Migrant rights activist Yvonne on climate justice being rooted in racial justice and the power of community at COP26

Campaign Bootcamp trainer Nim catches up with climate and migrant justice activist Yvonne on the power of seeing campaigners across the country come together, finding your local community and more

Tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to COP26

My name is Yvonne Blake, I’m climate justice activist and a migrant justice activist. I live in Glasgow and I’m here at COP26 with fellow migrant labourers. I am a co-founder of Migrant Labour. We firmly believe that the conversation around climate justice cannot be had unless it’s rooted in migrant justice and racial justice. That’s the reason why we are here at COP26, and why we’re on the streets in our numbers in the rain! We had our banners, we were shouting that climate justice is migrant justice, climate justice is reparative justice, climate justice is racial justice. [Migrant Labour] firmly believe in those three things.

“We firmly believe that the conversation around climate justice cannot be had unless it’s rooted in migrant justice and racial justice.”

Thanks, Yvonne. What’s been your highlight campaigning around COP26?

My highlight of COP26  is on Saturday [6th November] when we took to the streets. It was really beautiful to see so many organisations coming together – the indigenous community, the migrant community, the school strikers on Friday…

We have always said that change doesn’t come from inside the conference halls and the meeting rooms at COP26 – it’s up to us to take changes to COP.  The action that happened on Friday and Saturday represented that. [We were] bringing important messages to the people at COP26 but also everyone who’s watching. 

All injustice is interconnected. If you’re passionate about climate justice, you have to be anti-racist, you have to be passionate about LGBT rights, you have to be passionate about Muslim rights. 

It’s important that the people who are inside know that the climate crisis is racist. The climate crisis has been created by the very same racist people who are professing to bring the solutions. The solutions being discussed inside COP26 don’t represent us. It was so beautiful being joined on the streets by people that know this. Being together, we had a real feeling of power.

What would you tell people who are passionate about climate justice but don’t know how to start campaigning on it?

All injustice is interconnected. If you’re passionate about climate justice, you have to be anti-racist, you have to be passionate about LGBT rights, you have to be passionate about Muslim rights.  You have to be passionate about all communities that are marginalised. The experience of the communities who are marginalised, for me, is the benchmark of any good society. It is how we support those who are most marginalised. 

For people who say they do not know what to do, find groups in your communities. There’s a lot of grassroots organisations campaigning across the country. 

Even spaces that might not seem like climate organising spaces. Go to your local churches, the mosque, go to the places where you can have conversation with people. In the same way you go to the pub and have a chat with someone, go and have a conversation with people in your local community!

And most importantly, we need to keep a firm view of injustice. Dr. [Martin Luther] King Jr said “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”. The moment we view struggles through that lens, we realise that until all of us are free, we are all oppressed.

You smashed it Yvonne as per usual, you living legend!

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