Resilience... Right Here In Our Own Backyards


Resilience... Right Here In Our Own Backyards

Planting Justice supports OCAC community convening around Climate Change
Kelly "Green" Curry

On Saturday, August 15, 2015 Planting Justice participated in a ground breaking meeting which brought together community members and organizations to share and relate around issues of climate change right here in our hoods. This intergenerational, multicultural convening reflected on the history of the strength of the people of West Oakland; Fruitvale and Oakland in general and begged the question, how can we all play our part when disaster strikes, be it an earthquake; a shooting; the actions of misappropriate policing or systems of governance that honor business and money making over wholesome community development?

The event, sponsored by Oakland Climate Action Coalition, successfully engaged cross-sector conversation in order to educate, build fire in participants around this serious issue; hear ideas; concerns and find out what resources already exist in our communities.

Looking back at the lessons learned during Hurricane Katrina (the storm that leveled much of the infrastructure and many communities in New Orleans ten years ago) participants engaged the possibility of the big earthquake hitting us and figuring out 1.) what first responding looks like and 2.) what we all need to do to firm up our chances of surviving and flourishing as opposed to perishing. We also spent time honoring the vigilance of the first responders at the time of the Peralta freeway collapse in 1989 in West Oakland. This earthquake, which hit during the World Series, marked a turning point in the history of that historic section of our vibrant, people driven city.

The community responded first, running to the aid of trapped victims, administering first aid, moving bodies and holding the hands of the dying. It was after this event that the community marched down to City Hall, under its own power, with a list of organized demands that included the City of Oakland rebuild the freeway (whose construction, unapproved by local residents, devastated both the spirit of the community and the local economy) away from their neighborhood. We recognized the amount of energy, commitment and focus that that simple act took and the kind of organization, before the fact, that it will take for us to follow that exemplary lead. As a result of the proactive communication and vigilance of those community members during the years prior to the quake and subsequent collapse, the freeway runs behind West Oakland, not through it. As a result of not waiting for elected officials and "people in power" to do what they'd always done...ignore the true needs of the people...the sun shines across West Oakland today.

Our today in West Oakland, is a healthier one because the gardens Planting Justice, City Slicker Farms; People's Grocery and indie community residents plant have an opportunity to grow and thrive. We have the resilince of West Oakland residents who fought back to thank for our precious, tasty kale smoothies :-) This also exemplifies in reverse what happened in New Orleans, post-Katrina.

After the flooding, big business and corporate interests descended upon the minerally rich, well situated land left behind by residents fleeing for their lives. These interests took advantage of the confusion by appropriating land, homes and property; rezoning and planning and developing for the purpose of business and capital making. This is an example of a "natural" disaster being used to further disenfranchise and marginalize people who were already in many respects, struggling and vulnerable. The idea that this could be "us" was very upsetting to many who attended our workshop. All of us remember seeing the folks of New Orleans dying as film crews captured it all for the world to see and the government did little in the way of responding.

Remembering and highlighting this part of our history gave our group the incentive to continue to organize!

A few key resolutions made by the group are to continue to share out the issues that are hitting us the hardest. Some of these are; lack of true representation of leadership down at City Hall and being represented by folks who are out of touch and often not really committed to the health and well being of community; making time to connect for the sake of connecting with our neighbors; getting to know our neighbors; reaching out to folks who are shut-in, vulnerable and may not have access to many of the resources that many folks take for granted; sharing the info learned with community back home, on the ground.

The energy and zeal and commitment of the folks in the room was and is deeply inspiring to those of us from Planting Justice who participated. Perhaps you'd like to host a meeting of friends and community and talk about what your plans are, definitively, in case of emergency whether that emergency is gifted to us from Mother Nature or man-made. Have a conversation and find out what already exists in your community and what else you need. You'll be surprised, like many of us were, to find out the kinds of things your neighbors are already doing to bring health and safety to your community. The main thing is, that proactive community involvement is a life-saver :-)  We will keep you posted on the progress of this conversation.