Oct 21, 2021 • 1HR 33M

2. Jacqui Patterson — Envisioning Eco-Communities amidst Toxic Legacies

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“Forthright but also full of grace”: that could be a mantra for how we should all live our lives. It’s also how Jacqui Patterson has described her ideal as she fights for environmental justice in a world that can feel like it’s submerged completely in environmental injustice.

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From the South Side of Chicago, to Jamaica, to South Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, Jacqui has continually asked what deep, transformative change looks like. She grounds her theory of change in community-led advocacy. She envisions a world of eco-communities and works with real communities across the country who have already created elements of these utopian visions.

But never does she lose sight of climate change and environmental exploitation as multipliers of injustice.

Jacqui Patterson directed the Environmental and Climate Justice Program at NAACP from 2009 to 2021. Most recently, she is Founder and Executive Director of The Chisholm Legacy Project: A Resource Hub for Black Frontline Climate Justice Leadership.

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I’ve had the great privilege of knowing Jacqui for the last few years, and she’s an advisor on my current documentary film in post production, called Raising Aniya.

In our conversation, Jacqui discusses the origins of the environmental justice movement and the importance of community-led activism, and she charts her path to a life devoted to the struggle for environmental justice.

This is the first episode of the Chrysalis podcast! You can listen on Substack, Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other podcast platforms.

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Jacqui Patterson

Jacqui Patterson is the Founder and Executive Director at The Chisholm Legacy Project: A Resource Hub for Black Frontline Climate Justice Leadership. Since 2007, Jacqui has served as coordinator & co-founder of Women of Color United. She directed of the Environmental and Climate Justice Program at NAACP from 2009 to 2021.

Jacqui has worked as a researcher, program manager, coordinator, advocate and activist working on women‘s rights, violence against women, HIV&AIDS, racial justice, economic justice, and environmental and climate justice. Jacqui served as a Senior Women’s Rights Policy Analyst for ActionAid where she integrated a women’s rights lens for the issues of food rights, macroeconomics, and climate change as well as the intersection of violence against women and HIV&AIDS. Previously, she served as Assistant Vice-President of HIV/AIDS Programs for IMA World Health providing management and technical assistance to medical facilities and programs in 23 countries in Africa and the Caribbean. Jacqui served as the Outreach Project Associate for the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Research Coordinator for Johns Hopkins University. She also served as a U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer in Jamaica, West Indies.  

Jacqui holds a master’s degree in social work from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree in public health from Johns Hopkins University. She currently serves on the Steering Committee for Interfaith Moral Action on Climate, Advisory Board for Center for Earth Ethics as well as on the Boards of Directors for the Institute of the Black World, The Hive: Gender and Climate Justice Fund, the American Society of Adaptation Professionals, Greenprint Partners, Bill Anderson Fund and the National Black Workers Center.


Quotations Read by Jacqui Patterson

“If you come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because, you know, and feel that your liberation is bound to mine, let’s walk together.” 
- Lilla Watson
“you have to understand, that no one puts their children in a boat unless the water is safer than the land” 
- From "Home" by Warsan Shire
“If one of us is oppressed, none of us are free.”
- Unknown
“the true revolutionary is guided by a great feeling of love.”
- Che Guevara

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Transcription

Intro

John Fiege

“Forthright but also full of grace”: that could be a mantra for how we should all live our lives. It’s also how Jacqui Patterson has described her ideal as she fights for environmental justice in a world that can feel like it’s submerged completely in environmental injustice.

From the South Side of Chicago, to Jamaica, to South Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina, Jacqui has continually asked what deep, transformative change looks like. She grounds her theory of change in community-led advocacy. She envisions a world of eco-communities and works with real communities across the country who have already created elements of these utopian visions.

But never does she lose sight of climate change and environmental exploitation as multipliers of injustice.

Jacqui Patterson

For example, if a child is having a hard time paying attention in school, because lead and manganese are some of the toxins that come out of these, these smokestacks, or if a child is having a heart is not able to go to school on poor air quality days, or if the school that 71% of African Americans live in counties in violation of air pollution standards, and an African American family making $50,000 a year is more likely to live next to a toxic facility than the white American family making $15,000 a year. And we know that. But yeah, then on average, if you're living next to a toxic facility, your property values are significantly lower, and property values go directly into funding our school system. So if you have all of these challenges with being in school in the first place, learning in school, and then the school itself doesn't have the level of quality of other schools, then studies show that if you're not on grade level, by the third grade, you're more likely to enter into the school to prison pipeline.

John Fiege

I’m John Fiege, and this is Chrysalis.

Jacqui Patterson directed the Environmental and Climate Justice Program at NAACP from 2009 to 2021. Most recently, she is founder and executive director of The Chisholm Legacy Project: A Resource Hub for Black Frontline Climate Justice Leadership. I’ve had the great privilege of knowing Jacqui for the last few years, and she’s an advisor on my current documentary film in post production, called Raising Aniya.

In our conversation, Jacqui discusses the origins of the environmental justice movement and the importance of community-led activism, and she charts her path to a life devoted to the struggle for environmental justice.

Here is Jacqui Patterson.

---

Conversation

John Fiege  

You grew up on the South Side of Chicago. Could you start by talking a bit about the neighborhood where you grew up how that shaped you and you know, being an urban environment, how you viewed your relationship to the rest of nature?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, growing up on the South Side of Chicago, been an area where it was, there was lots of, of trees, there was lots of I was just talking with someone yesterday about how how we would get excited when we would see a Blue Jay or a Robin in our trees, there were squirrels, there was an occasional rabbit, which was very exciting. And, and there was a lot like summers were all about being outside. Winters were moderately about being outside 

John Fiege  

If there was snow

Jacqui Patterson  

Exactly. Only if there's snow. And otherwise it was being huddled inside and and at the same time, there was the other side's being to being born and raised on the South Side of Chicago, which is that it was a gang land area with the Black P Stone Nation and the El Rukns. As the main gangs and the pressure on boys to to affiliate and the guns, as you hear the challenges you would have. So being outside was also challenged by that as well. I mean, it didn't, I don't remember it being kind of a constant thing, but I don't remember it necessarily meaning that we didn't go outside but I do remember a couple of times where, where, where there were times when they were kind of fights or so forth, it would be inside. So to put my dad was from Jamaica, so we took a trip, we went to the park often and my dad was definitely big on the outdoors. And so we would go to the park frequently, both our local park as well as sometimes going to a national park to hike.

John Fiege  

Oh, awesome. And, you know, that must impact your view of what the environment is to when you, you know, you see the birds in the trees and those beautiful, tree lined streets of South Side of Chicago. And at the same time, there's this, like, this potentially dangerous environment you're dealing with sometimes as well.

Jacqui Patterson  

Yes, it definitely, definitely makes it a mixed situation. It reminds me of when I was at a  conference of the Power Shift Network, I was moderating a panel with youth. And, and this person who was on the panel, I mean, it was a real striking and moving moment because the person was on the panel stood up and she said, You know, I would like for me being you know, I would love to be able to have the luxury to go to the park and so forth. But for me just surviving was the objective and and if I can get beyond just focusing on survival to be able to go to the park, you know, that would be a good day. And she actually started crying while she was saying that because I think it was such an emotional moment to be attacked about the very thing that you know, about the very thing that that kind of puts in stark relief, the difference in realities and what's what's kind of normal to other people would be a luxury to her.

