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Isabella Zizi: Indigenous Environmental Justice

Isabella Zizi: Indigenous Environmental Justice

Earlier this year, I received multiple emails from some colleagues to apply for Making Contact’s Spring Community Storytelling Fellowship. I was very intrigued by the title of the fellowship: Indigenous Solutions and Climate Crisis. I finally said to myself “Let’s take a look at what this is all about.” At first I was hesitant to apply because I didn’t consider myself a storyteller. I felt that I didn’t have the background skills or wasn’t educated about radio and audio recordings. When I continued to read the overview, the application read “Applicants are Indigenous activists in Bay Area Indigenous-led movements that address the climate crisis and lead around a vision of respect for the earth and its peoples.” I thought, that’s me! Within one week after applying, I received an email to participate in the first round of interviews. Applicants had to pitch a story. Since I live in Richmond, CA I wanted to bring up the August 6th 2012 Chevron refinery explosion and share a personal story about my experience that day. I also wanted to incorporate my inspiration in joining Idle No More SF Bay early 2014 to help organize Indigenous led refinery healing walks. Meanwhile, as I waited to hear about my application I was in the final 2 weeks of helping to plan the April 2017 Refinery Healing walk. It was the first of our set of four this summer, and this year is the last of the four years Idle No More SF Bay has committed to organizing them.   On the afternoon before the April walk –from Pittsburg refineries (Koch Cardon) to Martinez refineries (Tesoro and Shell) and our neighborhoods between them — I received a phone call from Making Contact’s Executive Director Lisa Rudman. She applauded my work and announced that I was selected to be the 2017 Native-American/Indigenous fellow for the Community Storytelling Fellowship. I was absolutely in shock and so excited to get this opportunity.   Over the next weeks, Laura Flynn (one of Making Contact’s producers) and I started right away on the first draft of my story outline. I wanted to create a transitional story that captured the hardship of living in a refinery town and highlight the positive shift of what the refinery healing walks has done for community members like myself  in the East Bay. At first, the process of being the fellow was a bit intimidating and overwhelming. I had to work around my work schedule, refinery healing walk organizing meetings, and monthly new moon ceremonies that I help coordinate with other women who signed on to the Indigenous Women of the Americas Defending Mother Earth treaty....

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