Where We Are From
By Sadie Lawrence
Where We Are From
By Sadie Lawrence
We are from the dirt
A small seed
That has grown
From the earth
To a magnificent, towering oak
We are from the ashes
A fiery phoenix
That has risen
From the remains
To emerge burning and powerful
We are from the clouds
A thundering storm
That has formed
From electrical charge
To rain down strength and beauty
We are from the ground
A pounding river
That has washed away doubts
From the bank of our past
To flow clean and clear on the path to the future
It is my belief that we are all made from the same stuff. We are formed from the stardust leftover from when the universe erupted into existence. And we are all humans. We all want the best for ourselves and our children, our future.
Since I joined KSEC last semester, I have felt increasingly empowered to make my small part of the universe heard. I organized an art gallery last semester revolving around the theme “Problems and Solutions in the Community.” I also helped plan a Determination Rally with the Young Earth Activists Club at my high school advocating against the pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement. And now I am working with KSEC’s Political Working Group to plan the Rise Up Kentucky Rally on February 12th in Frankfort.
This rally is all about making youth’s voices heard. We may be from fewer years, but that doesn’t mean we don’t care about the looming future. In fact, I’ve heard from many of my peers and from personal experience that the future gives many young people a lot of anxiety. We’re not sure what to do next. We ask which stepping stone will be the most stable and sturdy? What will happen if we choose the wrong one?
When I am unsure about the next step to take, it’s easy to shut down and try to take comfort in knowing someone else could always fill my place. There are always other people with more passion and more knowledge. “It won’t matter what I do anyway. I’m just one person in a world of 7 billion.”
But the thing is, every single person counts. Every single person’s stardust is needed to make up the universe. Without it, the world we live in would be very different. Right now, this generation and those to come are being threatened by a changing climate, air and water pollution, and an economy that extracts our wealth and our health.
For me, KSEC gave me a way to combat that anxiety and gave me actions I can take to address the problems at hand. I have ways to contribute and ways to show people that I am not apathetic about my future. This is one of the goals of the upcoming Rise Up Kentucky Rally: to learn new tactics to resist threats. We are showing that KSEC has enabled youth in the past. That we have empowered young people before, and we are continuing to now. That our fight for the future won’t stop. And that there are ways for our stardust to shine in a darkening world.
By Cara Cooper, KSEC Statewide Organizer
It feels like I’ve been holding my breath a little bit since the 2016 election results. What will happen next? Where will the next threat hit us? It seems like there is no shortage of things happening to make me feel enraged. To be honest it’s been hard to keep up. The problem is that I can’t just become numb- decision makers need to hear from us. Often they only hear from paid lobbyists on the issues that impact us and even just mobilizing a few calls or letters can make a huge difference. We saw this earlier this year when KSEC and other solar advocates mobilized enough calls to Senator Carpenter that he pulled his bad solar bill off the docket. It can and has been done.
And on top of that I know that is on our generation to step up and shape our vision for a just and sustainable Kentucky because we are inheriting the responsibility of protecting our communities and natural resources for our future and the future generations. We can’t let ourselves get overwhelmed or to give in to the feeling of powerlessness. The only way that we are going to win is if we stand together and show that we are powerful and united across the state.
My face when I'm scrolling through all the bad news
That is why we need a rapid response network.
What if we had an easy way to identify the issues that we can have the most impact on, educate our friends about these issues across the state and mobilize dozens (or many, many more) responses as soon as a new threat arises? Now we can.
Our new Rapid Response Network (RRN) is a peer-to-peer texting network that will allow us to connect with members across the state who have agreed to take action when we need it most. We’re partnering with watchdog organizations in Kentucky to quickly learn about new issues as they pop up and recruiting a team of texters and responders to get the word out and to take quick, strategic action. With the RRN we can mobilize quickly to show our unity and power like never before.
What does the RRN look like?
