I’ve been trying to pinpoint my favorite part of yesterday. Was it President Salovey’s confused face when he arrived in Woodbridge Hall around 9 a.m., only to be greeted by 48 shining faces and a bouquet of flowers? Was it the moment when the Yale Police asked us to leave the building, and Secretary Goff-Crews was reading us a list of the University regulations we were breaking, and we suddenly heard the resonant drumming and singing of the Blue Feather Drum Group? Was it moments later, when we struck up a song from the movement right before we exited? Or was it the love and solidarity and support that came rushing into Woodbridge Hall from the climate justice and fossil fuel divestment movement all over the country? Or maybe it was when the 19 of us marched out of the building, tickets in hand, to the thunderous applause and shouts of over 125 people who came as soon as we called and showed up stronger than we ever could have imagined. (Again, thank you all eternally.)
But so what? Why does it matter what my favorite parts of the day were?
Some recurring questions about yesterday have included: Why did you want to do this? Why did you want to disrupt people’s days at work, get fined $92 each, miss class and stay cooped up in an old building all day? The truth is, though, I didn’t want to do any of that. While I experienced moments of gratitude, appreciation and even joy throughout the day, I would have rather not done any of it — or rather, I would rather not live in a world that makes me feel as though I have to take such actions. But in a society with such deep and monumental injustice, I felt I had no choice but to sit in. The wrongs of the fossil fuel industry, which we have articulated time and again in the News and beyond, are horrifying and real. They make daily life risky on so many levels for so many people, so when I see a risk that I can take to act on these wrongs, I must do so. As Yale students, some of the people with the greatest privileges in the world, when there are personal sacrifices we can make to forward the cause of justice, we have an obligation to do so.
These are hard choices, and there is much harder work to be done — like continuing to build our relationship with other groups on campus, and reaching an agreement with Yale about concrete steps toward divestment. But naming my favorite parts of the day is about identifying the moments of strength, purpose and resolve. In doing this, I am able to keep pushing through the challenges and many negative feelings that come alongside fighting against something wrong in the world. This is what carries us through. This is what allows us to do the work. I would not have mustered up half the courage I needed to take action in that building if I did not know what an incredible movement was behind me. And being processed for a fine would not have been as easy without the cheers of my fellow students outside to receive me. These moments are crucial.
At the end of the day, every part of it was necessary. Everything and every single person came together to make our sit-in for fossil fuel divestment as powerful as it was. And even though Yale clearly demonstrated whose side they’re on — not ours — and disappointed us yet again, I have never felt as purposeful about this fight as I do now. We said we would be back, and with the support we have been shown in the last day, I have no doubt that we will be, and stronger than ever. Yale must be a leader on climate justice, but I have no doubt that our movement on campus will make it hard for them to be otherwise.
Alexandra Barlowe is a sophomore in Branford College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org .