John Fiege  

And survival survival is a prerequisite for enjoying the world  

Jacqui Patterson  

exactly, exactly.

John Fiege  

Well, not not only is your father from Jamaica, but you spent time in the Peace Corps in Jamaica. Yeah, which I find really, I find so interesting, because not many Peace Corps volunteers work in a country so close to their roots. Can you can you tell me about the path? This this young girl from the South Side of Chicago took to Jamaica and and how that experience influenced you?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, sure. Um, I grew up I grew up very active in the church, we'd be in the church like five days out of the week, during the summer. And, and during the winter, this at least a couple of times weekly. When during the summer, so I was always a Sunday school teacher and during the summer, I was a vacation Bible school teacher and and as I decided on my career path, I decided I wanted to be a teacher. And so and then I was watching TV one day and saw this commercial about the shortage of special education teachers. Oh, I could do that. And I decided to do that as well. And so after I, long story short, I was in Boston going to school for undergrad at Boston University. And it was. And that was when I first started to really get involved around social justice. I was working in a shelter for homeless people who were unhoused in Boston, and then also at the same time getting involved in the Housing Now movement there. Anyway, then I fast forward to deciding after I graduated to go to Peace Corps, what was interesting there in terms of the time between me going to Peace Corps and a place that I know is that to make us known was the recruiter was telling me that Jamaica was I had actually wanted to go to a place that where I could learn Spanish or French, or some other language, you know. And so she was she really put a hard pressure on me to go to Jamaica, because it has a high rate of attrition of people dropping out. And, and so she also needed like someone who was kind of specialized in special education, and it's a little bit at the back then it was almost rare to be able to do something that's so aligned with your actual career that I'd like there was someone there in my group who was a drama major in school, and she ended up being a bananas extension officer with the Agriculture Department. So it's kind of funny. So anyway, she says, Yeah, so all of that is what led to me being in in Jamaica.

John Fiege  

What did you see there and experience that you can connect with what you did later, you know, what you're doing now and what you did later with your work?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, so a couple things. One is, as a special education teacher in the parish of St. Thomas one situation arose where there was a whole group of three year olds who had hearing impairments because, you know, a little bit over three years ago, almost four years ago, they had an outbreak of rubella. And I guess when a mom has rubella, then it's more likely for her child to be born with a hearing impairment. And so, so I ended up being because I had taken one sign language class in undergrad, I ended up being a sign language teacher to these, these, these parents and their children, it was like a parent child group, and so helping them to be able to communicate. And so both that in and other kind of situations of people with special needs, there are who are differently abled was just struck me in terms of being a systemic issue, kind of people not having either choices and not having resources to live a thriving life, in those circumstances of being differently abled made me really think about the prevention aspect, you know, and so I, I started to decide I was coming, come back and go into, into public health, and also do a double degree one in public health, on the technical side of things, as well as one in social work, but macro level social work, to learn about community organizing, because at that point, point, it was just clear that important to community voice, community power community leadership, parallel, or, you know, at the same time, I was also kind of in Jamaica, just observing the circumstances in terms of, you know, what led there to be not the resources to have to have the rubella vaccine in a place that is so beautiful, so, so much possibility for people to be able to, to a to have the, the whether it's that natural resources to eat or the natural resources to, to provide energy for the country and all of these different things. And then also the the natural beauty that attracts, you know, millions of tourists there with all of the billions of dollars that are coming with with that. And yet we have communities where the you know, people are living in abject poverty. And so, so, so seeing that, watching films like Life and Debt that talked about structural adjustment programs, and then and then reading books, like How Europe Underdeveloped Africa, I started to really understand some of these systemic issues as well. So that was an important kind of politicization. And then the last thing I'll say is also I was there I was in a community where the water supply was contaminated by Shell Oil and the community had to push for, for justice and that situation, but in that situation, it was definitely a David and Goliath, where the community ended up getting as part of their settlement a series of ventilated improve pit latrines for the community, as well as some money given to the school for three Rs program. So that was the settlement

John Fiege  

in exchange for a billions of dollars worth of oil,

Jacqui Patterson  

and in exchange for having their water supply contaminated, drinking poison for several, yeah, I mean, whatever long term illnesses that was that was caused. And so these were the so these are the things these are the lessons I learned in my short time in Peace Corps, they really kind of all all contributed to the trajectory of my life since then

John Fiege  

I find that so interesting, when there's something there's some short period of time when in when you're young, and you can find in that period of time, so many seeds that germinated later in your life. And when you're talking about Jamaican, like, I'm hearing like all of the elements of your later work. It's so interesting. 

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, it is fascinating. 

John Fiege  

So I've heard you say that climate change is a multiplier of injustice, which is, which is really beautifully succinct. Can you explain what that means?

