Washington Youth for Climate Justice is a youth-led organization fighting for climate justice through necessary reforms in socio-political systems. We emphasize the power of community organizing and solidarity by empowering youth leaders and pushing for change through action and collectivism. We recognize that young people, specifically those from marginalized communities, are the most threatened by the climate crisis and therefore must be at the forefront of this movement. Our organization embodies our vision for an intersectional climate coalition made up of the working class, young people, people of color, indigenous people, women, LGBT+ folks, those with disabilities, immigrants, and all other communities.
Originally founded in early February of 2019 as Washington Youth Climate Strikes, our original team began planning our first event- the March 15th Climate Strike in Seattle. The organizing team was led by three of our founding members, all young women who had no prior organizing experience. March 15th was quickly upon us and the event drew around 1,500 people. It was in the days right before and after this action that our organizers realized that we couldn't just hold one event and be done. So after taking a few days to catch back up on school and re-energize ourselves, we got right back to work.
As we began to organize for our second action in May 2019, we worked hard to bring in more organizers. We brought in a second executive director and started working on plans for expansion. Not long after the May strike, we restructured and launched applications for state directors, teams, and city leads for new areas. This restructuring helped us to begin to plan for the September 20th climate strikes- the first time we would have more than one city striking. It would also be the first time we would organize with adult groups and as a result, help to move our audience from primarily youth to an intergenerational audience.
Soon September 20th was upon us. We had worked hard for months and had great turnouts in all our cities. 20,000 people in Seattle, 2,500 in Bellingham, 2,000 in Olympia, 500 in Kirkland, and 150 in Wenatchee. These strikes were our most attended events to date, and we were awed at its impact, but we weren't even close to done.
With barely two months of a planning period, we pulled off our fourth strike, ending 2019 with a bang. We striked in Seattle, Bellingham, Olympia, Kirkland, Everett, and Wenatchee, garnering hundreds upon hundreds of people once again.
Finally, we took a break. For the first few months of the new decade, we rapidly expanded, growing from six cities to twelve in a matter of weeks, and reaching almost 100 organizers across the state. We were fired up for Earth Day, which was expected to be the largest mobilization for climate justice in global history. However, at the beginning of March, it seemed our plans had been derailed by the coronavirus, which posed a deadly threat to our most vulnerable communities. In order to keep our strikes safe and accessible to all, we made the difficult but necessary choice to pivot to solely online actions. Our incredible team adapted to this change immediately, and within days we got to work on rebranding our messaging, creating demands, coming up with actions, and more.
Earth Day quickly approached and over the span of three days, we hosted 18 different workshops with hundreds of participants and speakers from at least five states and four countries. This online-mobilization allowed us to begin to pivot the organization that previously was based on primarily strikes to a broader approach focusing more on educating our community on the intersections of the climate crisis.
On May 1st, 2020 we announced that we were parting ways with USYCS as well as a name change to Washington Youth For Climate Justice. Our team is excited to use this time by expanding to new tactics and continuing to stay at the forefront of the climate justice movement by uplifting marginalized voices.