Our Voices United: Boston Youth-Led Rally

This year, the ACE Action Fellows in Boston explored the issues surrounding climate justice, and we decided to pursue the goal of achieving commitments to 100% Renewable Energy from the City of Boston and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. As we delved into this campaign, we’ve had the opportunity to meet so many amazing people—from frontline communities to the high ranks of state government.

The peak action of our campaign—our big hurrah—was a youth-led rally, march and lobby action for 100% Renewable Energy on April 19. The fellows worked hard for months leading up to this one day. We collected over 500 signatures on a petition that demonstrates the fact that the younger generation wants an energy infrastructure that is safe, clean, affordable, and renewable. By gathering these signatures, the Fellows spurred many conversations about a just transition to clean energy in the halls of their high schools—turning the abstract concepts of climate change and environmental injustice into understandable issues with feasible solutions.

In order to meet the challenges of our world’s most pressing issues, we have to be able to listen to every side of the story—especially to those who are most at risk.

We met with City Councillor Matt O’Malley, who, at the end of our meeting, graciously agreed to speak at our rally. Further along the road to the rally, State Rep Mike Connolly reached out to us. As a co-sponsor of the bill to commit Massachusetts to 100% Renewables, he wanted to speak at our rally, too. As the date of the rally approached, the Fellows recruited friends and classmates from school and other organizations and worked on the logistics of the rally. Everything was falling into place!

And so, on a breezy April afternoon, the rally commenced at City Hall Plaza. With fun music, high energy, and loud voices, we kicked off the day. I had the opportunity to take on the role as emcee and chant leader. Although I was nervous, speaking out for 100% Renewable Energy is truly important to me, and with that passion, I overcame the anxiety and managed to introduce our numerous speakers.

We heard speeches from Action Fellows Kelcey Montimes, Daniel Abdullah, ACE Alum Noah Kopf, and Councillor O’Malley. Kelcey delivered a powerful, moving speech on environmental injustice and the disparity of pollution within low-income, minority-majority communities. Noah delved into the power of community activism and organization—providing a message of hope and strength for the younger generation to take charge in the fight for climate justice. Daniel presented a well-researched and beautifully worded speech on what a 100% Renewable City of Boston and State of Massachusetts would look like. He talked about all of the major cities in the US that have already moved forward in the transition and the benefits of job creation and health protection.

For the most part, these speeches surrounded and intertwined three main concepts: job creation, public health, and racial justice—all in the aura of the climate movement.

City Councillor Matt O’Malley topped off these speeches with a huge appreciation for youth activism. He even expressed his belief that a transition towards 100% Renewables must happen and needs to happen in Massachusetts.

When it comes to climate change, communities on the front lines right now and youth will be most affected...

Next, our rally-goers took part in a mass phone call on the spot, where students called Boston’s city councilors and Mayor Marty Walsh, demanding a transition to 100% renewables. Our supporters made eighty phone calls! Feeling excited and empowered, we began our march to the Massachusetts State House with our megaphone turned up loud. We turned the heads of bustling commuters as we chanted for climate justice: “Hey Hey! Ho Ho! Fossil Fuels Have Got to Go!”

Once we reached the State House, BC High senior and ACE Alum Patrick Walsh spoke about why he remains committed to fighting for climate justice and that we must demand this same commitment from those who represent us in government. Then State Rep Mike Connolly took to the steps and spoke about the power we have as youth to truly make a change in our local government. He urged us to “Pursue, pursue, pursue!” and to not give up no matter who tries to write you off as just a kid.

Our action was not done until we split up into teams and did a petition drop to every office in the State House. We met with representatives, senators, legislative aids, and many others and made our case for a bill that would commit Massachusetts to 100% Renewable Energy. (About one-quarter of the State House has already co-sponsored the bill.)

By the end of the day, my hopes were renewed! I see glimmers of hope for Massachusetts’ future. Our state has been a leader on so many issues and it would be fitting for us to continue to lead by committing to 100% renewable energy. I believe that the youth voice made a difference that day. No matter how old we are, we are all human beings and all our voices should be listened to. Our universal connection as humans is what binds us all together. In order to meet the challenges of our world’s most pressing issues, we have to be able to listen to every side of the story—especially to those who are most at risk. When it comes to climate change, communities on the front lines right now and youth will be most affected so we must take collective action and make our voices heard!

 

Timothy Irish

Tim Irish is a 2016-2017 Action Fellow in the Greater Boston Area. He attends Boston College High School.