Basically, watchdog organizations will alert a Rapid Response Network INITIATOR who will craft the action alert, gather resources and notify TEXTERS. Then our TEXTERS will send action alert text messages to our RESPONDERS using a peer-to-peer texting app called Relay and RESPONDERS will jump into action (anything ranging from making a phone call to the governor to submitting a letter to the editor to your local paper, to planning or attending a local vigil or rally). Don’t worry, TEXTERS will be there to support our RESPONDERS with resources and tools to make it easy. Read more about the roles here.
When we work together and mobilize simultaneously across the state there is no doubt in my mind that we will blow the minds of our legislators and other decision makers with our coordination and power. We might not be able to stop every new threat to our environment but we sure as hell can make our voices heard. #ForOurFuture
In order for this plan to be successful we need committed people to sign up and for everyone to take action. You can sign up to be an INITIATOR, TEXTER or RESPONDER and someone will follow up with you to answer any questions you have before getting started. The actions we take (or don’t) really matter right now.
Help us show that our generation is not apathetic and be a part of a real, tangible way to get your voice heard. Sign up now!
By KSEC Staff
Just talking about our vision for the new economy is not enough, we’ve got to get to work building it. That’s what the Solutions Summit is about. Getting connected and learning how to be active in the just transition. Whether you’re interested in starting a small business, learn to be an advocate for initiatives in your community or just want to feel connected to other young people who can envision something better, the Solutions Summit has something for you (especially if you’re between the ages of 14-30!). Check out this line-up!
Friday night we’ll kick off the evening around 6pm at the Benham Schoolhouse Inn (out of towners-we’ve got you covered with rooms, just make sure you register) and we’ll get to know each other a little bit over dinner. We’ll wind down the evening making some collective art and have some late night options for our night owls.
Saturday will be jam packed with learning and meeting awesome people who are already doing the work to build a new local economy in East Kentucky. We’ll start the day exploring what it means for an economic transition to be just and what we want to see for the economy of our communities. In KSEC we define a just transition as a transition to an economy that is good for workers, keeps wealth in our communities, and protects our natural resources. From there we’ll have an awesome keynote speaker and a panel highlighting several community members working towards diversifying the economy through local food, finance, and small business. After lunch we’ll have some workshops to help you learn more about how to build grassroots power (Grassroots Power Building 101 and The RECLAIM Act) or how to build the new economy (Worker Owned Cooperatives and Small Business Support). We’ll come back together over dinner and then enjoy the music of The Woodsheep.
Sunday will be a little slower paced with a couple of options for the morning to check out some cool things happening locally in Harlan County or to watch some of great videos produced by young people through the Appalachian Media Institute. Then we’ll come back together for a chance to wrap up the weekend, exchange contact information with our new friends and talk about how we can support each other in staying involved in the growing just transition movement. We’ll close out the weekend with a final meal together and head home to get to work!
By Cameron Baller: UK Greenthumb, Just Transition Working Group Steering Committee, Pipelines and Natural Gas Working Group
The 2016 presidential election threw every federal agency for a spin, few more so than the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). A little known agency, the FERC is responsible for regulating nuclear energy and oil and gas pipeline infrastructure, among other things. After Donald Trump was elected, members of the FERC leadership quit abruptly, leaving the agency without enough administrators to make decisions. They had been stuck in limbo, stalling all new regulations and decisions about pipelines. This purgatory is where the Kinder Morgan Pipeline project has been for the past few months… but no longer. This dangerous pipeline project is lurking under our radar and it is critical that we prepare now so that we can stop it in its tracks. Read on for more information and to learn how to join us in stopping this pipeline.
Not Kentucky’s First Rodeo
There is a storied legacy of companies trying to snake dangerous pipeline infrastructure through Kentucky. In 2013, the Williams and Boardwalk Pipeline Partners proposed the Bluegrass Pipeline. In an effort to intimidate landowners into selling their land for the construction of the pipeline, the company told landowners that it would use eminent domain to take their land for the project, which would be a bad financial deal for the landowners. A broad array of constituents came together, including landowners, advocacy groups, policymakers, and even a group of singing nuns to fight the project. Several landowners formed a blockade, refusing to sell their land to the pipeline company, while other allies pursued legal action. In 2015, the Kentucky court system determined that the Bluegrass Pipeline could not use eminent domain to seize land for the project, functionally stopping the pipeline.
