From the Director’s Desk for July
This is the monthly column 'From the Directors Desk', a roundup of the Director’s big areas of work in the chapter and stories of the mountains.
This past month was difficult and uncomfortable; I’m not going to lie. As the pandemic continues to rage through our communities, George Floyd was murdered in Minneapolis, and the pain of 450 years of racism in this country was laid bare for all of us to grapple with. At the Angeles Chapter, we are taking time to figure out what it means to be the Sierra Club in this particular moment. With so much important work ahead and begun this month, I find myself increasingly grateful that trails are open, and so as always, I close this column with a story of the mountains.
June was difficult and uncomfortable because, In the midst of the pandemic, George Floyd was murdered in 8 minutes and 46 seconds, on video, by four Minneapolis police officers. That news came shortly after we saw the video of Ahmed Arbury being killed for running in a neighborhood that his killers thought a black man shouldn't be running in. Breonna Taylor was killed in her home by the police breaking into the wrong house, and the officers who killed her have not only not been arrested, they are still serving as police. Robert Fuller and Malcolm Harsch were found hanging in front of public buildings in Palmdale and Victorville. The discomfort I feel learning about these events is nothing compared to the pain experienced by people of color, but it has been a call to action.
|A log inscribed with 'Black Lives Matter' on the trail up toward San Gorgonio. Photo by Morgan Goodwin
A month ago, I thought I was doing a good job as a White person of privilege at being an ally, but I realized that I knew far less than I thought about how racism works in this country. I've read and watched a lot (list below) and I've pushed myself to have uncomfortable conversations with family and friends. Perhaps most profoundly, in the moments when I've felt tired of thinking about injustice when in the past I might have stopped, I've instead decided to keep going. It's a privilege to stop thinking about racism, and the structures of White supremacy in this country will persist until White people like myself and many of our members decide that we are going to dismantle them. After what we’ve learned this June, It feels like there’s no going back. It also feels like this work is just getting started.
During this time, the Sierra Club has also evolved. We started, like many organizations, by voicing our solidarity with Black Lives Matter. Yet we realized that saying we support the movement means asking the question 'in what ways do you support it'. We have been educating our members about how racism and the environment are inextricably linked. We have been making changes in the staffing of the national organization, and we have adopted the policy stance to defund the police. Here at the Angeles Chapter, our Executive Committee recently aligned on a roadmap for taking a deep look at how we work, where we can improve, and creating a much deeper practice of inclusion, equity, and justice.
Taking that deep look inward and making the space to grow takes time, and thanks to the pandemic, time is something we have in abundance right now. As you may know, the Sierra Club had initially closed all operations until June 14th, and it wasn't until early June that we heard the update: no outings or in-person meetings until Aug 31st. For those hoping to lead summer expeditions, this was tough to hear. As I write this, LA and Orange Counties have both just had their biggest weeks of reported cases. We are using this time to improve our organization. We are also using this time to explore.
As I have learned our local mountains better, I have been deeply grateful for the stunning wilds so close to home. Particularly as the pandemic upends any notion of exploring the city we now call home, Daria, a lifelong city dweller, and I have been doing a casual of 1:1 wilderness travel skills course, and she has been the most gracious student. From surviving windy nights below Twin Peaks, to ambitious climbs through the snowfields of Pine mountain, we've debriefed each trip and grown closer to each other. Despite our different levels of experience, it feels like we are co-creating our own particular mode of outdoor travel, finding the ways that work for us. It seems parallel to how I find myself as a lifelong mountaineer and climate activist learning to grow as I get deeper into the Angeles Chapter and the work of allyship.
June has been difficult and uncomfortable, but there are still moments of joy. Last weekend, we camped in Horse Meadow on the north side of Gorgonio, and summited Charlton peak, Daria's highest summit to date. As we returned to camp in a green meadow surrounded by pines, with the sun setting at our backs, I knew she felt the mountains at a deeper level than ever before. Even during the pandemic, even as we grapple with structural racism, even as the climate spins out of control, it’s hikes like these that give me the hope. I am so grateful to all of the Sierra Club leaders who have helped preserve these wild places, and who are working to help enjoy, explore and especially protect our world.
On my reading and watching list in the past month:
• Racism is Killing the Planet
• Black Hikers Week
• Why Every Environmentalist Should be Anti-Racist
• Why communities fighting for fair policing also demand environmental justice
• Sierra Club statement on ‘Going Beyond ‘Diversity’’
• The Environmental Movement Needs to Reckon with Its Racist History
San Gorgonio from the trail up Charlton Peak. Photo by Morgan Goodwin