Last month, Choose Clean Water Coalition Director Chanté Coleman and I had the pleasure of visiting Berkeley, California for the 2017 PGM One Summit. This two day retreat provided a space for people of the global majority working in the outdoors and environmental spaces to heal, learn, and inspire together. Not only was this my first time on the West Coast, but it was an opportunity to meet and connect with other colleagues at the National Wildlife Federation who advocate for social justice in the outdoors.
Although, people of color represent 80% of the global majority often times our communities become marginalized and have little representation in leadership. The PGM One Summit was unlike any other, because it gave us the opportunity to celebrate our uniqueness and capitalize on our strengths. Affinity spaces like this are especially important because they allow people of color to have dialogue and interaction that might not otherwise occur. Overall, the outcome was both positive and empowering.
The conference itself was quite the bonding experience. Every day, people of color are challenged to meet increasingly difficult and uncertain times with compassion when facing oppression. The “Colors of Compassion Mindfulness Workshop” breakout session was a space for us to engage in mindful practices. We discussed ways in which we self-manage and overcome challenging situations in work spaces. We read excerpts from mindfulness teachers and reflected on our experiences in peace and solidarity.
One of the most interesting concepts I heard was from a Latina who spends her free time teaching young women to surf. She described her experience catching big waves as both invigorating and intimidating. When cursing salty seas she felt free, yet… alone. The sport itself is heavily dominated by white men. It’s not only a challenge being a female surfer, but imagine being the only face you can relate to? At times, it can be difficult for people of color to develop a relationship with nature if they face socio-economic disadvantages. By the end of the conversation we learned that Polynesian women were actually some of the world’s first surfers prior to Western expansion.
Overall, the PGM One Summit was an enriching experience. My biggest takeaway was building new partnerships and embracing diversity, equity, and inclusion among my colleagues. We thank the National Wildlife Federation for giving us the opportunity to rejuvenate our cultural relationship with nature. Even though people of color make up the global majority we don’t always have an opportunity to come together and celebrate our narrative.
Mariah Davis is the field manager with the Choose Clean Water Coalition.