In the first week of August, I had the honor of assisting a small but powerful group of radical youth “artivists” who are working on an exciting collection of projects in collaboration with the Beehive Collective, Sustain Us, and Canticle Farm.
The California Allegory Youth Fellowship, or “Callegory,” is the beginning of a long-term project that will culminate in a new Beehive Collective graphics campaign. More on that project, and how another bee named Sakura and I helped to move it forward, below.
But the week I spent with 8 young frontline community organizers was part of a more immediate project addressing short-term goals while also serving as a warm-up for the bigger, more complex collaboration to follow. It was “Chapter 2” in a 4-part Youth Fellowship program, and consisted of a lot of ideation exercises and planning in preparation for a wide variety of multimedia art pieces that will recruit for, and spread important voices and messages during, San Francisco’s Global Climate Action Summit, September 12-14.
The state of California and Governor Jerry Brown are selling themselves as climate leaders, even as they prepare to expand fracking and other fossil fuel projects. In response, countless Californians are rising up and preparing a series of counter-summits, protests, and disruptions to demand that politicians walk their talk, and that they prioritize helping the communities that are negatively affected by fracking, refineries, and other destructive fossil fuel infrastructure. California, even more than most of the USA, is a tale of two societies – one swimming in liberal self-congratulation, conspicuous opulence, pretentious tech industry, and Hollywood fantasies, and the other drowning under waves of pollution, skyrocketing rents, willful neglect, health problems and drug addictions.
The Global Climate Action Summit is a bait-and-switch that claims to be moving toward a new energy paradigm while completely ignoring the root causes of the climate crisis – on the agenda are capitalistic non-solutions like cap-and-trade and other “investment opportunities” for global business leaders – do we really believe that the same people who got us into this mess are going to chart a healthy, empowering and equitable path toward a new world? Read about the Climate Summit and the planned counter-movements on the Rise Against Climate Capitalism website or in a great zine called Making Green a Threat Again, produced by Diablo Rising Tide.
The youth leaders that I met in Oakland are the ones who understand how and why we are in crisis, the ones who ought to be consulted for real solutions. This small group of brilliant, compassionate, collaborative, diverse youth are the ones who will deal with the consequences of climate change and extractive colonialism/capitalism for all of their lives, and I think that they are right to distrust the motives of self-proclaimed “climate leaders” (the summit organizers are celebrating the attendance of powerful influencers and creative problem-solvers such as Dave Matthews and Alec Baldwin – seriously?).
I will post updates about their projects just as soon as I hear more – I cant wait to share their work! Watch for more posts about collaborative music albums, photo essays, grassroots story collections, super-hero alter-egos, and even a prototype of the forthcoming Callegory graphic!
For now, I would like to share a little bit about the sessions that Sakura and I facilitated. The big photo at the top was the culmination of a multi-step ideation session.
We started with a BIG mind-mapping session – there were so many concepts and characters being shouted out in rapid succession, we were both writing as fast as we could and it was not even possible to capture it all in one photo!
We followed that by asking everyone to write down relevant stories that they knew, especially anything corresponding to the most central, most connected concepts on the mind-map. They wrote them all on sticky notes, and then we unveiled a rough proposed landscape for the Callegory graphic, something that we had drawn up the day before in response to a list of general themes that the organizers knew would need to be included. It approximated this first draft drawing, plus a few extra details that we missed in the first pass, except it was about twelve feet tall! Plenty of space for lots of stories, which was good, because all together they had many dozens of sticky notes!
For now, the team is working just as fast as they can to get their many artworks ready by September 8, the beginning of the week of action critiquing and disrupting the Climate Summit, and the beginning of “Chapter 3” of their Fellowship. I am excited to see their work, and I will be happy to share it. And then it will be on to another, bigger project – I just cant wait to see all the brilliant ideas that they create!
PS: While you are here, please allow me to make a plug for my Patreon campaign – please read, share, and contribute if you are able – thanks!!