The journey to the TEDx stage required me to intertwine two of my identities/passions that I had been keeping separate. While I had always served or volunteered for organizations that were fighting for equity and social justice, I rarely brought that work into my job as an energy engineer or sustainability professional. For so long, I wanted to be successful as a professional, despite what others may have thought of me because of my race or gender or identity as LGBTQIA.
Working in city government, it was the charge and responsibility of the Office of Sustainability to ensure that our work served EVERYONE and equity is a basic tenet of sustainability. I had an opening to start talking about equity and to bring it into my work. However, there always felt like a self-imposed limit of how honestly I could speak or what issues I dared to bring up. I could either disqualify myself by being seen as an angry Latina or be pigeon-holed as an equity person and not a subject matter expert on technical issues.
This fine line became wider as race, gender and LGBTQIA issues in our community and nation became more heated and divisive. Speaking up and giving others the safe space to speak up became imperative. At the same time, I found a community of other sustainability professionals of color that were struggling with the similar issues. Just knowing that I wasn’t crazy or an outlier, was empowering. I pushed equity further in my work and the seed of an idea for a TEDx stage was planted.
Feeling confident enough to claim that I have an idea worth spreading worthy of a TEDx stage required me to internalize the message of my talk. That we all, people, plants, animals, all living things, are interconnected. We are all part of the divine; and in that sense, we all have ideas worth spreading and so do I.
If we can all tap into that interconnectedness, we will not have a climate change issue or a hate issue because getting in right relationship with others and the planet is getting in right relationship with ourselves.
That wasn’t my message initially. I was surprised to find my idea evolve. What started as a message about equity has transformed into a larger concept of interconnectedness. In that sense, committing to and participating in the TEDx process has been a part of the journey. What will each of us find as we raise our awareness to the knowing that the well-being of the planet is dependent upon the well-being of one another?