I’ve always seen different types of events advertised through school emails and Facebook, but with my busy schedule, it’s hard for me to find some that happen to occur during a time when I’m actually available. So, you can imagine my surprise when I saw an event posted on Facebook for the Sustainable Monroeville Monthly Meeting on a date and time that I was actually free!

On March 6, 2017, I attended the meeting with my friend. We had no idea what to expect. I’m vegan and she’s vegetarian, so we were especially excited to see that there would be a “plant-based food potluck” before the meeting remarks began. I’m also from the town, and sustainability is for sure a value of mine, so I thought I would love the meeting and ultimately become a member of this organization. Spoiler alert: I was wrong.

Sustainable Monroeville’s website states “Our mission is to help the city of Monroeville move forward in the green economy by offering sustainable solutions.” Apparently, the group has been around for years – way longer than I thought. When I first heard about it, I thought it was brand new, which added to my excitement about attending the meeting. After being there for about 30 minutes, I realized I was wrong about that. The founders of the organization are parents of a girl I went to high school with, and I thought they’d for sure remember me…they didn’t. Maybe I should’ve known I’d be disappointed in the meeting after that, but nevertheless, I kept an open mind.

We ate amazing plant-based food. A homemade salad with greens and other veggies that came from someone’s garden was my favorite part – I think I had 4 or 5 bowls of it. Another woman made the best kale chips I’d ever tasted, and another man made a yummy-but-bland vegetable soup. Since it was a potluck, I brought some pasta and Italian bread.

After 45 minutes of mingling and eating, the meeting began. My favorite part of the night was meeting a remarkable man named Tom Jefferson (no joke). He’s a photographer and videographer who captured scenes from a few major protests in recent history, such as Standing Rock and the 2014 People’s Climate March as well as smaller, local protests. He’s from Homestead, so it was awesome to meet such an interesting person from an area so close to where I live and breathe.

The main event of the meeting was the screening of Tom’s documentary The Way We Live, which showed viewers the persistence, experiences, and reasoning of those who marched in the 2014 People’s Climate March. After watching the movie, we were going to have a brief discussion.

Long story short, I felt like I was watching an hour-long white parade. Throughout the whole screening, I couldn’t help but to notice the complete lack of POC in the March, which prompted a thought – many POC can’t afford to quit their jobs or call off work to march cross country for climate change. Because he is a black man, I honestly wondered what Tom thought about the lack of POC in his film, if he even thought about it at all. I was disappointed in this fact, and even more weirded out at the fact that the people in the room watching the video with me were getting physically upset by the scenes in the film. There were a few instances of force from police, where marchers would just link arms and sit on the sidewalk until police had to physically unlink them from each other, handcuff them with zip ties, and take them to the police station. These were the scenes that garnered the most physical reactions from my fellow audience members, but I wasn’t buying the drama. It seemed almost fake, as if they were looking for a way to be victimized.

After seeing so many instances of police brutality against black males in the past few years, I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of anger towards these marchers. Don’t get me wrong – I agree, sustainability and climate change are real threats that need to be addressed sooner rather than later. But this documentary had me wanting to ask every single marcher “Where are you when there’s a Black Lives Matter protest?” Why can you quit your job and travel cross country on foot for this cause, but not one that is aimed at preventing situations that are causing our neighbors to die right now, every day? Why do I see an unparalleled level of passion from all of you in this instance, but not when our friends are fighting to keep their children, cousins, brothers, fathers, and friends from being murdered?

I can say this: in no way am I criticizing Tom’s documentary. I admire him and all of the work he does. My biggest disappointment was with the climate activists and their lack of intersectionality. Yes, climate change is going to kill all of us in the future if we don’t act on it, but police brutality is killing our neighbors now, and to me, that’s a little bit more pressing of an issue. I salute all activists – if we all cared about the same issue, a lot of the world’s problems would never be solved. But I ask that you use your privilege to be there for those that need it now.

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