Earth Week: Walker strolls onto SMC for Ecofeminism Conference

On Saturday morning, over 100 students packed into an HSS lecture hall, some standing along the walls or sitting on the floor, to hear social activists speak on the intersection between feminist and ecological concerns. It was the third annual SMC Global Ecofeminism Conference sponsored by the SMC Global Citizenship Initiative and the Associated Students. There were nine speakers from various backgrounds and organizations, as well the keynote speaker Rebecca Walker, the co-founder of the Third Wave Foundation, an activist philanthropic organization. The conference was followed by lunch and a ritual dance blessing from Azteca group Danza Temachtia Quetzalcoatl on the quad.

Felicia Montes and Maria T. Rivera of Mujeres De Maiz began the conference with a ceremony thanking the ancestors and the earth. They then spoke about the relationship we have with water and the land.

“Everything that we do to ourselves or that we do to the earth is going to directly affect us,” said Montes.

They claimed that women have a greater connection to the earth and are more conscious of environmental issues such as climate change — a feeling that was repeated throughout the conference.

“Women have felt this change at very deep and inner levels and understand the consequences to the children,” said Marta Segura, former member of the LA City Planning Commission. She discussed the relationship between impoverished communities and climate change, as these areas are typically unable to afford preventative actions and are often the first to experience the negative effects.

Charity Tooze, an SMC alumni who works with the Students Stand with Malala campaign as the Director of Development and Implementation for Participant Media, discussed the impact women have had on international development. While many of the original development programs often led to the displacement and exclusion of women, studies have shown that including women in the economy works towards the advantage of the country.

“If you put money in the hands of women through education training and access, those women will then reinvest those funds into their children, into their communities… and this will have a positive effect on the broader nation’s state,” said Tooze.

Ivy Quicho and Angel Bartolome, the National Organizing Director and the National Financial Director of AF3IRM, discussed their Justice Not Charity project in which they put transnational Eco-Feminism into practice when they partnered with the Philippines after the 2013 typhoon Yolanda.

They believed that directly asking those affected what they needed would provide the most help, as short term relief was proving to have little effect.

“In the hardest hit areas there was high risk for trafficking, there were high rates of domestic violence and rape and post-traumatic stress disorder,” said Quicho.

The community asked for training sessions on how to deal with the issues they were still facing. These sessions were primarily attended by women.

“The heart of these communities are the women,” said Bartolome. “Community organizing was the way to reclaim their dignity and justice back.”

Walker, the keynote speaker, is credited for coining the term “third wave feminism” and is considered a symbol of the movement’s focus on queer and non-white women. She has written two memoirs and a novel which is being made into a movie with Madonna attached to direct it.

Through her work, Walker has attempted to neutralize the differences between men and women. “I have always been trying to deconstruct the notion of dualism,” she said. “I have always wanted to break down this notion that we are somehow discrete beings and try to put forth the notion that we really are all one body.”

She extended this philosophy to ecofeminism by showing examples of artist Ana Mendiata’s “earth-body” artwork to illustrate how we are not just connected to the earth, but how “we are the earth.”

Walker emphasized the importance of making true, irreversible changes in the world.

“Long term transformation happens when people actually have a shift in their consciousness that cannot be reversed,” she said. “We each have within our humanity the ability to reach another person or other people through whatever means we have.”

After Walker finished her talk, what many attendees thought to be the end of the conference as nearly half of them left the lecture hall, a sneak preview of a short film about migration was played followed by a talk by the film’s creators.

Tani Ikeda, a filmmaker and program director of Immediate Justice Productions, spoke about the organization's mission to encourage students to share their personal story.

One of the group’s members, Jess X Chen, a multi-disciplinary artist and activist, talked about the importance of migration from areas of conflict where people face real dangers. She recited a poem she wrote in which she described migration as “a magic so powerful that it must be banned.”

She also said, “Long before the wilderness was ever fenced, we have been crossing borders. And every journey that we make is a choice to rather die soaring in the direction of dreams than to die in the mouth of a gun.”

Psychology major and attendee Sharon Nat liked how each speaker had a different approach to Ecofeminism. “For each person there, it was a different definition,” she said. “It can be anything that has to do with yourself, with the environment and how you feel with that connection.”