Jacqui Patterson  

Absolutely. So both on the on the the whole climate continuum, we think about in terms of the drivers of climate change, and the impacts of climate change. on the driver side, you have all of the polluting practices that contribute to the greenhouse gas emissions that drive climate change. And so the fact that these facilities are disproportionately located in BIPOC communities, whether it's coal plants, or or oil and gas refineries, or other or fracking, or it's even near roadway, air pollution, and air in the ways that that impacts all of those are disproportionately located in, in in BIPOC communities and also in trash incineration, and landfills and so forth. And I could make more, agricultural, like confined animal feeding operations, etc. So with all of those being disproportionately located communities of color, it's not only that they're emitting greenhouse gases, but they're all also emitting pollutants that that also harm that compound harm to the public health and well being of those communities. And so whether it's the sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, which is tied to asthma rates, and African American children are three to five times more likely to go to the hospital for asthma attack two to three times more likely to die of an asthma attack, or it is the mercury which is known to be an endocrine disruptor. And we know that low birth weights, infant mortality, etc, are much higher, for example, in African American communities and beyond. So there's just so many examples of these negative health impacts. But then on top of it all, we talk about multiplier as well, it's a multiplier of a multiplicity of issues. And so, for example, if a child is having a hard time paying attention in school because lead and manganese are some of the toxins that come out of these, these smokestacks, or if a child is having is not able to go to school on poor air quality days, or if the school, 71% of African Americans live in counties in violation of air pollution standards, and an African American family making $50,000 a year is more likely to live next to a toxic facility than the white American family making $15,000 a year and we know that then on average, if you're living next to a toxic facility, your property values are significantly lower and property values go directly into funding our school system. So if you have all of these challenges with being in school in the first place, learning in school, and then the school itself doesn't have the level of quality of other schools, then studies show that if you're not on grade level by the third grade, you're more likely to enter into the school to prison pipeline. So we see all of these interconnected, you know, multiplier issues, and then a multiplicity of issues that they get exacerbated. And so these are, and that's just one scenario. That is an example when we talk about the gender, gender and justice that already exist, and then on the pipelines, along the lines of the pipeline, there's a high rate of sexual assault of Indigenous women in particular, along those pipelines. Also, around the man camps that are propped up around these oil and gas rigs, there is a high rate of missing and murdered Indigenous women, there's a drug trade that's come up, there's trafficking that that happens in those areas. And, just a known level that you know that you can when googled one can see all the different statistics and stories around this. And so that's just on the driver side of the continuum. And then we go on the other side in terms of the impact. We know that climate change that, for example, when we talk about the increase in frequency and severity of extreme weather events, that women are more likely to experience violence against women after disasters. Whether it's, yeah, so we saw that with the earthquake in Gujarat, the tsunami, Hurricane Katrina, for sure. And even the BP oil drilling disaster where I was down there and that the, the police blotters showed a four fold increase in domestic violence in one particular area, I was sitting in Alabama, and we look at place after place, it was the same thing. And they even though the BP oil drilling disaster wasn't caused by climate change, it also was on the other driver's side of the continuum as well. So anyway, so then, then, when we talk about the the shifts in agricultural yield, we know that already, for example, 26% of African American families are food insecure. And when we have shift in agricultural yields that mean that healthy nutritious foods are going to be even more inaccessible and less affordable, than that just exacerbates what's already a bad situation for for African American families who too often live in communities where it's easier to get a Dorito or a Cheeto or Frito than kiwi or quinoa or anything. So when we, when we see that then we also see how these various chronic health conditions that are that are causing premature deaths and shorten our very life expectancy as a people. And then that has made us even more vulnerable to the impacts of of COVID-19 and has contributed to our high rates of mortality. Then when we talk about sea level rise, also communities that are less likely to be homeowners, we know that 44% of African Americans are homeowners versus 75% of white Americans, for example. And so when when you know when you have when you need to move or even impacted by disasters, all of that, being in a homeowner, you know, when you have equity you have in not only do you have equity in your home, conceivably, but you're also also some of the aid from FEMA and so forth is directly tied to being a homeowner and the work of relocation is still emerging and how that's going to be financed and what the mechanisms are going to be. But

John Fiege  

I wonder who I wonder who wrote those, those rules?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, as I say, we can pretty much rest assured that

John Fiege  

they were homeowners at least,

Jacqui Patterson  

yeah, that's really something. So all of these things. Oh, and then finally, I'll just say to as it relates to sea level rise, combined with, combined with the frequency and severity of extreme weather events is the fact that even after we think we find out that the levee fortification is, like so many other things was tied to property values after Hurricane Katrina, where they decided to to fortify all these levees in Louisiana. they used a formula to decide which levees they were going to be fortifying first. And it was based on what the economic impact would be if the levy was overtaken, which literally legislates or institutionalizes the the disregard for the people who are the most vulnerable, just literally by definition, by design.

John Fiege  

Early on in the COVID pandemic, you wrote an article for Color Lines, that that connects the pandemic to climate justice, among other things.  So you write:  "Centuries of racist policy and practice have shaped the neighborhoods we live in, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, our access to education and justice, and the health care we receive (or don’t). Layers of harm, generation after generation, alter our bodies at the molecular level and even the genes we pass on to our children. Those harms, past and present, render us more vulnerable to the coronavirus—and also to the longer-term crises caused by climate change."  Wow, it's really amazing how you can connect dots and wrap so much into this single paragraph. Can you talk about the importance of seeing whole systems, rather than separating out these interconnected issues in order to envision what you call deep transformative change?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yes, absolutely. So when we have a system that, as I said before, is doing exactly what it was designed to do by those who, as you said, designed it. And, and when we continue to try to tweak a system, which at its core has a different intention, then then what we should be seeking, which is literally liberty and justice for all, then then we have to think transformation rather than than reform. But we have a system that means that, that certain people are only more likely to live in certain communities when you have a system that says that those communities are, by definition, are the communities that are the asthma clusters, the cancer clusters, the communities where the life expectancy is shorter, too often by decades, sometimes by almost a lifetime, when we talk about infant mortality, and and, and so forth. So when we talk when we have a system where before African Americans were emancipated from slavery, there were policies that enabled white people to be able to access these grants for land for those for schools, or for farming or otherwise. So and when African Americans were emancipated, not only had they put in this in slave labor, that that to build a country that was completely uncompensated, but also didn't even have the legal rights to be able to write legal wills to pass down their property. And so not only do we have white Americans who, for whom, African Americans were part of the, their actual generational wealth, but then on top of it all, they were given all these additional aids by by the government system. And so it's clear why at this point, we have white wealth at $171,000 on average, per household, African American wealth at $17,000 per household. And then yeah, there will be a layer gender on top of it all, we have African American female headed households with the average wealth of $5. And so if we just continue to try to tweak a system that's doing exactly what it was designed to do in the first place, you know, now 400 years after the transatlantic slave trade, this is where we are. So what's going to be the increments of change? And what what, what century will there be equality if we don't actually do something transformational now?

John Fiege  

Yeah, I, I talk a lot about the problem with how we've set up environmental issues where, you know, if somebody wants to learn about why we have environmental problems, they're often told to go study science or to go study economics. But the best place to start really is American history. You can't separate how the systems were built from the problems they've caused, and to pretend that we can address them without acknowledging and confronting those those things is so delusional.

Jacqui Patterson  

Yes, absolutely. Yeah. Thank you.

John Fiege  

So to talk about the NAACP and the roots of the environmental justice movement. Many people consider the birthplace of the environmental justice movement to be in Warren County, North Carolina, in 1982, when 500 people were arrested, protesting the siting of a toxic waste dump for PCB laden soil and a county that was predominantly African American, and one of the poorest counties in the state. Among the coalition of community members of the Civil Rights Organizations, was the NAACP and Reverend Benjamin Chavez, who later became the executive director of NAACP. Can you talk about the importance of this moment, both for the movement and the NAACP?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, thank you. Um, yes. So one thing that is important about that, that the rise The movement in its inception is the power of the people and the importance of frontline community leadership, it was never going to be some organization or some entity that's outside of the community looking at and seeing this is wrong. And then, you know, organizing a plan and in and so forth, it was the power of the people that that really unsurface the situation that that the push for the type of change that they need to have and, and that we all need to have. And really gave rise to this movement. And so it needs to kind of go as it started in terms of the movement. And this is why we're always pushing for frontline community leadership. And so for us, that situation was critical around the the roots of the problem and the depth of the problem. And it was critical around the, in terms of just like the extreme level of contamination and so forth in the health impacts and so forth. And it was also critical in terms of the method and the ethos behind the solution of the problem and addressing it. And so for us, it just means that we, but it also was critical in terms of how long it took. And we often now when I'm doing presentations often show this kind of four image slide of three, of four toxic situations, the Flint water crisis, the Chicago Indiana arsenic and lead crisis and Eight Mile Alabama Mercaptan oil spill and then I show the Porter Ranch gas spill that happened and talk about how you know for each of the other situation it was they were decades, you know, decades and still seeking justice. Before the Porter Ranch gas spill, it was literally within a matter of months there was kept within a matter of less than a year that they were they were given $4 million in damages to this white wealthier white community versus decades and hundreds of 1000s of dollars at best for these other communities. 

