Inspired and Making Change Happen Block by Block

Authors: Tanya Fields | Green For All Academy Fellow Candidate I feel blessed to be surrounded by brilliant and motivated people, both personally and professionally. One of those people is Janae Shields, a Green For All Academy Fellow. She is one of the most honest and straightforward people I know. One day, Janae said to me very matter-of-factly,"I nominated you for a Green For All fellowship. Someone named Rosa might be getting in touch with you soon. If you don't want to do it you don't have to, but I thought it would be good for you," and then ran off. I laughed nervously. I had no idea what this fellowship entailed and I was already stretched way too thin. Four babies, upcoming nuptials, one part-time job and the incorporation of my own social enterprise equal one extremely busy woman. Not to mention that I had reservations about Green For All–I had heard of the name, but I didn't really know what the organization did. I had an idea, but I didn't know. Were they creating jobs? Were they giving out money to create businesses? Were they drafting new legislation for this thing called Green Jobs? I wasn't so sure. I had yet to gauge the scope or importance of Green For All as an organization. However, Janae assured me that this would be a great opportunity to leverage an organization like mine, progressive and in its infancy. Also, there was a stipend. Not so bad... As promised, in about two months I received a phone call from an extremely friendly and well-spoken woman, Rosa. I was invited to become a candidate and had to commit to attending a four-day orientation in Oakland. I started to get good energy, not just from Rosa (who exudes positive energy), but also from the program itself. Since I first became involved in the social justice movement, I've known that there was a strong, progressive and revolutionary movement in Oakland. I wanted to establish a connection. Also, many of the preliminary materials that I received forced me to work out my vision. Who would be my partners? What is my larger vision? How would this work contribute to a Green Collar Economy? These were questions I knew in my heart, but hadn't yet fully answered. This opportunity came right on time. I had recently taken the plunge into full-time self-employment, and was more than nervous about how to make sure that my organization becomes an institution that is part of a larger movement and reflects the needs of the most marginalized people. How do we turn the tide away from more government assistance (and manipulation), and towards self-empowerment and careers with dignity? How do we make sure that these careers also pay homage to our planet and our ancestors who possessed a strong connection with the land? And how do I do this both efficiently and strategically? Even before I stepped foot in a workshop, Green for All was giving me the tools I needed to figure out the answers to these questions. They made sure I was properly informed and making the connections between climate change, environmental injustice and economic disinvestment. I was presented with real, verifiable facts and literature validating what I already knew. This was not through some stodgy, scientific lens, but through one that was progressive, balanced and transformative. On November 3rd, 2010, I boarded a plane headed for San Francisco. I was geeked up to be part of a movement, and the orientation surely did not disappoint. This was the most dynamic group of people I had ever been among. I was struck by how many of them were people of color, doing this work across all spectrums, from so many different walks of life and from all over the country. I was also struck by how many of them lacked pretense. All too often I find myself in a room of mostly well-educated—usually white—well-intentioned hipsters who can literally "afford" to be revolutionary. In contrast, these folks possessed deeply personal and meaningful narratives of why and how they came to do this work. No matter how varied their stories, that they were personal and genuine resonated with me. It was here, with these people, that I was able to draw my most recent inspiration. We cried together, partied together, debated hotly together, and most importantly, created an organic network of colleagues and friendships. During the four-day orientation with Green For All, we utilized tools such as workshops, seminars, trainings, panels and breakout sessions to create or expand campaigns that would tie into the larger mission: creating an inclusive and liberating Green Collar Economy. It was at the orientation that I was exposed to information, collated and sorted, that helped me to commit and strategize the BLK ProjeK's green business incubator training program. This program will train and prepare women to enter the workforce. Moreover, it will create cooperative sustainable businesses with a strong concentration on food system enterprises, with the intention of helping promote food sovereignty in disenfranchised hoods. I am certain that without the experience at the training, I would not now have the confidence necessary to commit to such a large undertaking. Possibly, the more nuanced tools that I gained are the feelings of confidence, capability and support to create such an initiative. Not only did I receive printed and digital materials, establish a new network of colleagues, and gain support from a well-established and funded organization, but also I was overwhelmed with the feeling of renewal, rejuvenation and pride to be part of a strategic national movement. And after only four days of orientation, I was anxious to see what the next eight months would bring. I realize that at the end of my term of service, I will not have reached a destination. Instead, I will have completed an extremely important component of a life-long journey. For that opportunity I am eternally grateful. Read Tanya Fields's bio »

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