Puppets headline climate, food summit for youth

Youth participating in Rooted in Community’s annual food justice conference perform a puppet show focused on climate justice in Center City Park. (photo by Lauren Barber)

Under the partial cover of Center City Park’s wooden pavilion, youth performers steered colossal pole puppets — faceless gray suits symbolizing big oil, giant fists in shades of brown labeled “People power” and “El poder de la gente,” and vibrant flags representing wind, air and sun — but not before a proper introduction.

Last week, the NC Climate Justice Summit hosted the annual Rooted in Community food-justice conference for youth in Greensboro. The theatrical performance, an adaptation of the NC Climate Justice’s roadshow, marked the third and final day of the youth gathering and highlighted economic, environmental and social-justice issues. Expert puppet artists from Paperhand Puppet Intervention showed a different group of young people and families to how to create the puppets earlier this year with the goal of enabling them to use puppets to shape the narrative of justice movements.

Bevelyn Ukah is the youth coordinator for the Food Youth Initiative, the local organization that orchestrated the event. She was among the mentors and organizers who honored Goldie Wells, interim councilwoman and candidate for District 2, and Christina Young, professor and director of public health and education at UNCG, for their contributions to furthering environmental and social justice. The honorees emphasized the importance of young voices in movement building.

Two days prior to the show, youth led their own workshops, many of which focused on how the power of storytelling — and amplifying the stories of others — is key to moving hearts and minds on issues like climate change.

Ree Ree Wei, a 19-year-old youth leader associated with Transplanting Traditions Farm in Chapel Hill, attended a workshop focused on how to implement social media “as a tool to send a message to…

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