More than 200 people, the bulk of them high school students, converged at the Guthrie Green over Friday’s lunch hour to voice their concerns about climate change and call on leaders to take action.
The Global Climate Strike Tulsa event coincided with similar rallies worldwide as part of a day of youth-driven climate demonstrations.
Senior Nate Ijams was one of dozens of participants from Booker T. Washington High School, which was easily the most represented school with more than half of the participants.
“I’m excited and amazed at how creative and how energetic we can become when we are all together fighting for a cause that matters,” Ijams said.
“It’s the world we have,” added Qudrat Qureshi, a BTW junior. “We have to save it. We don’t have any other place to go.”
Ijams gets most of the credit for the BTW showing. He promoted the event online and on social media throughout the week while also working to get school officials to excuse the absence.
He said it was the Fridays for Future initiative of young people and activists in Europe that inspired him.
“There’s no reason,” Ijams said, “that people anywhere in the U.S. or even Tulsa, Oklahoma, can’t come together and have the kind of impact that’s being had in Europe.”
Excited to find out there would be a local event to match those going on globally, Jenna Dooling of Broken Arrow invited her friend, Madylan Hux, from Sand Springs to join her there.
The virtual school seniors, who participated in a march around the perimeter of the park, are both serious about protecting the environment.
Friday’s event “is a huge call to action for people … to make little changes in their lives,” said Hux, who, like Dooling, has embraced vegetarianism over concerns about the planet.
Dooling believes that youths today are the ones driving the climate change protest movement.
“It’s definitely a younger crowd,” she said. “My grandmother doesn’t believe in (climate change).”
Some climate-concerned students, though, say they are getting through to older generations.
“My mother asked for eco-friendly products for Mother’s Day this year,” BTW junior Olivia Riley said. “I’ve talked to her about it, and I’m having an influence.”
University of Tulsa student Jeremy Garrison, who spoke at the rally, said the showing at the park was a credit to the youths involved.
“You can expect it with the type of teens we have,” he said. “People in this age range are ready to stand up for what they believe.”
Garrison said of the turnout: “I’m super impressed but not surprised.”
“It’s heart-warming. I’m just amazed to see all the students here,” added Johnson Bridgwater, director of the Sierra Club’s Oklahoma chapter.
“I’ve been in this job for five years,” he said, “and this is the culmination of that — to get Oklahomans to acknowledge that climate change is a reality.”
Friday’s event, he added, proves that major headway has been made.
An open mic was provided for any rallygoers to offer a few words to the crowd.
BTW junior Marlowe Finley-Brown, one of several students who took advantage of it, said the planet is growing warmer every year and that “we need to stop it now. We need to change — not the climate.”
Finley-Brown said afterward that she’d normally be the last person to speak up in a group setting.
“But I don’t want to be silent. It’s so important,” she said.