NC Climate Justice Collective and NC WARN launched a new collaborative project–the Energy Democracy Leadership Institute (EDLI)–on Saturday, June 27th. Debuting virtually, EDLI is an energy and climate justice grassroots organizing and leadership program. It will run for 6 months with an intergenerational and Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) cohort of emerging leaders from eastern North Carolina. The 8 counties represented are all counties where chronic disinvestment, climate disasters and pollution from energy corporations are pervasive issues.
“Representation and support of BIPOC in the environmental movement has oftentimes fallen to the wayside,” said Jorden Revels, a student at UNC-Pembroke, member of the Lumbee Tribe and EDLI trainer. “The Energy Democracy Leadership Institute is exciting because it helps change that narrative by lifting up and embracing the voices of those most impacted by the effects of environmental racism. By giving our participants hands-on training to combat projects that are perpetuating slow violence and detrimental health effects against their communities, we are helping to develop community resilience and build organizing power with folks who are so often left out of the conversation altogether.”
EDLI Co-Director Jodi Lasseter adds that “for too long, communities in eastern NC have suffered from environmental racism, being targeted for pollution by energy corporations like Duke Energy and Enviva. That’s why it’s so important that these 20 emerging leaders–all of whom are Black or Indigenous people, and half are youth–are joining EDLI to build grassroots organizing skills to defend their communities. For me, it feels like a watershed moment, as those who have been hurt the most by social, economic and environmental harms are taking the lead in creating a just path forward for our state. It’s a collaborative vision that NC Climate Justice Collective and NC WARN have been working towards for several years, so we couldn’t be more thrilled to launch EDLI with this phenomenal group.”
Movement elder and EDLI Co-Director Connie Leeper said “because of the Covid-19 pandemic, we moved to an online process, despite the original intent to be face to face. Adaptation has been an ongoing necessity for our movements to succeed. As a popular educator, it is exciting to finally launch with so many truly grassroots participants from rural eastern NC who will be teachers as well as learners in this project. They bear the brunt of the energy burden and will help shape the community organizing already happening in their organizations located in ‘sacrifice zones’. EDLI will help amplify their voices in their work for energy democracy.”
In his Medium blog piece, EDLI trainer Shiva Patel reflects that “in such trying times, efforts and leaders like this give us tangible and visionary hope. The work that has been happening behind the scenes — community outreach, curriculum design, constant adaptation, etc — is a true labor of love with years of forethought and collaborative experience. We are thrilled to be launching the Energy Democracy Leadership Institute, and hope that it will continue to inspire and influence other local trainings in cities nationwide. We look forward to sharing our progress over the coming year.”