This past Friday, I was fortunate enough to be able to attend The Next 100 Coalition: Roundtable on Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Outdoors. The Next 100 Coalition is comprised of more than 50 civil rights, environmental justice, conservation and community organizations from across the nation that are committed to establishing a just and inclusive parks and public lands system. This group of coalition members met in Washington to speak on the national level, but have now taken what was spoken at the national conference and brought it back to their respective states. Coming back from the national conference, members created a list of coalition priorities in order to fulfill the mission and make effective steps towards change, as follows:
Protecting our national parks and monuments
Diversifying the conservation workforce
Defending The Antiquities Act
Expanding the public lands narrative
Engaging diverse communities outdoors
This Next 100 Coalition conference in Denver specifically was to speak out on already ongoing work towards diversity, equity and inclusion with respect to conservation and outdoor recreation in Colorado. Many outdoor recreation, education and non-profit organizations met together to see how we as Coloradoans can continue this important work and how to better assist each other. This is a group effort and can not be done without the connection and help of each other, which is why we needed to come together to discuss it further.
During one of the breakout sessions, I attended a workforce diversity dialogue. In this session, Dannika, an intern at the U.S. Forest Service, and I advocated for workforce diversity. As interns this summer in federal agencies and people of color, we both have noticed the lack of diversity in our agencies, which is part of why we are in our internship positions. We want to change that, so we were able to speak out on the issues we face coming into the work force and what needs to be improved so we can foster others. Many people looked to us to explain the challenges and struggles we face, because we are in the midst of going through the process of getting into these agencies from a marginalized group. We also were able to give insight on how we got into the positions we are in now and how to create that opportunity for others. Personally, it was pretty cool for me have my voice heard on this issue and take notes on how to actively improve these current challenges. It’s an ongoing problem that changes with each generation, so we are the change paving the way for those who come next.
After this long day, I couldn’t help but smile. I was in a room filled with like-minded people who are actively working towards systematic shifts in culture and the approach to public lands. Knowing that there are people making an effort to create this change and challenge the norm is an amazing thing to see. They are paving this rocky road for me, and I am paving it for those who follow after me. And that is something I want to keep fighting for. Isn’t that what this LHIP internship is about?! Creating equal opportunities for Latinxs to be outdoors and to work for the outdoors. This land is for everyone and for all to enjoy, which is why I was so proud to have name on this paper table name tent. It really only may have been a paper name tent to others, but to me it meant so much more. With this name tent I was able to represent the National Park Service in creating a better tomorrow for the people of our public lands, for Latinxs, Coloradoans, and people just like me. I was able to take a stand and be heard.
Click this link to check out the movement and how to get involved: http://next100coalition.org/