John Fiege  

Yeah, well, the coalition is the coalition around that event was, was incredible. And, you know, this kind of genealogy of civil rights within environmental justice, it seems to really be you know, NAACP is a is a huge national organization, just like the big environmental organizations. But do you see that it's kind of history and valuing and ability to work with local groups on the ground changes the way this giant national organization interacts with communities?

Jacqui Patterson  

I do. So for one thing, one of the things that has that drew me to the work and has kept me at the NAACP is the fact that we are accountable first and foremost to our frontline community leadership and so that that being the marching orders for for us as a program and for the association really does set it apart from from other organizations in that sense, like we do things because our state and local branches think that they are important. And so that's quite different than if you are setting an agenda and then you're deploying all of these, these these chapters to do like some other large national organizations. And so but but when we're when we're working in the environmental climate justice program, for example, we're we're out there in the branches and we're saying, like, let's, let's do a visioning session, what do you want for your community, and then now, well, we can help with political education, we can help developing a strategy. We can walk alongside you once you have your action plan of what you want to do and help connect you to resources and so forth. So that model of like, it's about what you want for your community. And then we kind of see the patterns of what people are interested in and what they're facing. And then we roll that up into a national agenda that we get res ources for on behalf of the units and that we then advocate for at the federal policy level as well. So if a community might be working on, you know, a lead crisis in their backyard, we might be helping them with how to deal with that. Then at the at the federal level, we're working on the lead and copper rule under the Clean Air Act and so forth. So that's always kind of a corresponding national agenda, but it corresponds with the leadership of our state and local units.

John Fiege  

Oh, that's, that's interesting. And it's such so important. Always going back to that. Yeah, accountability to the communities. So key. So can you talk a bit about your theory of change and the work you're doing, and maybe first describe what a theory of change is? And then how your theory of change has shifted over time as you've engaged ever more deeply in this work?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, thank you. So, first, the theory of change is exactly what the words imply, is the theory of how change happens in our world. So for us, and it's interesting to even when we were kind of like, formally crafting our theory of change, there was kind of the difference between the change that's needed, and how do we get there. And then there's also kind of models and theories of change that were more granular, but our broader theory of change is rooted in the just transition framework that we work with the Climate Justice Alliance, and others facilitated Movement Generation, when we, when we talk about the just transition framework, we are moving from a society that is rooted in exploitation, domination, extraction, and enclosure of wealth and power militarism, as a vehicle to do it. And so moving from that, to what we consider is a living economy, versus an extractive economy, a living economy that's rooted in principles of caring, caring for the sacred cooperation. And really, kind of honoring the earth and honoring each other, as well as really rooting it all in deep democracy. And so, for us, that means that the work that we do, in terms of how we get there is around visioning, starting with a visioning, visioning of our communities and then helping with political education so that if a community has a certain vision, then thinking about how they get there is rooted in understanding how it fits in with this broader context. And then three is then working with the community to develop a strategy to advance change. And then four is then working with communities on developing an action plan based on that strategy and their understanding of the political education, but rooted in their vision, and then we accompany folks through achieving that action plan helping along the way with connecting them to formational, technical, financial resources and so forth. And and so our overarching work as a national program is, is is around, you know, all starts and ends with with that with our community vision. And then we also work on the types of policy changes that need to shift the system. And we also work on narrative shifts, because too often narrative dictates what's happening from the very beginning, in terms of this false narrative of scarcity that has pushed so much of this notion that there's an inverse relationship between my well being and your well being I can only be well if you're not well because there's only so much to go around and so that has pervaded so much of this decision making and actions that we see and even down to, you know, our kind of extremely divided political system it is so based on that people feeling threatened people feeling fear people feeling whether it's the immigration, or it's this notion of Black Lives Matter, kind of meaning that other lives don't. So...so all of this so, so yes, a narrative shift is a critical piece as well as the policy change. And again, all rooted in the vision of our communities.

John Fiege  

Yeah, awesome. Yeah. And you know, as you can imagine, you know, I'm super interested in narrative and environmental storytelling and how we're telling the stories that matter. And so that really caught my eye when you talked about controlling the narrative. Can you give maybe an example of like, what does controlling the narrative mean? What does that look like?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, I'll give an example on the, the problem up to till now in terms of some of the ways of the narrative has been controlled a wedge resulted in and then on the other side, so we have everything from, you know, at that end, again with African American folks, the ways that the narratives that have been advanced, whether it's the rise of the term super predator, or the ways that the black men have been considered to be an enemy or something to be feared, or someone to be feared, and though, and how that has led to in black folks in general, but definitely black men, and how that that led has led to profiling. And then that led to, to kind of this criminalization as well as police brutality and what has resulted in state sponsored violence. I talk about how, in the context of Hurricane Katrina, how there is this image that I show where it's two white couple, and they're in these floodwaters, and then there's African American, male in floodwaters and it's the same day. Associated Press is the outlet telling the story in both cases, but the caption with the two white people is, you know, "Two residents wade through chesty floodwaters after 'finding' bread and soda in the grocery store." With African American young man it says "A young man waves through testy floodwaters after looting a grocery store." And so that kind of characterization and a difference of it is exactly what leads to this racial profiling. And then leads to that criminalization and then to, for group of families on the Danziger bridge, where they were crossing in again, trying to find food, trying to find relatives, they were going back into New Orleans, and someone called the police on them and said that they wer e, you know, probably looking to loot and so they were unarmed and the police encountered them on the Danziger bridge and killed some of them as a result so that racial profiling that image of those two folks that you know, seemingly just an image in a newspaper but what it contributes to a narrative that certain people are up to no good and so we've seen how these days they're talking about living while black all the ways, I just myself I'm staying at an Airbnb in Florida and I went outside to, anyway there's some construction going on and so they left a package in the front that they're supposed to bring around to the back anyway, so I had to go under the construction tape to get the package and as I'm walking out I hear this voice go, May I help you? And it was this lady across the street who thought that I was stealing the package I mean, so and the irony was that I had met her like a couple days ago and had a conversation with her and she just didn't remember it. So but unfortunately but so the other day there was a whole another situation with another package and I walked around the neighborhood and I saw the packages, it had been delivered to another neighbor but I didn't want to kind of walk up and look at them for sure and didn't even want to knock on the door because, and so I called the person who owns the Airbnb and I'm like, do you know the lady who lives a couple doors down you know, and then there was a whole long two hour long process where she was trying to get Jonathan the real estate age all these different things you know, just so that I could get my my packages there on this door a couple of days back. So this is the kind of difference in life, you know that and reality but that's just you know, but that could have fatal effects or someone saw me skulking around it was they would have characterized it, and, you know, considered themselves to be defending their property, and people have the right to do that. And these, you know, again, with our system, this is what results and so, so all of this go on on the negative side of narrative, but and the importance of why, you know, and then when we talk about environment, this notion of 'job killing regulations' and, and again, that's based on scarcity assuming that like the only way that people will be able to work is that if they work at least jobs that also are fatal for other like people killing pollution, you know, the post job killing regulations and so we as communities are reframing to say it is possible for us to have all the jobs that we want, it is possible for us to have it in the context of clean air, clean water. And what we, what we do often is to do that by saying that it's already happening, here's where it's happening. And it's possible for us to take this to scale. 

