Blog: Earth Day in DC

Photo Credit John Nelson (End the Era Adult Photographer)

11:59. One more minute until the official start of the Earth Day 2023 End the Era of Fossil Fuels DC mobilization. What a mouthful. I glanced at my notebook with my script for the teach-in, fingered the phone where I will read my script for the rally, and adjusted the tag on my shirt that identified me as an organizer of this monumental event.

I was ready to go, excited, more excited than I’d ever been… since the last climate justice strike I went to. But this event is much bigger than the event I went to in March. There are more organizations —over forty— and not all of them consider themselves “environmental” organizations. But they are here because our crises were interconnected, and while fossil fuels are the main driver of climate change, they fueled other injustices too. 

12:00. Not everyone was here yet. That was okay. I turned to my friend, Nethra, who was speaking with me at the rally, who was adjusting the orange bandana around her neck. I stood on my toes to look at Nethra’s mom and my mom who were in some conversation—probably talking about how busy we’d been in the last month.  

After maybe 15 more minutes of waiting, the emcees stepped onto the stage. One of them I knew, since she was an organizer with Fridays for Future DC (FFF DC for short), like me. 

“Show me what democracy looks like,” she called out. 

“This is what democracy looks like!” 

My friend, Nethra, and I were the second rally speakers. A group from an organization called Harriet’s Wildest Dreams went first. 

“You two are next,” whispered the speaker coordinator, who I recognize as one of the organizers I had seen on the Zoom calls, as the emcees were doing a Land Acknowledgement. 

Each Sunday, Monday and Friday for the last three months I had logged onto a Zoom call  for an hour to coordinate and plan with these people. The organizing and logistical process behind this event had been long and complicated, but worth it, now that we were here. 

The first speaker from Harriet’s Wildest Dreams had finished her speech. And then, the emcee took the mic, and it hit me that I would be on that stage in a matter of seconds. 

“Nethra and Ariya are two local climate activists from the DMV area with Fridays for Future DC!” 

Then, in a blur, the crowd was cheering, and I was walking onto the stage, and taking the mic next to Nethra. Signs reading “No planet B,” “End the Era of Fossil Fuels,” “War is not green,” “We march for climate justice,” “We need clean air” and “Defend Earth” on bamboo sticks were raised high. How many people were here? High hundreds? A thousand? I wasn’t sure. When the crowd quieted, Nethra and I began to speak.

“Today is monumental in our fight for climate justice. Though we may all fight for different causes, we are connected by our need for a livable planet!” Nethra said.

“2023 may well be one of our last chances to ensure a livable planet,” I said. “This is the most critical time in human history.”

And at the end, the two of us finished with a common activist sign-off, “We’ll see you in the streets!”

After a round of congratulations from the other organizers, I sat down to watch the other speakers. At exactly 1:00, the rain started. It was a light mist, barely noticeable. Would the rain hold out? 

At some point, when the second-to-last rally speech was happening, the speaker coordinators ushered me, Nethra and the friends who came with us, along with the other rally speakers to the nearby street. A large pink banner reading “END THE ERA OF FOSSIL FUELS” made out of thin pink fabric. The other rally speakers, my friends and I held the banner, as the last speech back in Freedom Plaza finished. And the crowd started walking towards the street, lining up behind us. 

Photo Credit John Nelson (End the Era Adult Photographer)

The speaker coordinators stood in front of us, facing us, and beckoned for us to start walking forward. The band who accompanied us played loud music behind us.

By the time the march had reached the White House, a steady rain was falling. Unfortunately, we were supposed to have another short rally at the White House, but with the ominous rumble of thunder in the distance, and, of course, the sheets of rain coming down, we had no choice but to return to Freedom Plaza.

I was soaked, my clothes drenched with water, water sloshing in my shoes. The march made a 180-turn (which was quite difficult, with a thousand people) and headed back to Freedom Plaza. We continued to chant on our way back. At this point, my throat felt a little raw, but I found myself still smiling despite the rain. Somehow, we made our way to Freedom Plaza. Fortunately, it wasn’t cold or windy, so the adult organizers quickly folded up tables and tents. I glanced at my friends. 

“Everyone good… considering the circumstances?” I asked, waving my hand at the rain pouring down. 

“Good,” one replied. “Given the circumstances,” she added.

There wasn’t very much for us to do, as most of the adults seemed to have the taking-down-process under control. So we waved goodbye to the adult organizers and our fellow FFF DC organizers before beginning the rainy walk to the metro.

Photo Credit John Nelson (End the Era Adult Photographer)

Somehow, we made our way back to the metro. Near the stairs that led to the station, we took off our shoes, dumped out the water, shook the rain off our rain jackets and looked at the pouring rain. We got onto the metro, heading back to Northern Virginia. As I looked out the window of the metro behind me, the trees and buildings flying past, I found myself oddly hopeful despite the rain. The debrief call was in a week. The organizing fair would be rescheduled. The week of June distributed actions would be here soon. 

After all, we were just getting started.