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My First Southeast Student Renewable Energy Conference
Every year, students from across the Southeast wait with bated breath to find out the details of one of the most anticipated conferences in the region. The Southeast Student Renewable Energy Conference (SSREC) is an event organized by the Southern Energy Network (SEN) , an organization geared toward building grassroots campaigns to engage southeastern young people committed to renewable energy. Each year youth come and participate in trainings on valuable organizing skills, hear presentations on examples and best practices from their peers and call on their government, both local and national, to make clean energy a priority. And this year was just as powerful.
My name is Eriqah Foreman-Williams and I am the new Campus Field Coordinator for NWF’s Campus Ecology program. This is my first time attending SSREC, despite my past experience as a student organizer, and I must say it was an extremely rewarding experience. Reagan Richmond, the Executive Director of SEN, invited me and offered me multiple avenues to connect with students in the Southeast. I hosted a workshop on “Fostering Campus and Community Partnerships.” In my presentation, I aimed to inspire environmental campus leaders to reach beyond the gates of their campuses and reach out to community and engage them in sustainability projects and brainstorm strategies to implement projects in the community. I highlighted examples from my experience working in the conservation field for the last four years.
I also tabled at the conference sharing Campus Ecology materials on how students can get plugged into the program. Additionally, I had some students commit to asking their school newspaper’s to write an article about NWF’s new report A Student’s Guide to How Corporate Oil, Gas and Coal Money Influences U.S. Energy Policy. The students were excited to connect this information to the actions they are taking on their campuses and to shed light on this important issue.
For me, the highlight of the weekend was my invitation to give a keynote speech during the Saturday Night Plenary, my first time ever doing something like that. I was asked to speak about my journey and the importance of Historically Black College and University (HBCU) students in the environmental movement—especially because environmental justice is a growing hot topic.
I see my work in the environmental movement as the homage I pay to Dorothy Height and Fannie Lou Hammer and Ella Baker. Especially when I see figures and statistics about the environmental injustices my communities back home face and the black communities in Georgia. It is, as Senator John Lewis said, the new civil rights movement.
Twenty four schools and eight states were represented at this year’s SSREC, which was held at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical
University (FAMU), an HBCU—it was a beautiful experience. The more than 300 attendees finished the conference on Sunday with a march to the Supreme Court of Florida, where a nuclear energy tax law is up for deliberation. The conference participants then marched on to the Florida State Capitol building and filmed a video posing a question to our presidential candidates: “What is the future for clean energy in this country?” This video will be submitted to CNN with the hope that the question will be asked during the next presidential debate. Overall, the weekend was inspirational and reminded me why I do what I do. I am excited about organizing in this region with these amazing student activists. Their enthusiasm is what will change this region and this country.