John Fiege  

Well, how much of that taking back the narrative is, I mean, there's, you know, your example of Hurricane Katrina and, and the AP captions on the photos, you know, that kind of ties into this, the myth of objective journalism, and kind of these outside folks who are building a narrative that you're trying to counter, but in some ways, I'm wondering how much you have to reformulate the narrative from within your own ranks. You know, I'm thinking about early on environmental justice movement. You know, there were some communities that were pushing back against some environmental regulations, because they were concerned that the jobs in these communities were going to be reduced or or go away. And, you know, even today, we're seeing, you know, pushback from unions around the shift to to electric vehicles, because it's there gonna be fewer jobs involved. So what is that? How do you navigate that of like, people who are on your side, are also buying into some of these narratives?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, I mean, it's kind of what I just said, is really helping people to see how how all of it is possible. So that's true for whoever's on whatever side is the importance of that. And so we have, for example, put together the Black Labor Initiative on Just Transition. And, and for that initiative, we work with folks who stand to be impacted by these job shifts, that will happen and we say, okay, we need to make sure that we're supporting you who is impacted, and that you're in the driver's seat. So it's not, that's not something that's happening to you, but you're saying, here's what's happening, you know, in terms of the the needs of the earth, in our communities, and here's how I'm going to be impacted. If I don't say, Alright, this is what I want, that's going to allow us to have clean air clean water, and allow me to have a livelihood at the standard that I need to support my family. And so then both kind of making sure that people are in the driver's seat, and we're not just trying to tell them that this is better, they're actually determining that for themselves, and we're supporting that, but then also, so they, they will also be the ones who are able to educate and inform their, their peers as well. So, that's definitely what's most important, working with working with people to be able to self actualize whatever enlightenment might come, and what the path is.

John Fiege  

So that that's what I hear you saying is that's, that's the key element of taking back the narrative and controlling the narrative is, is telling that story within your community and having that spread. Is that accurate?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, making sure that the community themselves kind of generate the story, like really being in dialogue with the community and have having that conversation, which are always always right, always kind of results in, in the truth versus, versus people kind of parroting what's been told to them. And so for us, it's all about an organic process. 

John Fiege  

Ok. That's awesome. Great. So, in in 2013, you released a report, a report called "And the People Shall Lead" which which is a great title. And it has, it has a subtitle, "Centralizing Frontline Community Leadership, and the Movement Towards a Sustainable Planet." So the report addresses working with big national environmental groups or big greens as you call them here.  And you open the report this way: "How often do we hear frontline communities say, “We refuse to work with Big Green A until we hear an apology for past wrongs and a commitment to a fundamental change in how they operate” Or, “Why would I want to work with Big Green B? They will take the credit for the work I do!” Or, “I’ll never work with Big Green C again. They have no respect for my culture.” At the same time, we often hear mainstream enviros speak with angst, “We want to work more with grassroots groups but we don’t know how to engage them.” Or, “We reached out, and they didn’t respond.” Or, “This plant is bad for this community but they just don’t get it! We are trying to help them.” So that really cuts to the chase and shines a light on on the history of the kind of rocky relationship between white led and Black and brown led organizations when it comes to environmental justice. What has changed and what hasn't changed since 2013?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, thank you. Oh, that brings back memories. I haven't. Yeah, so what has changed is that those questions are less happening behind closed doors, particularly on the grassroots side. And also, what has also changed is that there have been formations that have been put together to deal directly with this issue, like the Building Equity and Alignment, no, Building Equity and Alignment for Impact one way, or like the B...Yep, that's exactly the B--Building Equity and Alignment for Impact, which is a combination of kind of these large green organizations, frontline grassroots groups, and philanthropy coming together to talk about to talk about these challenges, and how do we build more alignment recognizing that, yeah, that we know, we need it sorely. And so trying to work through some of those challenges that have been surfaced. But recognizing that, that, that the the power is in the collaboration and saying that we have to do this, we have to, we have to do this. And so that has changed, recognizing that and, and the formations to deal with it. And also certainly, what's also changed is the fact that philanthropy is supporting the need for that shift, and supporting the spaces to help to bridge those challenges. And that philanthropy is also recognizing that continuing to put, you know, millions upon millions of dollars and resources in the hands of only in the hands of big green organizations is actually exacerbating some of those dynamics and challenges. And there's a lot more of an effort to support frontline grassroots groups. So all of those things have changed, as well as the urgency of the climate clock, that it hasn't changed, but it's become much more well known. And, and therefore, as Martin Luther King says, "People are feeling the fierce urgency of now" in terms of the the nature of a critical this of kind of getting it together. So not to say that in some ways, all those things have shifted. And, and, and some and and the very same things are still being said at the same time. You know what I mean? 

John Fiege  

Right

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, so the problems persist, but at least there's an acknowledgement of them, which is the first step and some, some steps in the right direction. 

John Fiege  

Right. It's a process. Always a process. 

Jacqui Patterson  

Exactly Yes. 

John Fiege  

So what does antiracism look like in the environmental movement? 

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, in the environmental movement, it means that across the board and all the work that we do around the environment, we have to acknowledge and intersectionally address the impacts of racism. I famously talked about when I was doing a talk for a funder, a funder ask me to do a talk to a group of solar, like solar industry, folks. And when I gave my slides, the funder was like, "Yeah, we just want you to focus on solar, you know, and on energy. And so, so I, I said, so after kind of going back and forth with them, I was like, Alright, I'm not gonna use slides, and I'm renaming my talk. Black Lives Matter, Energy Democracy in the NAACP Civil Rights Agenda, and after I gave the talk like people, like it was kind of a well, it was an exponentially better received talk than if I had just I don't know what they what even just talking about this would mean in the context of, you know, the reality of life. But but but, but the folks in the industry really saw a new purpose and what they were seeing doing and political purpose and what they were doing, and they felt brought meaning to the work that they do. And so, so, so in some, it's first of all, kind of understanding that a) how how racism impacts how it impacts environment, environmental work and environment in the environment and b) understanding that, and that the very same systemic underpinnings that are driving climate change, are rooted in racism and so forth, and that we and if we don't kind of address these issues at their roots, we we won't be able to address climate change. And so that that's another piece that people need to understand. 

John Fiege  

Can you talk about your work across the international borders and how it fits into what you're doing here in the US?

