May the Forest Be With Us

The Rise of Remington Woods

Ofonime Udo-Okon

A Refresh

#saveremingtonwoods stands as a reminder that capitalism, inherently, seeks opportunities to destroy the environment at the expense of the well-being of marginalized communities. And whether capitalism is checked or left unchecked, marginalized communities will disproportionately be its collateral damage. So our conversation about environmental justice demands an intersectional approach with marginalized community members at its forefront.

May the Forest Be With Us.jpg

In this particular conversation, we are talking about 422 acres of nature living its best life, despite years of being shot up by trigger happy white folx (Remington Woods used as a testing range)

(my reaction when I first found out!)

In our efforts to raise awareness about Remington Woods, it is natural to talk about this campaign with a focus on wildlife. However, we must address the unjust undertones of this development avidly in this campaign: while Remington Woods is located in both Bridgeport and Stratford, we know that it is not a coincidence that the parcel of land openly being considered for development is located in Bridgeport. So let’s consider the human landscape.

 

As you may know, Bridgeport’s population is 72.3% BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color), specifically 39.2% Latinx, and 33.1% African American. The median age of the people in Bridgeport is 33.8 years (Census, 2017). This means that: 

    1. an equitable campaign needs to hable español 

    2. empowering local BIPOC residents to join the efforts equals a more equitable approach

    3. an engaging campaign reaches folxs where they are -- the digital world

 

The Strategy

The approach we are using is rooted in compassion, especially as we continue to witness the effects of COVID-19 locally. It is centered on utilizing digital media as our primary means for activism in an effort to maintain the health and safety of our bodies and our communities. This approach also invites and empowers youth and community to envision what is possible when we step up to protect our community. 

 

  1. Addressing The Elephant in the Room Named Miss Rona: This global pandemic, known as “Miss Rona” by Gen Z, is ravishing BIPOC communities. The tragedies of COVID are horrid, tangible, and relevant examples of the gross crimes committed by capitalism. Pre-existing health disparities (for example the skyrocketing rates of asthma) and other structural failures have made BIPOC communities highly susceptible to fatal effects of the virus. Here at Sierra Club, we know that our health is relational to the health of our environment. When we point to Remington Woods, it is important that we point towards the health of our community and the price our bodies pay when we allow capitalism to win.

  2. Harnessing the Power of Social Media: Digital media activism has been on the rise for quite some time. We are in a unique time frame; more than ever, people are looking at their screens. It makes sense to focus our attention on social media.

  3. Strength of Youth Rising: If youth haven’t been on your radar, this is not the year to doubt their superpowers. Youth understand the impacts of environmental injustice - they are inheriting an earth that needs a lot of TLC. Youth who feel empowered with information about an environmental justice cause are a force to reckon with. Don’t believe me, ask Greta. Imagine youth who found out that 64 football fields worth of trees in their neighborhood are going to be cut down to build a business park. Youth buy in means quite a bit right now. 

  4. Tailored Community Pillars: Every community has its pillars; however, as we are in a global pandemic (and might be for a while longer), we have to consider the community pillars that can still reach people. That means reaching out to organizations that are able to serve those in their communities. 

  5. Participatory Visioning:  The future of Remington Woods should be visioned by its community. Period. Getting the community to imagine what that space looks like and feels when it is community-owned is an activity we should incorporate into all strategies moving forward -- if you can dream it… that’s one-third of the battle. 

 

#saveremingtonwoods is a unique opportunity to empower the folxs that will be most impacted by development; it is also a wonderful chance to capture the momentum of youth who are passionate about the environment and are looking for an outlet. 

 

Here’s What You Can Do

We are powerful, together. Right now, for the safety of our community, we are not doing in-person activities until we are in the clear. So it is important that we stay connected with BIPOC changemakers in our communities. For example:

  • Educators

  • Faith-based organizations

  • Grassroots Community Organizations 

  • Neighborhood Revitalization Zones (NRZs)

 

  1. If you have connections to awesome movers and shakers like those above, this is a wonderful time to have a Zoom & Chew (lunch over Zoom). Talk to them about how they are dealing with the pandemic and the effects that it has had on their communities. Talk about how the health of our bodies is closely tied to the health of our environment. Present the health disadvantages BIPOC communities have during this time and why it makes sense for a unified move towards community empowerment in favor of conservation. 

 

  1. We are calling all the witty and spunky social media engaged folx to come forth. This is your time to shine! If you know of anyone who is full of pent up creative talent, or a youth who is looking for a space to grow our message in the gram, this is it! 

 

  1. Most importantly, we need to capture the stories of those in our community. If you find yourself talking to someone about #saveremingtonwoods, gather vision stories. What is possible when we #saveremingtonwoods? 

 

My name is Ofonime Udo-Okon, a Community Outreach Coordinator, and I am so excited to work with you to #saveremingtonwoods and create a vision for a greener, equitable, and more sustainable Bridgeport. If you would like to volunteer, contact me at ofonime.udo-okon@sierraclub.org

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.