Due to COVID-19, the Kentucky chapter of the Sierra Club's annual gathering has been switched to a virtual format for the first time. Club member John Griffin speaks to Tracy Ross about the chapter's first public, virtual gathering, the events' speakers, and this year's overarching theme of social justice and reform.
The Sierra Club was founded on May 28th, 1892, in San Francisco. The grassroots environmental organization first formed on the basis of protecting California's Sierra Nevada mountains. Today, the Sierra Club boasts 3.8 million members and 63 state chapters. The Sierra Club Cumberland Chapter, now known as the Kentucky Chapter, was formed in 1967 to explore, enjoy, and protect Kentucky.
In lieu of their annual gathering, the Kentucky Chapter will host an online gathering via Zoom centered around the role of the Sierra Club in addressing racial justice as well as environmental issues. State Representative Charles Booker and Carolyn Finney, author of Black Faces, White Spaces, will both speak at the online gathering.
In addition to going virtual for the first time, this is also the first time the Kentucky Chapter has opened its annual gathering to non-club members. "We encourage the public to join us this year, especially," Griffin begins. "In light of the events that took place this summer for social justice, there was a connectivity for social justice and radicalism, and we needed the Sierra Club to explore that."
Griffin hopes the movement towards social reform will include "[reevaluating] our heroes and leaders of the past. I don't mean solely Confederate general statues. One of those people is John Muir [one of the founding members of the Sierra Club], who has, unfortunately, a very 19th-century attitude towards Blacks [and] Native Americans. Sierra Club realized that had to be addressed. That was not the sum total of the man, but it's something that has to be addressed. That's why we decided to do this."
Charles Booker, a supporter of the Green New Deal and Founder and President of the Hood to the Holler initative, will discuss ways in which he has been working to unite Kentuckians from both rural and metropolitan areas in a common cause of inclusion and justice. Author Carolyn Finney's presentation will draw from her 2014 book, Black Faces, White Spaces, in which she explores African Americans' and whites' disparate experiences within environmental movements.
Both Booker and Finney will speak for approximately 45 minutes, followed by a Q & A period. After both speakers are done, the Sierra Club will discuss how best to put what was heard in the presentations into action.
The Kentucky Chapter 2020 Virtual Annual Gathering will take place on Saturday, November 14th, at 9 a.m. CST. The free online event will run until approximately 1 p.m. Registration is required to access the Zoom conference link. For more information on the Kentucky Chapter of the Sierra Club, including how to join or donate, visit the Sierra Club website.