Jacqui Patterson  

Sure. Yeah. When we first went to actually one of the first things that I did, when I joined the NAACP, actually, I was already I was already going to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties in Copenhagen, before I joined the staff and so so I ended up going in kind of this hybrid role of kind of starting to join the end up starting to be a staff member of the NAACP and already planning to go as part of this project I'd started through Women of Color United looking at the intersection of gender and climate. And at that UN Framework Convention on Climate Change Conference of Parties will call it COP that I first encountered the Panafrican Climate Justice Alliance (PACJA), and and I had been my work my work leading to working with NAACP had been International, that's the work that I do so I always had that international orientation and seeing how things are connected and so forth. But and in the context of connecting with the PACJA, done other international groups, we now have a memorandum of agreement with PACJA,. And being a part of the US Climate Action Network, which is part of the Global Climate Action Network, we we see the connections between US policies, domestic and quote unquote, foreign policy, and and everything from at those UN climate talks. Historically, no matter what administration the US has played an obstructive role always wanting to kind of commit as little as possible from an national standpoint, but then that also impacts the level of commitment across the board, if you have one group bringing it down, it kind of waters down  the the teeth and the aspirations and the ambition in the in the agreements. And so recognizing that we need to be there as us voters to hold  the delegation that's there to you and climate talks accountable for, for not weighing down because we can't like if we even if we all in the US stopped all of our emissions tomorrow, we're still in a globe. And if we're kind of weighing down the rest of the processes, then other people's a missions like yeah, we are 25% of the global emissions. So it would definitely have a significant impact. But we need to we need everybody to stop emitting in order for us to as a as a world to advance. And so the US has to be there making commitments on its own part, and it has to push for ambition with all the industrialized nations who are driving climate change for us all to be able to survive and thrive. So that's one thing. We in our connection with the Panfrican Climate Justice Alliance, we in our storytelling that we've done since then,we go there for those UN climate talks. We were in Nairobi for those conversations they've come here, and what's emerged as the story of our connections are like the same ways that countries in the Global South and BIPOC communities in the global north are least responsible for climate change. We all share... We all share the fact that we're at least responsible and we all share the fact that we're most impacted. And we all share the fact that we're the least politically powerful in terms of the decision making thats had, so we have our organizing as a bloc to say, you know, we, as global Afro descendant, leaders on environmental and climate justice, want to have a common agenda so that we are, we're pushing in concert and building power of as a global majority, in terms of BIPOC folks. And so with that, that means that we like even as I push for something here, or if our if our communities and movement here push for like stopping the burning of coal, then at the same time, we're pushing to stop global exports of coal. And at the same time, countries in Sub Saharan Africa are pushing to stop the global imports of coal. So we really we deal at all sides of that, that continuum. So those are just some...and then I'll just end with another example of kind of those connections as well. So as we talk about immigration policy, again, US being 4% of the population, but 25% of the emissions that drive climate change. But yet we have these punitive immigration policies so that when people are driven out of their nations because of disaster, or because their breadbasket has dried up as a result of our actions, on climate me on on emissions, but also our kind of imperialist actions, and the ways that the structural adjustment programs that others have made, have made those nations in, you know, uninhabitable, in some cases in some of the communities, then instead of kind of offering refuge in sanctuary, we're putting people in cages. And so while we work on better immigration policies to really so that not just, you know, so we're taking responsibility and being accountable for the actions that are driven people from their nations, but at the very least, but ideally, just because people need need they their need, and we and we have abundance, again, pushing back on that false narrative of scarcity. But then at the same time, we're also pushing for the types of policies that allow countries to be self sufficient, and able to address the impacts of climate change or avoid climate change in the first place. So through the US commitments to the UNFCCC and so forth, and that we're helping the to work with our kind of partners in the Global South, to be able to have nations where we where people don't have to kind of flee in order to survive. And I'll just end with a quote from, Warsan Shire, which is... Somali...a Kenyan, a Somali born Kenyan poet. Anyway, she says, "You have to understand that no one puts their children in a boat. Unless the water is safer than the land."

John Fiege  

Wow. That's a good punctuation mark. Yeah, it makes me think back to what you were saying earlier about whole systems and the absolutely importance and importance of thinking in terms of whole systems. So how is your work change since the killing of George Floyd and the blossoming of the movement for Black Lives?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, for one is gotten more, we've been just crushed by by demands that so that's one thing. And not only, the full the fulfilling the demands is kind of the least of it in terms of capacity, because we, for the most part, don't even get there. But uh, but just fielding all of their demands, as is so many and trying to filter out which ones are from people who are pushing or  are performative, because you know, they look good, which ones are people who are trying to do something because a funder is saying that they need to do this,

John Fiege  

What are folks asking of you?

Jacqui Patterson  

It's everything from just wanting to quote unquote, pick our brains. Like, "Here's what's going on in my company," like sometimes it's corporations sometimes is organizations. "Here's what's going on in my organization. Here's what I'm planning to do. Can you give them feedback on it?" That kind of thing. A lot of times is wanting people wanting us to come and speak, you know, just kind of help to educate folks. So that's another thing. Sometimes it's wanting us to recommend consultants, which is another thing. Giving feedback on on documents. And sometimes it seems like it's just so people want to be able to say that they talk to us, so it's just kind of wanting to have a conversation. Um, and then a lot of people wanting us to join, whether it's advisory groups or boards or steering committees or all these other things, because so various, various things.

John Fiege  

A lot of things that are asking for a lot of time. 

Jacqui Patterson  

Yes, definitely. So there's that. On the other side, though. Some, some, some groups have come and they've said, Oh, now what you said, we see what you were saying all these years ago, and are kind of pulling, you know, dusting off some memo that I may have written way back way back when say, and actually taking it seriously now. So that's been interesting. And so that, so so on a positive side, there are there are organizations, companies and so forth that are making concrete commitments as a result of what has come. Yes. And so some folks are going beyond the statements and shifted their funding priorities shifting the way that they do the work integrating, at least a more anti racist frame into the work that they do. So that kind of enlightenment and action has definitely moved the ball in an important way. For sure.

John Fiege  

So social movements often focus on what's wrong and what needs to change. But sometimes, they don't spend enough time imagining what could be, and getting people excited about those dreams of alternative possibilities. I've heard you talk about creating eco communities and locally controlled sustainable food and energy systems, with the potential for communities to become the owners and beneficiaries of local distributed generation and micro grid energy systems. I personally really love this kind of thinking, can you talk about some of these specific regenerative, self reliant eco-community ideas? And in how you think about what might be called utopian visions?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, definitely. So first, as I was talking about before, in terms of the type of societal shifts that we need, we know that the way each and every one of the systems around the commons are designed have been problematic, and not delivering universally what's needed. And, at best, and then at worst, actually causing harm in the generation and the delivery of, of whatever the good is. So we talk about our energy systems, we're saying we need to shift to, to more energy efficiency, to clean energy. And we need to have a distributed system of doing so we know that not only you know, whether we've we've already talked about extensively in terms of the pollution and so forth, but the energy sector, but the other thing that's important to note is the is the the energy companies in the millions...the billions of dollars in profits that they've made and how they've, they've invested that in, and not only anti-regulatory lobbying, and anti clean energy lobbying, but also invested in groups like ALEC, that push on voter suppression, water privatization, school privatization, prison privatization, etc. And so for us, when we talk about the alternative, it is about making sure that there's affordable and accessible energy for all and it's about making sure that that becomes the focus of the energy sector, versus the focus now which is on, again enclosure of wealth and power to the tune of billions of dollars. And so that's why we feel like the whole sector needs to shift. And so that's just a little bit of background there. And so we we've been able to lift up the stories where people are developing, whether it's micro grids, or even larger grids in for example, on Navajo Nation. They're replacing the Navajo Generating Station, which was one of the largest, most polluting coal fired power plants in the country, and now they have a Navajo Nation owned a solar farm. That is creating energy in a way that don't pollute, and it is owned and operated by the Navajo Nation. 

