North Dakota Access Pipeline and Why It Matters to Young, Black Activist.

“We are all interdependent on this planet and this is the only planet we have that can sustain us.” So when people ask me why I care about the North Dakota Access Pipeline, that’s my standard answer. Just like the melting icecaps or the deforestation of the rainforest, the contamination of our water sources is a big deal. Generations before us have consistently chosen profits over the health of our natural resources, but soon, that choice won’t be an option for us. If we continue to decimate the earth, not only will there no longer be resources to profit from, but there will be no one to buy. Environmental health issues impact us all.

If we do nothing, the implications of our inaction will be felt by all of us at an individual level. But the question is, what is my part, what can I do? You can give your voice to the cause. Take a position, verbalize it, and bring others along. President Obama has added his voice and influence to the North Dakota Access Pipeline discussion by having the Army Corp of Engineers consider alternative routes to avoid sacred Sioux lands. We must make our collective voice ring out so loud that it cannot be ignored.

Looking beyond the negative environmental impacts of the pipeline, we must be receptive to hearing the plights of our fellow countrymen and women. The pipeline matters because the Sioux tribe tells us it matters to them and they are our brothers and sisters. Therefore, it matters to me. If we can internalize the pain of others and do something to stop it, that’s our contribution to justice. We must also recognize the fact that the current pipeline route DOES impact us. The current conflict is a manifestation of racism and a perpetuation of the idea that non white lives are not as important as white lives.  When the pipeline was originally scheduled to pass through Bismark, white residents complained that the pipeline could contaminate their drinking water. Thus, the route was moved to pass through sacred Sioux land. Why are the complaints of white voices heard and accepted while the complaints of Native voices are dismissed?

Dr. King said that injustice anywhere was a threat to justice everywhere. It is our time to stand and be counted. How will our generation be remembered? The baby boomers burned bras to bring attention to women’s rights, sat-in, and marched to bring attention to civil rights, rebelled against the war in Vietnam through anti-establishment hippy culture and getting high as a form protest. These tactics, when looked at individually, appear harmless, yet they changed the world.

Our generation stands on the shoulders of brave activists and we must continue to move forward. We have already begun to make our mark, but we can do so much more! Our generation is regrettably familiar with mass school shootings, domestic terrorism and the blatant disregard for black lives. We must be willing to fight these injustices at every turn. Like Martin Niemöller said so eloquently:

First they came for the Socialist, and I did not speak out – because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out – because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me.

It is our time; let history record what we did and let us be proud of it.


Read More about the North Dakota Access Pipeline Here!