Perspectives: In Their Own Words
Interview by Pema Baldwin | Photo courtesy of Rosalee Bayer
Rosalee Bayer ’22 talks about her experience leaving campus, isolating with her family, and how the Sunrise Movement has been adapting to coronavirus. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
“I’m from Westchester, New York, which, when we were leaving, was one of the few places that had a ton of coronavirus cases, and my dad works half time in Salt Lake City, so he has an apartment there. My family decided to go to that apartment. My mom, brothers, and my dog drove from New York, and I drove from school with someone else who lives in Salt Lake City to hang out at the apartment. I was there for six weeks — from two days after school got out until two days ago. I’m really grateful I had the privilege of having somewhere safe to stay with my family.
I took Intro to International Relations. It was really interesting, and it was cool to talk to my family about what I was learning day to day. My mom actually sat in on the class and just sat off camera taking notes because she wanted to learn about it. She’s a real estate agent, but she’s been thinking about taking college classes for a long time and hasn’t gotten around to it, and so she sat in on that class and my brother’s class every day.
She didn’t do the readings — she just came to the class. I would send her my answers to the discussion questions so that she knew what we were going to be talking about.
One time, the professor asked, ‘Does anyone know what CH stands for?’ In reference to a country in Europe. She got really excited. She’s like, “It’s Switzerland! Switzerland!” And then I answered the question, and [the professor] asked if I got help from someone off screen because he saw me talking to her, and I was like, ‘No…’ (laughs).
I thought the class itself wasn’t that different from how it is at Colorado College, but doing homework at home was a lot harder than I thought it would be. I think mostly just not being able to have all the different spaces that I do my homework at school in — separate academic areas from other areas. I feel like that kind of reflected a little bit in the class — that people were struggling to get all the readings done — but I thought it was fine. I was glad. I feel like I had a pretty ideal situation relative to what it could possibly have been.
I do my homework better in the morning, so I would do most of it before class. I just liked to get everything done first thing in the morning and then spend the rest of the day doing whatever, like going for walks and doing stuff for Sunrise. I’ve known how to knit for a while, and I just knit hats, so I started knitting a sweater, and I started making sourdough bread like everybody else. I haven’t successfully made it yet. I made it once, and it was completely flat, so now I’m trying again.
I also watched a lot of TV with my family. We watched all the new Netflix shows. I developed a very specific opinion about “Tiger King:” Carole Baskin and Joe Exotic are an allegory for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump (laughs). Everyone hates her just for being not perfect and being a woman, but he’s way worse and does way worse things — he’s just charismatic. You can print that.
Now I’m back in the Springs. I’m living off campus at my friend’s house. I have an internship with Soil Cycle this summer, which is a part of Food Rescue. I was supposed to be building their base through community events and social media advertising, and now I’m not sure exactly what it’s going to look like, but thankfully it’s still going to happen.
Right before we left school, I started the position of hub delegate for the Colorado Springs Sunrise Hub, which is a new position where one person from each hub coordinates with the regional organizer and other hub delegates in the region about strategy and skill development. For people who don’t know — Sunrise is a national movement of young people fighting for climate justice. I was supposed to go to a three-day training right after school got out for spring break, but, obviously, it was canceled. Michele, who’s the regional organizer, pushed us to really keep our hubs active during this time. Sunrise has always been focused on creating community around crisis, which is why it was really critical in this moment to create that space for our hub members and bring more CC students into the hub. It was weird stepping into way more of a leadership role than I previously had right as we all separated, but I’ve learned so much about activism and Sunrise over the past six weeks, and it’s been really cool to be able to use my extra time for something I care about so much.
Doing stuff from home has actually made our meetings way more consistent than they were on campus. We have two meetings a week: one for planning actions and one for community building. I was nervous about people attending and being into it, but it’s been really successful. Some of the actions we have been able to do virtually are writing our representatives to support the People’s Bailout, which is a relief package that would protect workers and communities over big corporations, voting to endorse candidates for various down-ballot elections who support the Green New Deal, and organizing a mass Twitter action to support Andrew Romanoff, who is running for senate in Colorado to replace Cory Gardner. He’s running against John Hickenlooper, who is notorious for his pro-fracking policies and for taking money from fossil fuel companies.
Our next goal is to make sure that everyone knows how to get their ballots if they usually get them in their CC mailboxes. Cory Gardner is the most vulnerable Republican in the senate. Whoever wins the democratic nomination has an 11-point lead on him, so we need to get out the vote for the primary on June 30.
People should sign up for Sunrise School, which is run by the national Sunrise group. There is a course called ‘Coronavirus and the Green New Deal’ that meets for an hour a day for four days where you can learn the goals of the Green New Deal and align with what’s being called for with regards to the crisis. People have talked to me about feeling complicit in this crisis and guilty about how comfortable their quarantine is. For me, putting the extra time I have into Sunrise feels like a really good way to exercise my privilege productively. I really encourage anyone who feels like they have the time and the mental space to engage in activism to reach out and get involved. I totally get not wanting to add more Zoom calls to your life, so reaching out to get added to the GroupMe or the list-serv could be a great way to get in touch with what actions you can do instead of coming to meetings. People can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I can imagine there might be some concern that climate activism is out of touch with what’s going on — the fact that we have a global health crisis — but the Green New Deal is a huge governing agenda for the next decade that includes policy like Medicare for All and creating millions of new jobs in the transition to renewable energy, so these values of justice and equity that we’re trying to achieve with Sunrise and the Green New Deal are very much in line with what people are asking for right now, when all these holes in our system are becoming apparent from the coronavirus crisis. Even though the long-term goal of mitigating the climate crisis may feel like it doesn’t necessarily need to be the driving force right now, everything we’re fighting for is especially important in this moment and we’re shifting what we’re talking about to address those more immediate things, so people should come to the meetings to find out.”