On April 29th, thousands of people are converging in Washington, DC and in cities across the country to march for climate, jobs, and justice, and to present a vision for a clean energy economy that works for all. While climate change impacts everyone, young people know that it is communities of color, low-income communities, and workers that bear the brunt of a crisis they did the least to contribute to. Ahead of the Peoples Climate March, these local DC youth are sharing how to give young people the skills they need to fight climate change and for the solutions we need to tackle the greatest crisis of their lifetimes. 

Tyshaun Turner, 24 years old, Southeast, DC

Climate change is a human created issue. I read it started with the industrial revolution, but I don’t buy that. Science proves it is created by humans that see themselves as more important than the next person and our planet, to make the public believe that money is more important than people. As individuals and a society, we need to look in the mirror and make drastic changes. 

These changes will require us to confront fears of insecurity and survival. It will require us to be less comfortable. We need to remember that we are just animals, and we too are only here for a short period of time. We are meant to be in symbiotic relationship with nature — not separating ourselves from it.

These things scare me, but they also motivate me. This type of motivation is what reaches the youth. To have young people in this movement, we must remain honest, provide guidance, and step back to allow them to lead. We need to tell them that the pollution we release into our Earth hurts us and all of our chances to survive. While there are divisions among humans, the climate doesn’t care what color you are. The only question is: can you survive? Can your children? 

I now know that climate change has, and will, impact my community on the east side of the river first and worst; that’s politics today, and the web of racism and capitalism. That said, youth will not listen unless they see a future in our environmental organizing. Part of how we do that is by engaging young people in the green economy beginning in traditional school. I am doing this now in the River Corps program at the Latin American Youth Center, but I should have learned these skills before this, if not only to teach others.

Climate change is important to me because it not only my issue, this problem affects everybody. To me it’s not a race problem, people problem, or social political problem: this is an “us problem” because whether or not we unite to face this problem it won’t go anywhere.

Rashid Mills, 24 years old, Southeast, DC

I was born and raised in Southeast, DC. Today, I work for the River Corps stationed at the Latin American Youth Center on Columbia Road in Northwest, DC. I am part of an initiative to train the youth of DC in river restoration. In this position I work very closely with water. Simply put: our job is to improve the conditions of the rivers and creeks that are in bad shape, and maintain those that are in better standing. This job has been an eye opener, as I now see the full process of what it takes to clean and filter our water. 

Water is our largest and most important natural resource, and so taking care of our water should be self-evident. Yet, because our society has become so disconnected from the process, we are not fully aware of the challenge. In order to solve this, we must raise awareness so these issues cannot be denied. 

The process of raising awareness for young people cannot be done just through formal education. We need to give our youth jobs in the field. Many young people might take a green job simply to pay rent and deal with day-to-day life, but, speaking from experience, they will leave with new skills and a passion to improve the current situation.

Our youth want to be taught the skills they need to be successful. They want to be able to build careers and improve their communities. I dream of mastering skills — from carpentry to gardening — so that I can train others to survive in a way that does not require harming our Earth. The youth generation is looking for the right opportunity to organize with others: something to channel their energy towards. We saw this with Obama, and his message of “Hope and Change.” I believe community organizing and the fight for climate justice is just the thing youth are looking to join.

I want to be a part of the Peoples Climate March because I want to help the larger fight, as well as provide inspiration to other youth on a similar path.

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