Community members and faith leaders are continuing to raise awareness about what they consider to be the dangers of coal to the health of residents of West Oakland and other nearby communities.
Pastor Ken Chambers of West Side Missionary Baptist Church, who is a cancer survivor himself, is hosting a series of community meetings at his church.
“The community of West Oakland has high health risks for asthma, cancer and other health challenges that continue to plague our community,” said Pastor Chambers. “It is time to take a stand against the transport of coal through our community for the sake of our health and the health of our children.”
Chambers says he is inspired by the leadership that Mayor Libby Schaaf is taking to promote climate justice.
“I am proud she represented our city at the global climate agreement talks in Paris,” he said. “I urge the City Council to take part in this global effort by saying no to coal coming through Oakland.”
The council is scheduled to decide early next year whether to challenge the plan to ship coal by rail from Utah through the city’s transport terminal for markets in Asia.
Joining Pastor Chambers, Pastor C. L. Mathews of Corinthian Baptist Church is taking a strong stand against the coal shipments.
“It is imperative Oakland residents continue to reject the transportation of hazardous fossil fuel materials,” he said. “During the 1960s and 1970s many of our children dealt with diesel soot on windowsills. Now adults, we suffer with health issues.”
“Oakland has an asthma hospitalization rate that is higher than other communities,” he continued. “Oaklanders will not be hoodwinked into believing a pipe dream of more jobs – at the cost of our health and generations of our children’s health.”
“All money isn’t good money.”
Said Rev. Thomas Harrison of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, “Coal is unhealthy for the community, and I support the opportunity to produce green organizations and jobs.”
Rev. Curtis Robinson of Faith Baptist Church said he hopes Oaklanders will see that coal has no future.
“The adoption of renewable energy is inevitable, just like the adoption of seatbelts by the U.S. government,” he said. “It is clear that we need to adopt newer energy to save the lives of our people.”
Others calling on the city to say no to coal include: Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, Episcopal Bishop of California; Rabbi Marvin Goodman, Northern California Board of Rabbis; Rev. