genuinely massive proportion of available household income. Quite a few people were justifiably upset by this, which they made very clear in their messages on the graffiti wall. Energy injustice is a huge problem in North Carolina, and the Block Party helped a lot of people see that it’s not just their problem; everyone is affected.
The DIY Block Party was a great success. Dozens of families crowded into the small park where we had everything set up, and we were able to network with everyone who came. It was a true pleasure to speak with the wonderful and engaging people who gave their time to gain a better sense of what they can do to make things better for themselves and their community. The event is best summed up in my mind by a conversation I had with a father of two young sons. By the end of our conversation he knew the issues we’d been discussing better than I did, and he left determined not to pay a single cent more than he had to on his energy bills. By partnering with determined and engaged people like him, I really believe that we can make incredible progress in securing energy and climate justice for people all over the world.