Dinah Dewald, Swarthmore College '13

Dear fellow students and young people,

My name is Dinah DeWald. I’m an alum of Swarthmore College (2013), and more importantly, an alum of Swarthmore Mountain Justice, a part of the fossil fuel divestment and climate justice movement. College administrations across the country are waiting for student organizers to graduate so they can go back to business as usual. More than that, fossil fuel companies are betting that this movement will stay confined to campuses, as students graduate out of the movement and into the “real world.”

Swat Mountain Justice was my introduction to the real world—not the real world of career paths and advancement, but a world of care, community, and passion that I had never known existed before joining this movement.

My story

I’m definitely not a born organizer. I joined MJ for a few (embarrassing) reasons: 1) I happened to be at the student café when they were on break from a retreat and invited me, and 2) I had a crush on someone who happened to be facilitating. But I stayed because I had stumbled upon a community that tried to live out the world they were fighting for. From the beginning, I felt deeply respected, listened to, encouraged and supported to take on responsibility. This group took seriously a commitment to fighting oppression and inequity, and also dreaming up big visions for what we can achieve and the world we’re fighting for.

Still, through spring of my senior year, I hadn’t decided what I wanted to “do with the rest of my life.” I’d found this work that set me on fire and gave me a sense of purpose I had never felt before—but what about a career? What about my life path? I had every voice from my parents to my professors to ads on TV pressuring me to find a job, get an apartment, then a cat, then a house, then children and….there aren’t too many alternative examples presented to us.

Blessedly, a fellow MJ organizer who had graduated a year before called several of us together to discuss staying together and organizing after graduation. It was a leap of faith—sure, I had worked with these people before, but truthfully I didn’t know any of them well, couldn’t even really claim to be friends. But with several of us to support each other, I believed we could figure it out. After reconvening in September 2013, we formed the Maypop Collective for Climate and Economic Justice, and have continued to organize for ecological justice in Philadelphia since then.

Trusting the Abyss

I’m not trying to say this is easy—it’s scary as hell taking that leap, and challenging as you set off through the abyss. But what I love about organizing is that by committing to build a powerful movement for climate justice, I have committed to developing my fullest and most powerful self.

Most careers you can choose, and by that I mean full-time (or over full-time) commitments of your time to a company or non-profit—most careers are not about developing you as a whole person. Most jobs are about specialization and optimization: you work hard to become an expert in the set of tasks in the one field you have chosen, and then you take care of yourself and your growth on your own time.

When we choose to commit ourselves to organizing, we commit to supporting ourselves and those around us to reach our full potential—as human beings and as a society. Organizing is not specialized: it can mean planning a march, calling people you don’t know, meeting with a legislator, researching the hidden stories, creating art that tells those stories, training new recruits, handing out food and supplies, talking, listening, crying, healing, singing, and being silent.

We can organize on free weeknights with a full-time job, or part-time with a service job, and we can even fundraise to support our living expenses while organizing full time. When we commit ourselves to work for a better world, we can make it happen. It’s what I have done, and what dozens of my friends are doing--in Philadelphia alone.

If everyone graduating from the divestment movement pledged to continue organizing in some capacity, for the long haul, how much stronger could our movement become in even a few years? I want to see that movement. That’s why I’m committed to building the long-term power of the movement for fossil fuel divestment, for climate justice, and for a just and equitable world.

And I want to do everything in my power to challenge and support others to pledge themselves to this movement for the long haul. If we want to shift the way our society invests its money, time, and value, we have to invest in each other and in our shared future. #BankOnUs.

In Love and Struggle,

Dinah
Swarthmore College ‘13
Maypop Collective for Climate and Economic Justice

P.S. I’m serious about wanting to support others. If you have questions about how this crazy organizing after graduating works (that can’t be answered by the awesome core team of the Alumni Network!), send me an email (dinah.dewald@gmail.com) and let’s talk.