The court ruling hinged on a key fact: the pipeline was carrying natural gas liquids (NGLs) and NOT natural gas. NGLs are not methane and are not used primarily for energy. They are co-products that are obtained, along with methane, from the natural gas extraction process. Rather than being used for heat and power, they are used as inputs for plastics and chemical manufacturing. This distinction was critical in the court’s eminent domain decision. Another important distinction between NGLs and natural gas is that NGLs vaporize and, because of their relative weight, displace the air. In simple terms, this means that when an NGL pipeline leaks, the vapors could suffocate anyone and everyone within the leak area.
A New Pipeline Waiting to Strike
Not long after the Bluegrass Pipeline was defeated, Kinder Morgan began exploring their own NGL pipeline project. This time, the dangers are even more severe. The Tennessee Gas Pipeline is owned by a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan and has carried actual natural gas from South to North for over 70 years. Now, Kinder Morgan hopes to “abandon” this pipeline (to do so, it must first get the approval from the FERC) and then sell the pipeline to another one of its subsidiaries, the Utica-Marcellus Texas Pipeline (UMTP). UMTP would re-purpose the pipeline, flip the flow so that it goes from North to South, and send NGLs along the pipeline instead of natural gas.
There are a few important reasons this project is even more dangerous than the Bluegrass Pipeline. The existing pipeline is more than 70 years old, therefore subject to the normal wear and tear that 70 years of use will bring, and no longer meets today’s pipeline construction safety standards. In an area with geology as dangerous as Kentucky’s infamous karst, where sinkholes gobble up several Corvettes at a time, it is terrifying to think that we are considering transporting dangerous NGLs by pipeline, let alone transporting them through a pipeline so old and out of standard. Furthermore, they are both flipping the flow of the pipeline and sending new materials down it, these are both stressors that the pipeline has not been subjected to and could present unpredictable problems and an increased risk of leaks. Finally, Kinder Morgan observed and learned from the Bluegrass Pipeline fight. In re-purposing an existing pipeline, they may be able to utilize the existing land easements, circumventing the need for eminent domain. These tactics go against the clear demands of Kentuckians and require new and creative strategies in response.
Re-organizing in the New Landscape
In August, the FERC regained quorum after Trump appointed new commissioners to the agency. Given the political leanings of these appointees, we should not be surprised when they approve Kinder Morgan’s request to “abandon-in-place,” functionally granting the company a blank check to do the re-purposing. As the official comment period is over, and the die seem to be cast in terms of the FERC, it seems like the most important action now would be to prepare for that announcement and get out ahead of it. The good news is we are not beginning from scratch. Organizations across Kentucky have been working on this issue since the beginning, including the Kentucky Resources Council (KRC), Kentucky Heartwood, Kentuckians for the Commonwealth (KFTC), the Kentucky Environmental Foundation, among others. However, organizing efforts have stalled as the FERC lost its ability to make decisions. It is essential that we now re-energize resistance efforts before it is too late.
With that goal in mind, the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition (KSEC) has created a new Pipelines and Natural Gas Working Group (PNWG), which is focused on stopping the Kinder Morgan Pipeline project. We plan to work with other state and campus organizations, local communities and government officials to create a multi-layered resistance effort sufficient to block the project. We cannot hope to tackle this issue alone. Following the lead of the Bluegrass Pipeline resistance movement, we hope be a part of creating a diverse resistance movement across the state that can demonstrate a unified voice against the pipeline. We are more powerful than Kinder Morgan, but only together. In the coming weeks and months, we will be reaching out to a variety of stakeholders and developing tactics that allow everyone to be a part of this resistance. For now, informing yourself on this issue and preparing to become a part of the response effort are critical. We will fight for our future and we will no longer be ignored.
