The sun began to warm up the campgrounds on Day 2 of Sunrise Semester bootcamp, and we got right into digging into the big picture. On Day 1, we learned that fossil fuel executives and corrupt politicians have been blocking progress on climate action for over four decades, so it’s up to us to kick them out and take over. But what does that actually look like? How has big social and political change happened throughout history?
Climate change requires massive government action over decades of time. One of the key ways we can achieve that level of transformation and policy is through a “ dominant political alignment”, an array of socio-political forces that align around a common agenda for society and define the reigning political common sense. We discussed the two dominant alignments of the past 80 years of US history (the New Deal Alignment and the Reagan Alignment which we live under currently), and the role that racism has played in destroying the former and upholding the latter. Good news in all of this is that there is an emerging People’s Alignment, made up of progressive institutions, movements, groups and think-tanks that are working to build a society and government based in dignity and justice for all and replace the regressive policies of the Reagan Alignment. We brainstormed together what the policies and programs of such an emerging alignment may look like and discussed some of the bold political visions Sunrise could fight for.
We ended before dinner with a training on how to have one-to-one conversations to build trusting relationships for our on-the-ground organizing moving forward. We practiced with one another, taking turns asking questions about our lives, motivations, stake, and visions.
We closed the day with a memorable song workshop led by Sara and Erin. Songs have always been one of the most powerful ways of bringing back the culture of movements past back the culture of movements past, of connecting us in spirit and community. We heard an incredible story from Sara about the role of story in our organizing and then split up into groups to create remixes of some of our favorite songs. Just 20 minutes of song-writing led to some masterpieces — like a #NoFossilFuelMoney-themed mashup of “Party in the USA” and “Call Me Maybe” and a climate change remix of “House of the Rising Sun”.
We started Day 3 with a powerful, exploratory conversation about Anti-Oppression. In a large circle, we laid out different identities (race, class, ethnicity, geography, sexual orientation, family etc.). Then, fellows and trainers moved around to different stations based off a series of prompts that got us talking about the ways our identities have shaped us and how they may show up in Sunrise. We left with a renewed sense of commitment to doing the hard work of fighting for a society that values all people, regardless of class, creed, race or any other identity and with deep love in our hearts for each others’ struggles.
After lunch we got a chance to hang out with our HOME TEAMS! These are the groups we’ll be working in for the next 3–6 months growing the movement, getting fossil fuel money out of politics, and electing leaders who will fight with and for our generation.
Finally, we dug into our plan to win. Stephen & Aru lead a training on our Theory of Change: building people power (a large, vocal, active base of public support) and political power (a critical mass of enthusiastically supportive public official), and uniting with other movements for change to win on climate.
Today’s theme revolved around getting Sunrise’ story and mission out into the public. We kicked off Day 4 with a training on escalation and moral protest led by Dyanna and Victoria. We studied social movements in our past and present who have used this strategy successfully, like the Civil Rights Movement, the #NeverAgain movement and #NoDAPL. We got hype to escalate this year around the #NoFossilFuelMoney pledge and challenging our politicians to say no to Big Oil dollars and stand with our generation instead.
In the afternoon, we dug into the Our Story as Sunrise and how to effectively communicate our message to the broader public. The major takeaways? Make it simple, make it matter, and repeat, repeat, repeat and repeat on our turf and in our terms, not on those of the fossil fuel billionaires. Using Obama stump speeches as examples, we crafted our own inspiring stories about our movement. We took turns practicing radio interviews about Sunrise and the #NoFossilFuelMoney pledge and examined the characteristics of effective communicators in history.
We ended the night with a participant-led knowledge sharing and discussion. There were three discussions. One was on the influence of fossil fuel executives like the Koch Brothers on college campuses, another was on white people’s role in anti-racism work, and the last was on sacred femininity, nature, and Mother Earth.
Thanks for reading and joining us on this journey! Stay tuned for more updates! We have 3 more full days of training coming up, and we can’t wait to share them with you.