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Coastal Desk

To combat climate change, Gulf groups to hold 1st environmental justice festival in Baton Rouge

downtown baton rouge.jpg
Aubry Procell
/
WRKF
A view of Downtown Baton Rouge from the top of the State Capitol on Nov. 12, 2021.

In Louisiana, many are used to food and music festivals sponsored by oil and gas companies, but this weekend, there’s something a little different - a festival for climate justice.

The Gulf Gathering for Climate Justice and Joy aims to celebrate the area’s unique culture while also having attendees work together to put forth solutions to combat climate change. It takes place Saturday, June 4 in Baton Rouge.

The event is hosted by the Gulf South for a Green New Deal, a network of more than 300 organizations across the region with similar values and priorities aimed at advancing climate, racial and economic justice. There will be live music, workshops, free food and speakers from community members and organizers from Louisiana, Texas, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida.

Michael Esealuka, Healthy Gulf organizer and event leadership member, said that organizing for the event started in 2019 after those involved felt the need to act after news that had come out about U.N.’s report calling for urgency to combat the climate crisis.

“We in Louisiana, especially in the Gulf, we're the canary in the coal mine, we're dealing with the climate impacts first and worst. And we're also the epicenter of oil and gas extraction on the Texas and Louisiana coast,” Esealuka said. “So we felt like it was important for us to plant a flag in the sand and say, ‘we don't want this, and we want there to be a future for our land and for our home.’”

Esealuka said it was important to make “joy” the theme of the festival to help push a sustainable movement by spotlighting the love people have for their home, culture and traditions.

There will be community sessions running throughout the day by various organizations, including one led by the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy that teaches attendees about the future of American offshore energy, and another headed by local representatives from the Sierra Club who will discuss climate in a global context.

Esealuka hopes that the event can help people who are feeling anxious about the climate news and hurricane season to figure out how they can get involved in work that reflects their values and traditions.

“I think a lot of times with the climate movement, in particular, it can feel so abstract. Because people speak in terms of facts and figures instead of storytelling and talking about basic human rights,” Esealuka said. “And so we're hoping that this is going to be a moment where people will be exposed to local climate organizing that reflects the interests of their communities, and they can get plugged in locally.”

For Alliance for Affordable Energy climate coordinator and event leadership member Kanitra Caston-Hill, she’s most excited to see other people face to face and compare environmental advocacy notes from other groups across the region.

“What I'm hoping for out of this event is that we all have a good time,” Caston-Hill said. “And we get more people involved, more people willing to speak up in solidarity about the injustices that are happening within our communities, and primarily, it's always targeted toward communities of color.”

Caston-Hill said that she hopes that this event can be a step to help inspire people to build toward a better future.

“It's time for us to leave the past in the past and be more innovative, equitable, loving, conscious and be more for the people,” Caston-Hill said. “Less about profit, less about power and less about position. We can not build back the way it was in the past. We have to build back better - the Gulf Coast in general.”

Live performances include musicians, such as Louisiana local Forest Huval and DJ Jorge Díaz Ortiz of Puerto Rico. There will also be dance lessons with Louisiana Dance Roots and other creative and educational workshops. The full program can be found here.

Food options include a seafood boil, vegan food, snowballs and more.

The gathering takes place at Rhorer Plaza at 200 St. Louis Street, behind City Hall, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The event is free and open to all. You can RSVP at www.climatejusticeandjoy.com/

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