John Fiege  

That's awesome. 

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, that's awesome. 

John Fiege  

One thing that's exciting to me about the green new deal and similar ideas that came before it is, is the possibility for labor and sustainability to be on the same side for issues rather than constantly to be pitted against one another. What are your thoughts about how labor and justice and environment can can build solidarity as as we move into this new era?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, so we put together this Black Labor Initiative on Just Transition for that very reason. So that we are all talking together at the same table with a common agenda, we were speaking at the coalition of Black Trade Union this meeting a couple of years ago. And when someone asked us about the Cold Blooded Report, and we spoke on that, then someone raised their hand in the audience, and they were like, "Well, we're from the United Mine Workers of America. And we kind of take exception to this Cold Blooded framing." And so we really had a chat about that. And understood where they were coming from, and really kind of talk about how we had reached out to them, we put together the Black Labor Initiative on Just Transition a couple of years before. And we would love if they consider coming back to the table there. And so they they did, and we really had a great conversation that resulted in...I was going literally from that meeting, to a meeting of the 100% Building Blocks, which is being put together by this 100% Renewable Network. And so as one of the authors of the Building Blocks, I really pushed hard for us to have a building block that's dedicated  to labor. And it was out of that conversation that I said, we need to have, like, right alongside the renewable portfolio standards and the energy efficiency standards we need to have in just right in tandem demands for high road jobs, for pensions, and for health care for transitioning workers. Like that can be like an afterthought, and "Oh, we need to do this too." It's not like, it's like, these are the things we need to do not like we need to do this too, because that automatically is like, but no, like we like these are the things we need to do. No caveat, no qualifier. Just like these are the things; renewable portfolio, standard energy, local higher provision, disadvantaged business, enterprise division, health, you know, health care, pensions and high road jobs for transitioning workers are inextricably tied prerequisites for this transition.

John Fiege  

Yeah, and that goes back to what you talked about before of rooting, the work in the dialogue with with multiple groups, multiple people, multiple stakeholders, and finding truth through that negotiation discussion, rather than imposing it in some theoretical way on top of other people.  So when the internet started to roll out in the 1990s, and 2000s, there was this, what was called the digital divide. Well, you know, wealthier, whiter, more urban communities got access to computers and the Internet, poorer communities, more rural communities, communities of color, were often not at the negotiating table and left out of the digital revolution. Some people are concerned that the rapid shift to green energy could cause a similar divide. Maybe you know, you could maybe call it a "green divide." What's your view on, on how this concern is playing out? And what do you see as the key elements to understanding what's going on and what to do about it?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah. So before what I was talking about one of the groups wiping off the dust off of a memo I had written some years ago, it was on that very thing, basically saying that, you know, how we need to have leadership of frontline groups in the new energy economy. And again, similar to what I was just saying about Black labor and labor in general, that it can't be an afterthought, like you can't continue to focus as a sole industry on quote-unquote, the low hanging fruit or this false notion that "a rising tide lifts all boats." And so that's all to say that, uh, that we need to make sure that we're working with with, with the, with the policies to make sure that we have clean energy in terms of universal access, we have to make sure that we're working with communities to make sure that they understand what the routes are to be able to access, we have to work with these regulatory agencies, whether it's for FERC, or, or the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or the PCs and the PSCs, to make sure that they are, that they're holding these utilities accountable for practices that are pushing us to where we need to go as a society towards clean and efficient energy. So all of that needs to happen in concert to make sure that we don't have those kinds of separations, in terms of who acts who's accessing it, who's paying the price. 

John Fiege  

That your narrative doesn't get co opted by people with a furious intention for using that narrative. That's exactly ridiculous. Yeah. Well, going back to young Jackie, growing up in the south side of Chicago, how has your thinking changed since then, about who you are, and about your relationship to the rest of life on the planet?

Jacqui Patterson  

Hmm. One is, I see that...for one thing I now understand in a way that I now understand the relationship between whether I turn the light switch on, you know, this, this relationship to this larger world, like this, literally the implications of turning my life switch on and were, like, tracing that back to its roots, and then tracing it out to its impacts. Similarly to, if I "throw something away"  knowing know where that will go and what its impacts will be like. So now just from being that innocent child who, who didn't, who didn't have a sense of that larger world, now I see all of that. And see like my, my, the importance of my individual actions, but then the importance of my actions as a part of a collective, and the and the possibilities of a change as a change agent, and shifting from a person who kind of life happened to me, to someone who is actually able to influence what's happening in in the world in a different way. So that's a major shift. Also, just like the innocence of childhood, I was were aware of racism fairly early on, because it was a constant refrain with my mom, and so forth. My brother, and I used to kind of talk about being like all the restaurants were banned from because my mom would get into me altercations, and so I mean, it was never true, but that was our we definitely would want to go back to that restaurant and eat. And then, but then I think about now, kind of innocent moments like when my brother and I were dancing on the beach in Jamaica, and there's a picture that my mom took of it, and so you can see my dad looking on my while we are dancing. And then, but then also there were all these other people taking pictures of us. And back then it was just like an innocent moment of us dancing. And now looking back through sadly jaded eyes, I feel a) everyone, of course, assume that we were, you know, kids who were living in Jamaica. And b) that they felt like they had the right to take a picture of us and like the notion that we're like, in someone's photo album, or on their mantle from that trip to Jamaica. You know? it feels like now in the context of racism and the systemic depths of racism and dehumanization, and so forth. It feels less like this innocent sweet moment and more like a violation in that sense in a way that I, you know, it's just, it's just, yeah, but not heavily...you know what I mean, but just like...

John Fiege  

The color of the light changes on on those memories.

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah, exactly. But then the other thing is now, going now, you know, having lived within a 10 mile radius of three coal fired power plants, and having done work with our communities on each and every one of those coal plants, and now having each and every one of those coal plants closed, for example. And knowing that, as a result, the communities that I grew up in are now breathing cleaner air. The work that we're doing now with the South Side of Chicago branch, which literally covers the jurisdiction of my old home, on creating jobs on doing stormwater management, all these things, and knowing that, that the dynamics that I dealt with, while I was there, innocently, and, you know, are now able to all the kids in my class who had asthma, the people at our church with COPD, that bit by bit, the work that we're doing, is making a different difference for their kids and their grandkids.

John Fiege  

That must be so satisfying. 

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah

John Fiege  

that's connected to your actual neighborhood. 

Jacqui Patterson  

Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.

