Organizing The Oppression Of The People’s Climate March

The People’s Climate March of 2014 was in New York City. All of the artwork for this global mass mobilization for the climate was to be completed at Mayday Art Space which was a brand new three-story building in Bushwick Brooklyn.

This was the first-ever large-scale march that was designed to be broken into sections to be viewed in a story-telling fashion by the public.

The month prior to this massive convergence was a Training For Trainers event given by some of the top artists in the country to the heads of all the largest nonprofits and NGOs. Our training emphasized the importance of messaging, introduced different visual art mediums and set up workspaces inside of Mayday for large-scale builds.

A position for Art Build Coordinator was posted which happened to start almost immediately after the training. It wasn’t known then but a missed flight would provide a with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to throw down with some of the best artists in the world.

After landing the position, a very robust website was quickly developed to help aid the organization and scheduling process of the different floors and areas of Mayday. There were hundreds of social and environmental grassroots from around the world that were going to be in attendance including hosts like the 2 billion dollar NGO 350.org. The website functionality reserved Mayday areas and also updated in real-time for everyone to see.

With a few hundred dollars given to me to help pull off one of the largest mobilizations in recent memory, I couldn’t afford a rental or stay at the places the NGOs had rented. However, I was lucky to make some lifelong friends who allowed me to stay on the rooftops during the duration of my stay in Brooklyn, much love to y’all.

Mayday Art Space in Brooklyn became my personal creative dojo for almost 20 hours a day. During the months leading up to the march and I was blessed to throw down daily with some of the best in the creative industry.

Grassroots communities agreed to participate in the People’s Climate March to outwardly legitimize it to the world on the condition that white nonprofits and NGOs introduce their funders and foundations to the frontline BIPOC actually doing the work. As of this day and many Climate Marches later, this agreement has still yet to be followed through on the nonprofit and NGO side.

Aside from the local installations, the national Indigenous contingent of the march was embarrassingly lacking due to the last-minute consideration of formulating any visual representation for this world event. This poor planning by native nonprofits including Indigenous Environmental Network and IP3 led to flying in a mediocre artist to create a global campaign in less than 2 days. This last-minute effort amounted to a spray-painted banner with weak nonprofit messaging. Showing up in this way was quite disrespectful to Indigenous struggle historically especially since everyone involved had months to develop elaborate storytelling installations and large-scale builds. It was at this point after weeks of art space organizing and running city-wide direct actions that I needed to remove myself from the toxicity of this parachuting activism. Sadly, similar scenarios by these native nonprofits would play out continuously, especially in Standing Rock and in Paris.

The People’s Climate March brought half a million people from around the world to the streets of New York City under the facade of change however this energy was watered down to basically shouting at buildings. This convergence was organized by hundreds of social and environmental corporations that are only accountable to white grant funders and foundations which was a recipe to homogenize this amazing opportunity down to a corporate branding parade rather than challenging any power.

Despite much lateral oppression and nonprofit fuckery pulling this off was a major confidence-building experience. I was able to bang with the best in different artistic disciplines and flex my own skills of Web Design, Graphic Design, Print Work, Murals, Paper Maché, Banners, Painting, Stencils, Inflatable Sculptures, Wheatpasting, Screen Printing, etc.

Posted on September 21, 2014 in Culture, Direct Action, Environmental Justice, Immigration, Indigenous Rights, Politics, Social Justice, Street Art

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