As you may recall, earlier this year we announced that we would be moving Web of Change to a new location in 2013. The hard decision to take this step was only rivaled in difficulty by the effort to find the right place to move. After searching all over the U.S., and talking to may members of the community, we feel we've found a place that meets a large number of needs and will help our gathering be more accessible to a broader spectrum of our community.
I'm really excited to announce to all of you that WOC 2013 will be held on the border of the Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge in Texas hill country at the Retreat at Balcones Springs, about an hour and half from Austin. It will be held September 18-22.
As I write this I'm sitting on my 3rd plane today, my 6th in 6 days, headed home from WOC 2012. It does not escape me, and I daresay anyone who has been to Web of Change, that the journey to Cortes is a healthy portion of what makes the gathering so special. The moments in a van, on a water taxi or ferry or a float plane, or hitchhiking across Quadra, are sometimes as precious as the time spent together at Hollyhock. This decision to move is inextricably linked to the experience of Hollyhock, and so it was difficult, emotional and controversial. However, in our conversations over the years, and especially in these last few when our community has committed to face the challenges of diversity and inclusion head on, location has always been a barrier for so many amazing members of our community.
Half of the 160 members of this community who engaged in the open process last year felt strongly that bringing diverse movements together was a priority, and there is little doubt that the hundreds of others in this family feel the same. We recognize that location is just one way we can address the issue of diversity, but your feedback made it clear it was an important step.
My father, who comes from a family of 9 children, spent his childhood in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, about 10 hours south of Balcones. He and his family were migrant workers, who picked citrus in Texas and traveled north every year to Michigan to pick blueberries. All 11 of the family lived in a old Ford pickup truck, and slept in the fields where there was work along the way. In those days speaking spanish was an offense that would get you kicked out of school, and beaten at the local grocery store. Today, nearly half of the population of Texas is hispanic and in many places across the state hispanics are the majority.
Many a billionaire made a fortune in the oil and energy industry in Texas, both on the crude and the markets it created. The museums, art galleries and performance halls across the state bear the names of countless of our enemies like Shell, BP and Enron. Oil courses through the veins of the Lone Star state, of that there is no doubt. But we see progress as countless wind turbines are erected on the plateaus of West Texas, and it makes me smile to drive on I-10 and see the natural gas wells sitting silent and motionless as the turbines power both Texas and New Mexico.
It is important that we recognize the diversity, complexity, and progress of this state that is too often overshadowed by a failing education system and the hubris of seemingly sociopathic law makers. In this State we find the whole spectrum of the energy fight, from renewables to the battle against Tar Sands. We find the economic struggles of some of the poorest communities in southeast Texas where refugees from Katrina are still waiting for help. We find the communities of cancer alley, breathing the toxic air in their homes and in their classrooms. Education, labor rights, immigration, land rights, the list is endless. At the front lines of all of these fights are kindred spirits, many whom we've never met and who know nothing of the Web of Change community. I am so excited at the prospect of teaching and learning with them.
It may be that the waters of the Guadalupe River still run through my veins, or that it is the place my family has called home since it was a northern territory of Mexico, but I think Texas and the hill country hold a very special power. In the end though, the gathering is what we make it. We think this is an crucial step to making our community more inclusive, and I look forward to making the journey with so many of you.
So there you have it! I'm looking forward to seeing many of you between now and then, and building a stronger, more inclusive and diverse family along the way.