By DeBraun Thomas, Take Back Cheapside
I have long been a student of history. I’ve always been fascinated by the way others have overcome obstacles I’ve never had to face. Learning how things came to be and what can come from experiences of the past has inspired me to continue researching and exploring history. Sometimes, the past can seem much farther away than it actually is and in a way, we can become desensitized to atrocities of the past. When it comes to the continued fight against oppression, our understanding of the present should be placed within the context of historical perspective. I was born on March 3rd 1989. George HW Bush was President of the United States and the country was entering yet another phase in history. I was born 126 years after the Emancipation Proclamation, 35 years after the murder of Emmett Till and the decision of Brown v. Board of Education, 24 years after the passing of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, 21 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., 20 years after the assassination of Fred Hampton and 20 years after Apollo 11. Yes, you read that correctly, I was born only 20 years after the moon landing. I am the great grandson of a slave and I’m only 28 years old.
I moved from Menlo Park, California to Lexington in 2008 to attend the University of Kentucky. As I met more people from the city and my social circles bubbled outside of the university, I started learning about Lexington’s history. While much of Lexington’s landscape has changed, many things considered “tradition” have stayed the same. One of the many places in Lexington that has not changed very much is the space downtown known as Cheapside. Since the inception of the city in 1782, the space has been used as a marketplace. To clear up any misconceptions, the name Cheapside comes from Old English. Ceap in Old English means “to buy” and side means “place,” therefore the name literally means marketplace. Between 1830 and 1865, Cheapside was home to the second largest slave auction site in the country. In 1887, 22 years after the Civil War ended, a statue was erected of John C. Breckinridge, Secretary of War for the Confederacy. In 1911, 46 years after the Civil War ended, there was a statue erected of John Hunt Morgan, a Confederate General. Both of these men defected to the Confederacy and both of them were slave owners who fought to uphold the institution of slavery. Their statues stood at Cheapside with no telling of history of the space as a slave market until 2003, when Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity placed a historical marker to memorialize the marketplace’s past.
After George Zimmerman was found not guilty in the murder trial of Trayvon Martin in 2013, a conversation about racial justice began sweeping across the nation. In 2015, this conversation descended to Lexington, causing many to look within their own community. Part of this conversation was around the statues still standing at Cheapside. That year, someone spray painted “Black Lives Matter” on the statue of John Hunt Morgan and the historical marker was knocked down and broken. This prompted Mayor Gray to request to the Urban County Arts Review Board (UCARB), a group of appointed individuals who discuss the placement and/or removal of art in public spaces, to give a recommendation on what to do with Cheapside. I attended two public discussions on the issue. The first was a town hall meeting at the Carnegie Center. In the room were members of the Klan and supporters of the Confederacy. The tension was high, but in that moment, I felt that the voices of the oppressed were actually being heard. The second meeting was held at City Hall in front the UCARB. I was the youngest person in the room except for the two little girls of a man who was adamant about keeping the statues for fear of the “erasure of history.”
In July of 2016, Philando Castile and Alton Sterling were both killed by police officers. Both murders were captured on video and in both cases each of these men were doing nothing to warrant losing their lives. I was angry and frustrated that, in 2016, these issues were still happening and that I found myself continuing to have to explain and justify the phrase “black lives matter” to individuals lacking in melanin. In death, Castile and Sterling inspired me to channel my anger and frustration into constructive action; the result was Take Back Cheapside, a movement to remove the two confederate statues from Cheapside Park and commemorate Lexington’s black history. I believe that we as people can have the most success fighting oppression by understanding each other’s individual struggles and by standing together. These values are at the heart of Take Back Cheapside.
This blog post was originally scheduled to go online on Monday, August 14th. All of those plans changed after the events in Charlottesville on August 12th. It is a day I will never forget and a day that changed my life. Many different people across the country came out to make statements about what had happened. I was struck with so much grief and I will never forget the name Heather Hyer the same way I will never forget Emmett Till. I was still trying to process all that happened when I got a phone call from someone in City Government who told me they had heard that the mayor of Lexington, Jim Gray, was going to announce plans to move the Confederate statues at Cheapside at the city council meeting that Tuesday. It was a bittersweet moment because it came on the heels of Charlottesville, but I found solace in the fact that we could move forward with this work in a way that had the support of city officials.