John Fiege  

That's really cool. In an interview you did with Bill McKibben, you told him: "There are so many fissures in our movement. And I think a lot about how to have these conversations in a way that is forthright, but also full of grace". That's a really beautiful way of putting it. Can you talk to me a bit more about this tension between directness and grace? And and what that sounds like? And maybe it sounds like maybe this is an ongoing balancing act for you?

Jacqui Patterson  

Yes, definitely. And depending on the day, and what happened that day. Oh, well, that goes..Yeah, absolutely. Because like I always try to remind myself that we're all a product of our society and so recognizing that our society is such that we were raised it a racist, sexist, whatever kind of society in any of our cut all the things that they all the ways that it slips through whether it's through microaggressions or macro aggressions or or just people not seeing it's just kind of blindness, my opposite ism and so forth. That to, to work through a system that is literally doing what it was designed to do to work through the narrative that the dominant narratives that are in our society and somehow rise above all of that and be you know, be this kind of totally open totally great, totally, you know, colorblind or whatever, antiracist, antisexist, anti whatever. It's, it's, it's a lot it's a lot to work through and work past and work beyond and then doing that while raising a child or doing that while like all the different things that you know, raising a parent in hospice are all the different things that that occupy our minds at any given moment of any given day. So I try to always keep that in my mind when I'm dealing with someone and I'm feeling the frustration rise or I'm feeling the whatever I tried. But I think that that mindset definitely is one that, especially when you yourself are having to raise a child or have someone on hospice or all the different things, and then on top of it all, you are constantly assaulted by micro and macro aggressions, like to be able to, to then to then receive all that not be kind of...anyway and then and then to be able to think about all that all of that person's going through, like that's like a whole other level of burden in some way. And so, but so it takes a lot to try to be consciously gracious in that way. And, and it takes a lot to be able to be consistently gracious in that way. So that's all to say. That it that it takes a lot of work for sure. And, and I would also just say that the privilege that I have now in this moment of being able to do more of that is because I don't have kids, because tragically, both of my parents have passed away, and you know what I mean? So, so I have a lot more space for grace. Then if I had kind of more...I don't have a partner, you know, like, so all of those things like allow a lot more space for that contemplation and that ability to be gracious in the midst of a situation that doesn't, that doesn't cater to the ability to be gracious and when you know that that microaggression, that just that those that article in the newspaper, the two people, the two images, every one of those things that you experience, when you experience them and know that they're part of this larger system, like knowing that Joan walks out and says to me, you know, may I help you? knowing that like, she could be the person that's responsible for the killing of the next Trayvon Martin not not responsible, you know?. And so, so in that moment, like, I could just be like, you know, you're the reason you know what I mean, but like, but it's her and all the system that's behind her that drove her to think that I was someone who's stealing that package. And so it that's also another kind of place of privilege is knowing that I am working on that system, you know, and so I don't have to feel powerless in the face of somebody saying that to me or experiencing that, because I know I'm working on that bigger system's change that's going to make it all hopefully better for us all, and help to educate someone like a Joan, who assumes that I'm stealing a package, you know, and so when here, so hopefully all that makes sense.

John Fiege  

Yeah, totally, totally. And, you know, again, it's just, your words again, are beautifully succinct, forthright, but also full of grace, you know, how many words is six words?  I feel like you really embody that. And, you know, it's so easy for us to fly in one direction of that, or the other. You know, on the one hand, I feel like what most people do is they look away, the blinders on because it's too painful, it's too difficult. It, it feels too impossible to to confront these things. And on the other side, you find people who do confront these things. And it's hard to get past the anger and frustration of confronting these things every day. Hold both of those items at once, without flying to one side of that scale or the other is so challenging. And I you know, I've known you for several years now, and I see you do it constantly. So I, I've asked you to bring a quotation to read that's been particularly meaningful on your journey in life. Could you end the show by reading what you brought and telling the story of its significance to you?

Jacqui Patterson  

So one that always kind of guides me is from Lilly Watson where she says, "If you've come to help me, You're wasting your time. But if you've come because you know and feel that your liberation is bound to mind, and let's walk together." And that quote, has been one that I've carried ever since I heard it some years ago, decades ago, I would say, and it really gets to the heart of, of how we need to be oriented as a society, recognizing our interconnectedness, recognizing that unattributed quote, "if one of us is oppressed, none of us are free." Recognizing that what I've heard Tom Goldtooth from the Indigenous Environmental Network says in terms of "We're all in this river together," that ... recognizing that we ... Martin Luther King that "I can never be, what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be" like of those interconnectedness quotes really, and really, strike at the heart of what why I do what I want to do and what and what what the narrative is, that I would like to see be universal, and the reality and terms of us all seeing our connection to each other, really walking together, in that connectedness and in in, and radical love really recognizing that, that without really walking together in love with where someone's going to fall off of the path, and eventually we'll all we won't have a path to walk on.

John Fiege  

And what that love that, what is that love that drives you? Um, I think,

Jacqui Patterson  

I mean, I would say it's just love itself, you know what I mean? It's love for the earth love for, and that's where I mean, that's also where the grace comes from, as well. Going back to that question, is that, you know, I love Joan, even though she accused me of, you know, I love the gentleman who walked out of that forest and, you know, like, I, I feel love for, for us all and that, and that it is that, that false narrative of scarcity and that fear, that, that, that makes it a privilege, because I don't feel that fear and I don't, I don't I embrace the reality of abundance and reject the myth of scarcity. And it's a privilege to be able to do that and to be able to feel that love and I just want that for for everyone. There's another quote actually, from from Che Guevara, where he says "It might sound ridiculous, but a true revolutionary is driven by feelings  of love." And it does often like...even when I hear myself say it, it sounds so like, you know, whatever, milk toast or whatever, but it's the truth. And I want it to be a universal truth because it really makes life so much more livable. And and, and, and if we all if we all embrace it, then we go from kind of some folks barely surviving to everybody thriving. 

John Fiege  

Yeah, that also reminds me of something Martin

Jacqui Patterson  

together

John Fiege  

...Yeah, right together....It also reminds me of something Martin Luther King said, I don't remember the exact words but it was something to the effect. I can remember who is talking about is like, "you don't need to like them, but you need to love them."

Jacqui Patterson  

Yes Exactly

John Fiege  

And, that It's, it's hard, but it's important. Great. Well, thank you so much for joining me today, Jackie. It's been amazing pleasure as always.

Jacqui Patterson  

Thank you. It's a pleasure as well for me.

---

Outro

John Fiege  

Thank you so much to Jacqui Patterson. Go to our website at ChrysalisPodcast.org to see the quotations Jacqui read and check out the links to her writing and other resources related to our conversation.

Chrysalis is produced and edited by Gabriela Cordoba Vivas; with music by Daniel Rodriguez Vivas, design by Unai Reglero, and mixing by Juan Garcia. Isabella Nurt is our social media producer and assistant editor, Shubh Jain is our web developer and assistant editor, and Arianna Lone is our editing intern.

If you enjoyed my conversation with Jacqui, please rate and review us on your favorite podcast platform. You can also support us by becoming a paid subscriber on Substack. Contact me anytime at ChrysalisPodcast.org.


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