On-the-ground action complements the impact of words / by Yessenia Funes

This weekend at Power Shift, I realized something. Yes, I'm a journalist. I've been gifted with an expertise in writing. However, after hearing Josh Fox, Gasland's film director, speak Friday, Oct. 18, I realized changing the world takes more than just writing. I must soldier on, too. Fox specializes in film-making, but he knows films can only do so much. "Organizing changes the world," he said. "Showing up changes the world." Fox titled those who act "foot soldiers." He declares himself one. I finally can, too.

This weekend, I took part in my first protest and march. We were protesting Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald's proposal to frack Pittsburghian's parks. Even though this was my first time visiting this tiny-compared-to-what-I'm-used-to city, I marched alongside them.

"Fuck it," I thought. I've never been to a rally, and it doesn't matter whether the cause directly affects me because any environmental issue indirectly affects every earth dweller. Solidarity is key to the environmental movement, and it takes more than a single community to bring change. So I joined them.

Beehive Collective

My two friends (Colleen and Shea) and I held a sign toward the front of the crowd. This was the sign held during Pittsburgh's march to ban fracking back in the day. Pittsburgh succeeded and became the first U.S. state to ban fracking. Youth from around the country, Pittsburgh residents and I marched down the streets and chanted, "Hey, Fitzgerald. We don't want our parks in peril!"

When I held that sign and felt those words leave my mouth, I felt empowered. Every time I write an article or blog post, I feel satisfied. But I rarely feel empowered -- unless I get a shit ton of feedback from my readers, which, again, is rare. Taking to the streets, however, and walking with people who held the same beliefs as I rewarded me the feeling of accomplishment.

I even made it on the local television station. Needless to say, I felt damn good. That sure as hell won't be my last rally. I'm attending  another Monday that will focus on bank investments that hurt the environmental movement. Just as I plan on continuing my on-the-ground activism, I plan to continue my Power Shift involvement — maybe even speak at one at some point if I do some remarkable shit.

I dream big, but as John Lennon once sang, "You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one." Power Shift proves that, reeling in about 7,000 17 to 23-year-olds.

I've learned lots from this conference. Beyond Fox's wise words, another's stood out to me, too. Ta'Kaiya Blaney, a 12-year-old Native American from the Sliammon First Nation, sang a beautiful, inspiring song, "Earth Revolution" Oct. 18. More importantly than sing, she takes action. Corporations were destroying her home, culture and history, but she stood up and fought.

"I wanted to do more than feel sad at the end of the day when the oil's spilled, and there's nothing left," Blaney said.

The creator, whoever or whatever it or he or she may be, gave us voices for a reason. Blaney believes we must use it. It can be through song or through rally chants, but we must spread the word. Those in charge ignore environmental and social injustices, but that doesn't mean you or I should. It's time to shift the power and take action. It's in our hands now.