Young Leaders Converge and Skill-Up to Shift the Power at the 2023 Power Shift Convergence

Earlier this month, hundreds of youth climate activists came together in Bvlbancha (the original Chahta name for New Orleans, LA) at the New Orleans Convention Center for the first in-person national Power Shift Convergence in ten years.  The Convergence provided fertile ground for young activists to participate in the training and relationship building necessary for skilling-up to lead the conversations and campaigns to mitigate climate change across frontline communities around the world. 

Over the course of three days, attendees participated in workshops, training sessions, and seminars focused on the following themes: Lessons and Wisdom from the Gulf South, Building and Strengthening our connections, Skills to Strengthen Resistance, Healing and Community Care, Lifting up Arts and Culture, and Movement History and Political Education.

Daily plenary sessions provided an opportunity for attendees to learn and gain inspiration from multi-generational movement leaders such as Environmental Justice Scholar and Activist – Wanjiku “Wawa” Gatheru, Founder and President of Amazon Labor Union – Christian Smalls, Founder of RISE St. James – Sharon Lavine, Co-Founder & Co-Director of Inclusive Louisiana – Gail LeBouf, Felicia M. Davis – Co-Founder of the HBCU Green Fund and more.

Coming out of a three-year pandemic that shifted everyone’s organizing strategy, the Power Shift Convergence served as a stepping stone for youth to knowledge-share while deepening interpersonal kinship alongside the resilient communities, like Bvlbancha, that continuously survive the climate crisis.  

The Convergence was intentionally designed to center and uplift the people most affected by environmental degradation and the climate crisis who have always been on the frontlines of this work – Black, Indigenous, poor, queer, disabled, and marginalized folks who have been protecting their homes on the frontlines, their territories, their communities – remembering that this will benefit all climate justice work.   

National Wildlife Federation is proud to be a Power Shift Network Member Organization and sponsor of the 2023 Power Shift Convergence. Staff from NWF’s Environmental Justice, Health and Community Revitalization Program – Dr. Adrienne Hollis and Nirali Shah and Education & Engagement Team members Crystal Jennings and Courtney Cochran participated in several events, including an Opportunity Fair and a reception that was co-sponsored by the Green Leadership Trust, where Dr. Hollis is a member, and the Environmental Justice, Health and Community Revitalization program. The reception provided an opportunity for NWF staff and Green Leadership Trust to meet and interact with and network with youth activists

“Powershift 2023 was a space where my momentum for environmental work was reenergized, and I felt the deep power of youth spaces. The space was inclusive and lacked power dynamics which created an environment where everyone’s stories and opinions were celebrated. I was inspired by the storytelling flowing naturally through the conversations and how the passion, rage, and joy of the collective work was represented in an authentic and untokenized way. On the last night, I joined up with other participants as they played Ukelele through the streets of New Orleans and we bonded over ideas on how to get youth voices in every possible space. It was refreshing to learn from and support other youth in a way that felt effortless because we are all grounded in the same collective vision. We all know youth are the future, and Power Shift is a space where those voices are being deeply represented without hesitation. I’m looking forward to transforming the momentum into work here at NWF by continuing to uplift youth.”

Nirali Shah, NWF Environmental Justice, Health and Community Revitalization Program, Community & Partnerships Specialist  

National Wildlife Federation supports the development of youth leaders through several dedicated programs including: NWF EcoLeaders – a project-based leadership and career development program for emerging leaders and Earth Tomorrow, our leadership development and environmental education program for youth in frontline communities, particularly youth of color, to deepen their understanding of environmental issues and provide solutions to address environmental injustices.  

About Power Shift Network: 

Power Shift Network is an intergenerational network of 150+ organizations and campaigns that center the diverse young people most impacted by the climate crisis and mobilize the collective power of young people to mitigate climate change and create a just, clean energy future and resilient, thriving communities for all. PSN is the only national Black trans-and-woman-led, youth climate justice organization that provides political education, training, mentorship, and leadership development to young people and grassroots climate justice organizations. 

“As a queer, trans, Black, brown, Indigenous staff, we are thought leaders in the climate movement space, bringing in an intersectional multi-issue lens while creating the spaces necessary to build an inclusive movement.” – Statement from Power Shift Network  

Between 2007-2016, Power Shift Network (then known as Energy Action Coalition, of which National Wildlife Federation was a founding member) hosted four national Power Shift convergences as well as a series of regional convergences across the country. 

Power Shift 2021, took place virtually in the first 100 days of the Biden Presidential inauguration to build on the political momentum built throughout 2020 to ensure accountability from newly elected officials. The convergence made space for youth activists to get trained on critical skills and grow powerful campaigns for climate, environmental, and social justice for the coming decade. PS21’s planning, programs, and post-convergence activation centered the impacts of structural oppression such as environmental racism and the effects of climate disasters, particularly in low-income communities and communities of color like Bvlbancha.