Communities Of Color Tackle Climate As "Our Power" Movement Heats Up Richmond

Search form

Communities Of Color Tackle Climate As "Our Power" Movement Heats Up Richmond

Communities Of Color Tackle Climate As "Our Power" Movement Heats Up Richmond
Wed, 8/6/2014 - by Michael Levitin

RICHMOND, Calif. – It's home to one of the world's largest oil corporations, Chevron, whose 2012 refinery blast and fire sent 15,000 residents here fleeing for emergency medical treatment. It's also ground zero in the nationwide fight of homeowners to reclaim and refinance their underwater mortgages through eminent domain.

Now, Richmond, a city of 106,000 in the East Bay just north of Oakland, is hosting the third Our Power National Convening, bringing social activists together from across America to share strategies that tackle the economic-environmental crises facing this city and so many like it.

"The fundamental question is: what do we, as vulnerable communities, do to be resilient?" said Stephanie Hervey, a social justice advocate and one of the organizers of the Convening, which runs Aug. 6-9. "We have the expertise, we have the communities. We’re not going to wait for [the] legislature – we’re going to do it on our own."

The first Our Power gathering happened last year in Black Mesa, Ariz., and the second one took place this past June in Detroit. The prime focus, said Hervey, is to bring together urban and less advantaged "frontline communities" to discuss ways that they can impact – and create local solutions to – issues ranging from energy use and food scarcity to homelessness and corporate abuse of communities.

"Corporations are going to be following us – the communities that are on the road to this, taking better stewardship of resources, conservation, restoration, transformation, cutting down consumption, recycling – making this more of a national movement so that we can catch up with the rest of the world," said Hervey, a former business intelligence analyst for corporations like Boeing and Oracle, and more recently the founder of The Artisan Hub and a member of the Black Mobilization Organization for Education in Richmond, or BMOER.

Like Detroit, where community groups rose up in recent weeks to defend thousands of residents facing water shutoffs because they were late on bill payments, Richmond seeks to lead with a "transformative perspective" as it addresses the dual economic and ecological challenges that it and cities everywhere are facing.

“Both of our cities have very distinct ways of resolving our problems, but the same goal: we’re trying to build solidarity and bring [issues] to a national forefront so other communities affected like us will ally their power," added Hervey. That means "cities where there’s fracking, or water contamination in West Virginia, or tar sands development in Utah."

"This is about showing the difference between what we can do and what corporations can do“ to unite communities, she continued. "This is culturally diverse, indigenous, self governance-based. It’s dealing with vulnerable communities, communities of color, multi-cultural communities [including] Asians, African Americans, indigenous people," and more.

The Our Power National Convening includes dozens of organizations grouped under the Climate Justice Alliance, whose mission is "to forge a scalable and socio-economically just transition away from unsustainable energy towards local living economies," rooted in the new realities of climate change.

Organizations participating in the Convening range from Rich City Rides, which promotes more bike use and less fuel use in Richmond's communities of color, to [Urban Tilth],(http://www.urbantilth.org/) whose youth apprenticeship program trains inner city youth to grow their own food and manage land independently; The Watershed Project, which focuses on restoring and conserving local watersheds, and Solar Richmond dedicated to growing the green collar economy through solar installation programs.

In the past, and still in many places today, the enormous fears and implications of climate change have taken a backseat to more immediate, bread-and-butter economic issues facing poor and working class communities. But this is starting to change, said Hervey.

Gatherings like this "help them wake up and be aware and say, ‘Wow, if I don’t have electricity, I know lights can get cut off,'" she said. "It’s a culture shift [that's] very difficult for low-income communities of color, seniors, LGBT, disabled and homeless people."

Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 6-7, will include workshops at Peres Elementary School, where some 400 participants are expected to attend. On Friday, Aug. 8, the community and organizations will create strategies to implement moving forward, and Saturday, Aug. 9, will be a day of direct action.

"It’s community resilience," added Hervey. "It's people organizing to empower ourselves – to generate our own energy and economic solutions."

Find out more about the Our Power National Convening here.

Michael Levitin is an editor at Occupy.com and was an editor for the Occupied Wall Street Journal. His freelance work has appeared in Newsweek, The Los Angeles Times and other publications. Read Michael's other articles on Occupy.com
 

Article Tabs

The coalition was set to deliver more than 200,000 signatures to the White House, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, calling for transparency and justice in police killings.

Divestment is less about denying fossil fuel companies the financial resources to operate – it's more about denying them reputation, legitimacy and “social license.”

Americans greatly underestimate the degree of inequality in our country – and if we were given proper media coverage of the endless takeaway of wealth by the super rich, we'd be taking it personally.

Wealthy people are often so isolated from the rest of us, many of them have forgotten how rich they really are.

Two political philosophers, Sheldon Wolin and John Ralson Saul, call for mass movements willing to carry out repeated acts of civil disobedience to disrupt and delegitimize corporate power.

Florida has the highest foreclosure rate in the U.S. in the first quarter of 2014, and also has a "foreclosure king" who is now disbarred for his failure to oversee employees accused of carrying out wrongful foreclosures.

Posted 5 days 13 hours ago

The city's social justice roots are centuries old – and today Seattle is also home to more than 70 social justice organizations and more than a dozen progressive film festivals.

Posted 3 days 14 hours ago

This isn't just a right to revolt, it's a call to revolt, an outright slam against apathy and nonresistance.

Posted 4 days 11 hours ago

Large corporations are the winners and taxpayers are the losers when transparency, accountability and the public interest are sold out to for-profit firms.

Posted 3 days 14 hours ago

"Peoples' movements will either succeed in transforming our economic and political systems to build a new world, or we will burn with the old one."

Posted 5 days 13 hours ago

Not simply individual guards should answer for this tragedy – but the leaders of private security companies and the governments that employ them must also be held to account.

This isn't just a right to revolt, it's a call to revolt, an outright slam against apathy and nonresistance.

The coalition was set to deliver more than 200,000 signatures to the White House, Department of Homeland Security and Department of Justice, calling for transparency and justice in police killings.

Coinciding with the National Day Against Police Brutality and Mass Incarceration, people in Santa Rosa, Calif., will hold a vigil and community potluck Wednesday to commemorate the teen's tragic death.

On Sunday, hundreds of people milled around a protest site in the gentrifying, densely-populated district Mong Kok, manning aid stations and sitting in small circles on the pavement.

Sign Up