This blog post is a part of a new series I am doing for our newsletter and blog, titled "Member Minute." This series features a member of 350 Mass in our newsletter on the last week of every month, and it is meant to showcase the faces of the climate justice movement and help members of 350 Mass get to know each other better. Snippets of this interview can be found in our 6/27 Climate Weekly.
- Rita Dai
Name: Judith Black
Node / Working Group: North Shore Node, Communications WG, Climate Courage, have been working on Charter, and retired from SST
What is your role in 350 Mass?: Citizen
About how long have you been involved?: 8-9 years
What is your favorite memory while being a part of the climate movement?
OMG, there are so many.
Was point-person on a sizable action aimed at the North Shore Chamber of Commerce. They have an annual ‘Clean Energy’ breakfast at the rather large Danver’s Yacht Club. I had joined the organization 6 months prior to try and influence them to include authentic energy transition voices and not the usual greenwashing presentations of Enbridge and National Grid (both donors to the event). No luck or logic could move them. They did invite someone from the state who canceled at the last minute.
We created informational sheets for Chamber members, 5 of our team signed up and paid to attend and planned very pointed questions, and a large stand-out (mid-winter, so we had to show up the day before and shovel ice walls back so there would be room for everyone on the sides of the street!) was organized for where folks would drive away from the event. This was a North Shore Node-initiated action, but the collaborations were fabulous and essential. Roger Rosen brought a team of singers. Eileen Ryan, from Beyond Plastics, came in her trademark original costuming. Nathan Phillips, BU Professor and consummate activist, addressed the outdoor rally. Folks from the North Shore UU Alliance came.
The week before it was to occur, the Chamber decided that it should be a ‘members only’ event, and 4 people were reimbursed. Into the lion's den alone, I quietly placed the info. sheets on each table and chatted with other members. The presentations were exactly what you would expect with complete focus on capturing and using methane from farms and landfills, and the joys of Green Hydrogen. Even though the ED was hissing my ear the entire time I asked my question, it spurred other Chamber members to question the wisdom of hydrogen and ask about why solar was not being promoted.
The best moment came when the event ended and I walked the long driveway to join our sizable cohort with signs, songs, and chants about authentically clean energy, and was greeted on that journey by chants of welcome. Yes, we do this work, because we must, but the kindness, collaboration, and partnership we show one another creates community. There was no Chamber member leaving their event who could have missed our message and the energy that propelled it.
How/why did you first get involved with the movement?
Realizing that the climate crisis was something that can’t be effectively addressed by only hanging your clothes and using mass transit, I looked for a group to function with that felt ‘just right.’ There were many to choose from, with well intentioned folks in all of them. However, from the Sierra Club to Environment Massachusetts, they were all top down, looking for foot soldiers to help carry through policy determined by leadership. Then I walked into a 350 Mass North Shore Node meeting. BINGO It was well organized, but there was more than room, an actual welcome for each member to develop policies, actions, ideas, and collaborate in their development and expression. I was home.
What is something you’ve learned that you would tell a newcomer to the movement?
There is an old saying: The longer you live anywhere, the more you see the dirt. No organization is perfect, because we are all humans with egos and traumas and needs. It is too easy to think you are stepping into nirvana, and then be destroyed by the first crack in your image, only to walk away. No organization will ever be good enough. My humble advice: plant your feet where they feel at home and let your roots settle in. Nothing is perfect, but work in the soil you’re grounded in towards your goals with some kindness. Some days you will flourish in sunshine, and some will be weathering brutal storms. It’s your ground. Stay there and keep working, because chances are, no other soil is any better or worse.
What are your hopes for the future of 350 Mass and climate organizing?
That we are able to influence policy and behavior to maintain some level of a livable climate. When you envision a thriving community, what do you see?
What is something you love about your community?
We have grown to care about one another in very three-dimensional ways. Jim and Rob helped me build a garden wall. Joy picked me up at a Boston hospital after surgery. Amanda organizes theater nights for some of us. Maria offers wisdom from a lifetime of nursing. Nick helps folks with computer woos. Could go on and on and on…
What is a book that you would recommend to everyone and why?
Ministry For the Future by Kim Stanley Robinson -- A sci-fi writer, this is so close to where we are it is eerie. He begins in deep climate despair, but through remarkably creative semi-fiction creates a world that functions in full climate sanity.
What is your favorite food to make for others?
At this moment, strawberry pies, sourced from my garden berries. The mother load! Love to use all the wonderful veggies and fruits that I plant and nurture, and weed around, and sing to and eventually eat. Ouch, I sound like a cannibal!
In a more just world, what do you see yourself doing?
What I used to do full time; creating and telling stories about our lives.
If you would like to be featured on "Member Minute," please contact Rita through email at [email protected].
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