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2020 Reflection & 2021 Intention & Declaration

Ofonime Udo-Okon

This past year had been nothing short of intense, surprising, and unpredictable. In spite of that, the #SaveRemingtonWoods campaign made tremendous strides. When I began this journey with you all, I expressed the need for this campaign to center the voices of Black, Indigenous, and POC communities. What came forth from those conversations was Bridgeport’s dream of what a forest with holistic intention would mean for them. A dear friend of mine, Xavier Longwa, who is championing the formation of the Bridgeport Land Trust in a budding allyship with the Aspetuck Land Trust, told me, “Those who are closest to the solution are oftentimes the furthest away from the resources”. 

Our journey last year took us through Remington Woods, where we were able to see the progress on the cleanup with Senator Jim Himes: it led us to partnerships both locally and out of state; it brought us to a more intentional dialogue with local powerhouse organizations like Bridgeport Generation Now; we were able to hear the laughter of youth running through local woods on their first hike; and most importantly it brought us to a place of gracious listening and active patience. 

In the world of advocacy, action often takes precedence over slow-building. While in conversation with Black and POC folx, it was clear to see that there were voices in the room eager for conversation, though rightfully skeptical, and full of ideas and declarations. Alongside those voices, there were other voices in the room who were itching for action — and rightfully so as well. However, the trust of the Black, Indigenous, and POC voices are not only precious, they should be sought after; no matter how uncomfortably slow the process seems to be. 

Many times during this process, I was reminded of the lessons of the infamous fable “The Tortoise and the Hare”, The Da Vinci Code by Hans Zimmer, and my favorite crockpot New England clam chowder soup — good things come with an extra dose of patience, optimistic anticipation, an ear to the ground, and little spice. As we continue coalition building, the human landscape we are navigating requires an incredible amount of patience. The Black, Indigenous, and POC voices of the Bridgeport community (residents, stakeholders, and organizations alike) are holding their breath as things fall into place. Every concern and every thought is valuable. Every tear and every smile will be cherished, and every critique and rebuke we will hold space for.

As we work to define and put into practice allyships, it will require optimistic anticipation. The work of environmental justice is more nuanced than the work of environmentalism. As we explore anti-racism in the context of what we are after, expose ourselves to learned prejudice and implicit biases -- we will notice that all around us are dead ideologies and rotting values of white supremacists. However, much like a morphing caterpillar, this is the time to take the time to sit with ourselves, eat and reflect on our values, and allow ourselves to transform. This painful process is a catalyst for growth.  

As we look to Corteva and community leaders to do right by the people of Bridgeport and Stratford, we will need to keep an ear to the ground. My work as a community advocate has taught me that change is built up like a brick wall — layer by layer. The incredible cleanup work that is happening will be the foundation for a future that looks bright for the future generations of Bridgeport. 

 And as we adapt and live out this unpredictable new year, we will need a little bit of spice — a little laughter, a little exhale, and a little warmth.

This year, we are focusing on continued listening sessions with the Stratford and Bridgeport community, providing environmental justice anti-racism educational opportunities for allies, digital canvassing, and strengthening our number of supporters for this campaign. For me, a successful campaign for Remington Woods begins with equity, community ownership, and ends with 100% undeveloped woods, community allies and accomplices willing to do the work for the rest of their lives, and an ecosystem that can be enjoyed by all. 

We need your financial support to continue advocating for the protection and preservation of Remington Woods and other at-risk spaces from development. Take part in the action by donating today. And as we move onward, let us remember that: we are powerful, together. 

Ofonime Udo-Okon is Sierra Club Connecticut’s Community Outreach Coordinator on Save Remington Woods project in Bridgeport, along with other outreach and projects within the city and Fairfield County.

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