Angola, LA and New Orleans, LA | Campaign Organizer
Ivy is a recent New Orleans college graduate from Biloxi, MS, who was inspired to engage climate activism after joining the Sunrise Movement Hub on her college campus and growing frustrated with politicians like Congressman Cedric Richmond who refused to take action to hold the petrochemical plants and refineries accountable for their pollution. She’s currently a field organizer for Ayanna Hammond, a progressive candidate for District 5 , who has consistently supported the progressive movements and ideals that Ivy has begun to adopt. She is optimistic about the future and provides her own speculation about the future of the Green New Deal and foreshadows some objects in our Green New Deal future. Ivy also talks about how she is being by introduced to Green New Deal futures through her friend Shae.
Interviewer: Hello Ivy, thank you for joining me today. Let’s begin by discussing how you became an organizer with Ayanna Hammond’s campaign for Congress.
Ivy Nguyen: Thank you for having me, I appreciate the opportunity. So, two years ago, I had an environmental science professor who was really politically engaged, and she encouraged my class to learn about our local representatives. I was disappointed to learn about Cedric Richmond’s relationship with the fossil fuel industry despite representing places like Reserve in St. John the Baptist Parish, which are ground-zero for fossil fuel emissions and exploiting workers. I remember reading an older article in The Guardian where they spoke about Richmond basically holding a photo-op with his constituents and ignoring their questions about the Denka Chemical Plant. Around the same time, I started going to the meetings of my campus Sunrise hub and got involved recruiting speakers for different protest s. Since then, I’ve recognized the need for a candidate that endorses and fights for the Green New Deal. When Ayanna Hammond launched her campaign I knew I wanted to be a part of it.
Interviewer: Sounds like you were inspired to act partially due to the inaction of Congressman Richmond, what else attracts you to the Hammond campaign?
Ivy Nguyen: She’s been really consistent in her stances even before she became a politician, back when she was the head of a local youth services non-profit that I used to see posters for around New Orleans. I remember following her on Instagram and seeing her support for the Sunrise Movement, Green New Deal, prison abolition, and other movements that aren’t so popular in the community. Hearing her talk about the future of Angola Prison, which is about 2 hours from New Orleans, is so different from anything I’ve heard. We were there at a campaign event with a local BLM chapter a couple weeks ago and Ayanna talked about how once the prison is fully decommissioned , we should transform the prison into a memorial justice center. Her platform has centered working directly with voters and formerly incarcerated folks at Angola. She talks about a restorative justice model, a center for political education, and a jobs training. I have college friends from around there and they don’t think the Angola Rodeo will ever go away, but I appreciate her bold ideas of a future that we can at least work towards. Like I mentioned earlier, her stances are not widely shared throughout my community back home and watching her gain supporters has allowed me to feel more comfortable about my own beliefs.Angola Memorial Justice Center
Interviewer:I appreciate your point about needing bold ideas and a vision for the future. Can you share a specific example of how you think the Green New Deal might benefit your community in the future?
Ivy Nguyen: Absolutely, one of the topics I’m most excited about is the opportunity for a federal jobs guarantee. I graduated from college in May and finding a job with benefits felt impossible! There’s so much work we need to do in the south and people here need stable, decent paying jobs. I’ve heard talk about some kind of “Decommissioning Authority” that would employ people to deconstruct all the fossil fuel plants around here. That sounds pretty good. My older cousin is an engineer and the last time I saw her she talked about how she wanted to get a job doing something that was good for our community, but when she graduated the only jobs around were in oil. There’s a lot of simpler projects that I learned about in my environmental science classes like installing green roofs or rain gardens to help with flooding. We just need additional funding, and for that we need politicians that are willing to lead.
Interviewer: The range of GND related projects is so expansive. Hearing you go from rain gardens to decommissioning oil refineries helps to illuminate the small and large efforts that it will take to get to that vison for the future you talked about earlier. I’d like to hear about some of your experiences on the campaign.
Ivy Nguyen: This summer, I truly enjoyed working with Shea Mitchell, who came and helped out the campaign for a couple weeks as we were making our Get Out the Vote plan for the fall Similar to my science professor, they're really good at linking science with activism, and making fossil fuel systems a bit easier to understand. They’re currently developing a restorative justice model for communities to begin holding fossil fuel companies accountable. Shea’s often telling me about how much work it takes to recruit and expand the network of people pushing back against big oil. In a lot of these small towns on the river where all the petro plants are so many people have gotten cancer. The people Shae has worked with are trying to find a way to get financial reparations, too. I don’t know if we’ll ever see that, even with a Green New Deal. Still, what I’ve learned from Ayanna’s campaign is that all these conversations matter, even if you don’t change someone’s mind right away. So, for Shae to be out there every day talking to people about justice and reparations is a tremendous contribution to educating people on what we’ve experienced living here.
Interviewer: Speaking to you shows why people are so energized to support the Green New Deal and people like Ayanna Hammond. It sounds like you have strong vision of how the future can be different along with a growing network of people that will inspire and educate you along the way. Before we go, is there anything else you’d like to share with me?
"... While I love engaging in climate activism and getting people excited to create a better future, I sometimes wish I didn’t have to...”
Ivy Nguyen: I would just say my optimism is fueled by my fear of what will happen if people don’t step up. My parents and aunts and uncles still talk all the time about living through Hurricane Katrina, even though it was so long ago. I wouldn’t be this passionate about the environment if I didn’t think that it was necessary to have a healthy planet. While I love engaging in climate activism and getting people excited to create a better future, I sometimes wish I didn’t have to. At the very least I’m looking forward to taking a vacation with some of the other campaign organizers down by Grand Isle after the election, hopefully once we’ve won!