After years working with CSSC in many different roles and capacities, Emili Abdel-Ghany is saying her goodbye to the organization. She is departing to focus on the health of herself and her mother. In a country without an adequate healthcare system, taking care of each other is crucial. As Johanna Hedva voices in “The Sick Woman Theory”
“The most anti-capitalist protest is to care for another and to care for yourself. To take on the historically feminized and therefore invisible practice of nursing, nurturing, caring. To take seriously each other’s vulnerability and fragility and precarity, and to support it, honor it, empower it. To protect each other, to enact and practice community. A radical kinship, an interdependent sociality, a politics of care.”
When I spoke with Emili, she communicated a range sentiments and concepts when looking back at her time with CSSC: friendship, growth, empowerment, kinship, family, excitement, highs, and lows.
This mixture of feelings is understandable when you realize how CSSC influenced Emili in a way that shaped her as a person. Through her experiences, she was able to personally feel that she could accomplish much more than she had envisioned for herself. CSSC has connected her to people and movements even bigger than the individual. It challenged her perceptions of sustainability and environmental work while always being a welcoming place for her, helping her to find a voice for herself. As she grew, she was able to pass that knowledge and strength onto other student leaders.
She was introduced to CSSC as an undergraduate with a job at the UC Davis Campus Center of the Environment. Part of this job was to be a council representative for the university where she spent the first term getting students out to convergences and starting the Fossil Fuel Divestment chapter through the UC Davis Chapter and their Sustainability education program. She volunteered at her first CSSC Convergence, which was the 2011 Davis Convergence.
Before she was introduced to the CSSC chapter at Davis, she had come to the university excited about environmental work and social justice, but had never taken a leadership role. The folk in the Davis chapter were warm and welcoming and encouraged her to try out different roles, to do projects of her own, and connected her to others. For her, it left an impression to see older students to nurture younger students and investing in their growth as leaders, and personally encouraged her to embrace what CSSC could offer.
Emili is particularly proud of her involvement with the 2014 Davis Convergence as well as organizing Regents Meeting Actions with Fossil Free UC. These actions spread between 2013 and 2014 and Emili was a part of organizing travel and housing logistics as well as holding demonstrations inside and outside the meetings. During the Regent’s Meetings, Emili and other students wrote and held public comment, organized a mic check, and extended the time they were given to have more people speak. Some people did silent direct actions outside, while others set up props that represented of fossil fuel industry. Many groups came out and gave their support. On campus Emili showed solidarity with UAW and Students for Justice in Palestine, among other groups, as the interconnectedness of our causes became apparent. These were empowering moments and important to the overall sustainability movement on the larger perspective.
Also, in recognition that the focus of solving sustainability issues should be approached through an intersectional framework, Emili created a new CSSC Program called the Solidarity Organizing Program to actively involve anti-oppression into all aspects of CSSC’s work. As a statewide network, CSSC has the potential to influence the sustainability movement as a whole. By providing a structural example of actively institutionalizing anti-oppression into our work, we provide a framework to our peers and partners that extensively and holistically address the three E’s of sustainability (Equity, Ecology, Economy).
To work through these goals, SOP moves forward on two strategy tracks: educational training and developing networks. Emili will be an active part of the process to bring on her replacement.
Emili urges that if you are new to the sustainability or social justice movement, that you remain curious and ask a lot of questions. She emphasizes that it is vital to think critically about your relationship to sustainability and the changes you want to see. Think about the different things you care about and look to see how they connect with each other. Come from a place of curiosity and openness to what interests you. If you’ve been here awhile, she advises that you nurture new leaders and invest in the potential of others.
The last thing Emili left me with made a strong impact:
“The world we want to see may not exist in our lifetime but everything we do is essential and important to value. “
Thank you for your work with CSSC Emili and we wish you luck in all that you work toward for yourself, your family, and your aspirations.