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Frankly, Grace: What Jane Fonda and the Fire Drill Fridays “Firefighters” have reminded me about having faith

by Tom Avila

December 23, 2021

Fire Drill Friday has become an anchor in challenging times — from youth activists to faith leaders to those leading on the frontlines of environmental, social and labor justice movements

Demonstrators, including Jane Fonda, march in front of an oil refinery in Wilmington, CA. The second California based Fire Drill Friday took place in the District 15 area of Los Angeles. The area is home to the massive oil and gas fields that are quite literally poisoning and killing people.

© Sandy Huffaker / Greenpeace

This has been a really hard year. I know that we’re not supposed to say that. We’re supposed to be, to borrow a phrase from a friend of mine, pandemic fine. As in, fine, considering all that is going on around us.

It becomes all the harder when you are someone who cares, not simply about yourself, but about others. Who believes that we are here to act as stewards of this planet, neighbors to the brothers and sisters with whom we share this world.

It’s harder when you believe we have a fundamental responsibility to leave this world a better place than when we arrived.

Which is why Fire Drill Fridays have become so important to me during this past year. Since the very start of the collaboration between actress and activist Jane Fonda and Greenpeace, Fire Drill Fridays, or FDF, has gathered diverse, intelligent voices from across the climate movement. From youth activists to faith leaders to those leading on the frontlines of environmental, social and labor justice movements, FDF has become an anchor for me. A time to pause and reflect and to remember that there is not just good in this world, but hope.


I remember literally weeping as Shalanda H. Baker, Senior Advisor, Office of the Secretary at the US Department of Energy and author of Revolutionary Power described her own journey to where she is today. She said, “There are many times in my life where what I was doing didn’t seem to make sense but I kept at it because I believed in justice…I kept at it and now I know why I struggled for so long to make it to this point because I was born for it. You were born to do your own unique thing in the world… You were born for this moment. There’s a reason why you are here.”

 


There was Colette Pinchon Battle, Executive Director of the Gulf Coast Center for Law and Policy, reminding us that we needed to build power “…not from fear, but from love.”

Bryan Parras, the Co-founder of Texas Environmental Justice Advocacy Service, joined Jane and FDF ‘Firefighters’ from across the country at the February rally, and reminded us that it’s not just about joining the fight for climate, environmental and social justice, it’s remembering to bring our own humility and openness to the fight. Parras told us, “We need you to join us in this struggle and support Black, Brown, Indigenous networks and organizations. But we ask that you show up in a good way. With a good heart, and good action, be truthful, be vulnerable and be joyful.”

 


Most surprising to me was my reaction to the FDF with global superstar and activist Demi Lovato. For all obvious reasons, Jane has had a number of artists and influencers join her both at the live FDF rallies and on the online program, but Lovato was remarkable. The two talked about the journeys that brought them to activism and, as Jane has done, Lovato centered the importance she has placed on using her own fame, her worldwide platform, not to promote herself, but to raise the voices of others. She urged FDF’s ‘Firefighters,’ “Don’t let anyone try and dim your light. And don’t let anyone try to quiet your voice.”

One of the greatest gifts I have been given by Greenpeace’s supporters, our allies, and our friends is getting to spend every day surrounded (albeit virtually) by so many talented and creative people. Each of them, in their own unique and colorful and inspiring ways, lifting up their own voices, lifting up your voices, stating loudly and clearly what we must do to save this fragile planet we all share. They are each shining a light into the difficulties and darkness we are all sharing right now.

Which brings me to the person whose words will be carrying me through the start of the New Year, when daylight is in short supply here in Maine. When we all square our shoulders a bit to get through the cold days. During her visit with Jane, writer, educator, conservationist, and activist Terry Tempest Williams said, “Each of us must look in the mirror and say, ‘If I want the world to change, how must I change myself?’”

I don’t know what the answer to that question will be, I can only hope that I will be ready when it comes. I hope that each of you finds your own answer to it as well and are given the space and grace to pursue that calling. I hope it is something that brings you happiness and health and joy. I hope it challenges you and inspires you. And, I hope that we will soon be able to celebrate all we have learned together, side-by-side, raising our chorus of voices for a bright, brave, green and peaceful new world.

Tom Avila

By Tom Avila

Tom is a writer and creative with Greenpeace, where he’s had the good fortune to serve as a coach and facilitator for teams across the Greenpeace world.

Prior to joining Greenpeace, his work focused on supporting LGBTQ+ journalists and news media outlets and practitioners covering the community. While he’s lived in a number of places, he is now back in his home state of Maine, on the land of the Wabanaki Confederacy.

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