By Taylor Mayes, CRCJ Communications Coordinator
“The transition from an economy based on fossil fuel consumption to one based on renewable energy provides an opportunity to address racial and economic inequalities in the local economy of Southeastern Connecticut”
The offshore wind farm development taking place off the coast of New London is a project that the Roundtable has been advocating and organizing around for the past two years. Most recently the Roundtable has been considering how it can more intentionally build an environmental justice framework around the project.
So how can we ensure that this oncoming boost to the New London economy helps to dismantle systems of racism? Can clean energy projects help to actively deconstruct these systems legacy so that everyone might benefit and prosper?
Facts and Figures:
In New London (and the rest of the U.S.) people of color are significantly more likely to endure unemployment and poverty.
Thanks to Renee Reese, a CT Roundtable board member, for creating these great visuals!
These inequalities are a result of laws and policies that have been around for decades, and they will require laws and policies to change. So, the Roundtable organized a diverse group of community leaders from a wide range of backgrounds and organizations to begin these difficult conversations to proactively develop a solution.
Some of the wonderful community leaders in the room that I got to meet last week:
Frida Berrigan is the Office Manager/ Communications and Development Coordinator at Fresh New London. Their mission is to build momentum for food system change through local agriculture and youth empowerment.
Nekiesha Grant is director of the Opportunities Industrialization Center of New London County. They support and serve the Greater New London County community with employment skills training, education and placement.
Pastor Martino is a Senior Pastor who leads a Spanish service with Church of the City New London. The church is a multicultural and multiethnic Christian church proclaiming the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Jean Jordan (on the right) is president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People New London Branch. Their mission is to ensure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights of all persons and to eliminate race-based discrimination.
We all got to know the stories and backgrounds of the people in the room. Building trust across different backgrounds was a big goal for that first meeting that I believe that happened successfully, thanks to our highly skilled facilitator Anneta Argyres.
John Humphries (CRCJ’s Lead Organizer) reviewed the logistics of the wind power developments in New London, and Renee Reese covered the realities of New London’s social inequities. Together, as a group we then brainstormed some of the potential positive ways the wind farm development could help to combat historically engrained systems of racism, and improve New London’s local economy to benefit everyone – keeping in mind those who are most marginalized.
To provide an example of this brainstorming, here are some thoughts from Frida Berrigan on one of the limitations of her organization, Fresh New London, and how these new economic developments might positively impact her community:
“One of the opportunities that I see in the conversations that we were having is the next step for young people who aren’t college bound and who don’t have the family supports that would get them into the apprenticeship program at Electric Boat for example. It’s hard to break into those kinds of jobs without that family network or institutional support.”
“We really don’t have anything for young people once they graduate from high school. We don’t have a ladder that young people can climb. So as we are doing this big 5-year master plan for urban agriculture, a big component of it has been how do we develop a social enterprise that can employ young people once they’ve gone all the way through our program.”
In the next meeting our objective will be to sharpen our vision and set priorities. The goal is to develop an initial strategy to win tangible, impactful community benefits for New London.