Once the mayor’s plan was made public, I immediately started planning for what was to come, well, and then I went and got a burrito (because eating is important). Later that evening Mayor Gray released a video statement on Facebook. All of the conversation up to this point had highlighted the statues and not the space itself. That’s why, after watching the video statement, I was relieved and confident that the mayor was moving forward with his efforts to relocate the statues for the right reason. Towards the end of the video, Mayor Gray said “the statues that stand on our old courthouse lawn today also stand on sacred ground, the Cheapside auction block” he then goes on to say “So let’s think about it, it’s just not right we would continue to honor these Confederate men who fought to preserve slavery on the same ground as men, women, and even children were once sold into a life of slavery. Relocating these statues and explaining them is the right thing to do.”
So, what do these recent events mean for the campaign? Well, we are very close to where we want to be, but still have a long way to go. The conversation about moving confederate monuments was thrust even more into the spotlight and in the same way people used their voices to try to silence us, many others in this city used theirs to join us. On August 17th, after hearing from members of the community for 3 hours, the city council voted unanimously to give the city 30 days to find a new location for the statues. Once they find a new location and confirm it, then the city can send their petition to the Kentucky Military & Heritage Commission. That commission meets in November and if they vote in our favor, the statues will be relocated.
My life has been extremely stressful since August 13th. I have received threats to my life, have needed to stay at other people’s homes, and everywhere I go, I am looking over my shoulder. While it puts a strain on every aspect of my life, it is a burden I’m willing to bear because others, like the 19th century abolitionists and 20th century civil rights leaders, did the same for me. So, that being said, I’d like for you to read the last few paragraphs of what I originally had written for this blog post (before Charlottesville) because the solidarity I wanted for this city was exemplified at the city council work session on August 15th and at the city council meeting on August 17th and has continued to be exhibited by all of the other organizing groups that have come to aide Take Back Cheapside. The room was overflowing with people, so much so that on Thursday, people were lined up outside the government building and were also watching the meeting at other businesses downtown. The police Chief the other day told me that it was the most people he’s seen at a city council meeting in his 30 years on the force. That is not just what democracy looks like, but what solidarity is.
Fred Hampton, a leader of the Illinois Chapter of the Black Panther Party, embodied solidarity and once said, “you don’t fight fire with fire, you fight fire with water. We’re gonna fight racism not with racism, but we’re gonna fight racism with solidarity.” Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines solidarity as “unity (as of a group or class) that produces or is based on community interests, objectives and standards.” Many of the people who pushed the Civil Rights Movement forward were young people, college students, friends and peers who stood together for something greater than themselves. In the annals of history, they are viewed as larger than life, but in reality, they were just everyday people. Fred Hampton was an ordinary college student who brought a much-needed spark the to the movement for his generation and now is the time we provide the spark for ours.
I am writing about the oppression of people of color on an environmental blog for the very definition of solidarity. The movements for racial justice and environmental protection are deeply connected. Every movement that struggles for justice, from the labor movement to the feminist movement and everything in between, is connected in their resistance of the same oppressive systems and power structures. Only when these movements stand together in solidarity will any of them truly win. I think that a quote from 1971 by Funkadelic speaks to this very ideal: “Freedom is being free of the need to be free.”
Take Back Cheapside is co-hosting a Panel On Solidarity with the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition to further explore how our respective movements for racial justice and environmental protection are connected and can stand together. I hope you’ll join us at the Carnegie Center on September 27 from 5:00 to 7:00 p.m. to learn more about Take Back Cheapside and Lexington’s forgotten history of people of color, the work KSEC is doing to build a just and environmentally sustainable Kentucky, the systems of oppression that connect our movements, and why it’s important that our two organizations support one another.
We hope to inspire others to work together in solidarity. Step up and be the change you wish to see in the world so that one day others can have a chance to be successful because you fought for them. We can work towards that day by standing together and by fighting every single day to give All Power To The People.
The Young Kentuckian is a blog of the Kentucky Student Environmental Coalition where youth share their work and ideas for Kentucky's bright future.
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