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Valholly Frank voices her climate concerns during massive global rallies

FORT LAUDERDALE — They chanted “Hey, hey, ho, ho, these fossil fuels have to go.”

They cheered each time a passing vehicle honked in support.

And on a day when most of them would normally be in classrooms in Broward County, they carried signs in front of the county’s public schools office building that read “We Strike for Climate Justice” and “Time is Running Out” and “Respect Existence or Expect Resistance.”

Then the hundreds of teenagers in the Climate Strike rally marched on sidewalks through downtown in a loud, but peaceful and noticeable manner Sept. 20 as city police halted vehicle traffic at intersections.

In the sea of young, vociferous participants was Valholly Frank, who, at age 16, is no stranger to supporting causes. At 15, she put her name as a plaintiff on a lawsuit filed last year against then Gov. Rick Scott and others over climate change.

She spoke out about her concerns with the climate situation at that time, and did so again at the Climate Strike in front of the hundreds of supporters who, after the march, gathered in an ampitheatre at Bubier Park for speeches.

Valholly Frank (second from right), 16, of the Big Cypress Reservation, participates in the Climate Strike rally Sept. 20 in downtown Fort Lauderdale. The rally drew hundreds of people, mostly students. Frank, a student at the Sagemont School in Weston, was one of the featured speakers. Rallies were held throughout the day in more than 90 countries. (Kevin Johnson)

The climate change issue hits close to home for Frank, from the Big Cypress Reservation. She points to recent stronger weather occurrences, such as Hurricane Irma in 2017, that have directly impacted Big Cypress and the Tribe.

“We had kind of a crisis in our Tribe when the hurricane came around. It was really terrifying for us,” she said.

Indeed, the storm caused several problems in BC, including several days without power and gasoline shortages.

Being Seminole has helped fuel Frank’s strong determination to do something about climate change.

“It makes it more personable for me the fact that I’m so connected with the Earth and my spirituality and my culture really depends on it,” she said.

“It’s super important to me to fix the climate crisis and to bring awareness to it because I don’t want to see what keeps happening to my Tribe, and I don’t want to see that happening to other Tribes around the world or anybody else around the world.”

The Climate Strike in Fort Lauderdale was part of a massive, worldwide eye-opener with similar events held in more than 90 countries that drew estimates of millions of people, many inspired by Greta Thunberg, whose calm and poignant testimony two days earlier in front of a Congressional panel help ignite and energize the marches.

Valholly Frank is interviewed by Miami TV station NBC6 during the Climate Strike rally. (Kevin Johnson)

If those who are demanding changes related to climate needed a face for its cause, they received one in the form of the petite teen from Sweden.

“It was so amazing. I wish I saw it in person,” said Frank, who added that the Climate Strike was inspired by Thunberg’s own Friday strikes to bring awareness to climate change.

Before the rallies, Frank did her part in trying to spread the word about the event. She said she put up signs at Sagemont School in Weston, where she is a junior, but she said the school removed them.

Still, Frank was thrilled with the hundreds of students from across Broward and beyond as well as the adults who participated in the rally.

“I’m so proud of everyone … and keep fighting,” she exclaimed to the crowd as it roared with approval.

Frank hasn’t decided yet what path she would like to take in college, but she said environmental sciences and biology are among potential majors she’s considered.

Frank’s mother Rhonda Roff and the family dog, Willow, a rescue mutt, also attended the rally.

Dozens of youth show their support for the Climate Strike rally in downtown Fort Lauderdale on Sept. 20. (Photo Kevin Johnson)

“This whole Greta Thunberg thing has just completely enlivened everybody,” Roff said.

Rev. Amy Carol Webb, minister of the River of Grass Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Davie which has Choctaw and Cherokee elders, participated in the march in support of the youths’ message.

“The congregation I serve, we believe in saving this planet,” she said.

“We’ve been at it for a long, long time. Social justice is our focus. We have an Earth ministry and that’s what we’re here for, to stand up for the ministry of Earth, for the future generations and to reach back to listen to the wisdom of our elders who had said if we don’t cut it out, this is coming, and to listen to the youth that have picked it up.

Apologize to them for our letting it go and now do our part following them to turn it around.”

Three days after the rallies, Thunberg addressed the United Nations in New York.

“The eyes of all future generations are upon you,” Thunberg told the UN.

“And if you choose to fail us I say we will never forgive you. We will not let you get away with this. Right here, right now is where we draw the line.”

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Kevin Johnson
Kevin Johnson is senior editor. He has worked for The Seminole Tribune since 2014. He was previously an editor, photographer and reporter for newspapers in Southwest Florida and Connecticut. Contact Kevin at kevinjohnson@semtribe.com.
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