While Harriet Tubman and Eleanor Roosevelt smiled and educated onlookers and the Statue of Liberty held her torch high in Esther Short Park Saturday, a woman dressed as a tube of toothpaste drew a crowd.
Heidi Cody of Vancouver wasn’t talking about teeth, flossing or gingivitis. She was talking about climate change. She was handing out boxes designed to look like they’d have toothpaste inside of them, but instead have pamphlets with information about local groups working to combat climate change.
“It’s a way to recruit people into the climate movement,” said Cody, who started Climate Toothpaste about three years ago. “If you have a stack of Climate Toothpaste, people will talk to you. That’s a big part of the battle. It’s a way to use humor to draw people in. Climate can be such a ‘doom and gloom’ subject to talk about.”
Cody, a climate activist who also works as a visual artist, was at the park for the 16th annual Peace and Justice Fair. The park was filled with local organizations and activists talking about issues like gun control, the Green New Deal, voting and education. Local musicians and dancers performed on stage throughout the day. Kids and adults received stamps on a passport for going around to different booths.
“We want people to really stop and understand how much is going on in our community,” said Marjorie Casswell, manager of the Peace and Justice Fair headquarters booth. “There is a lot of work being done for peace and justice locally, and people aren’t always aware.”
Cody wasn’t the only person there to talk climate change. Don Steinke, a local climate activist, and other electric car owners parked their vehicles near the Salmon Run Bell Tower. It was the fourth straight year the fair featured a display on electric cars.
“If you don’t want to have more wars over oil, we need a reduction in our need for oil,” he said. “The greatest threat to peace and justice is climate change. We need to reduce our emissions.”
One way Bridgette Fahnbulleh, president of the local NAACP chapter, was telling people they can make change is by voting and participating locally. Her booth was registering people to vote, as well as urging them to participate in the 2020 Census.
“We can’t ignore things like that,” she said. “We’re working toward racial and social justice, and we have to let people know we’re here. There’s a lot happening in this country that has people concerned. It’s possible to make change.”
Fahnbulleh said the NAACP has had a booth at the fair for at least 13 years, and it’s a good way to connect with other organizations fighting for similar goals.
Saturday was the first time at the fair for Malee Octavia of Vancouver and her nonprofit Support Education Worldwide. She had a booth at the fair to talk about her organization, which is working with grassroots educational leaders in Pakistan and Cambodia. Octavia didn’t just have a booth, though. She also walked the fair as a re-enactor.
Octavia was dressed as Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani woman and education activist who was shot in the head in an assassination attempt by the Taliban in 2012, and later won the Nobel Prize (for Peace).
“I was always interested in women’s rights, and I read her book and started following her,” Octavia said. “It was through her that I found the school in Pakistan to work with. I’m just fascinated with all she does around education. She’s an inspiration.”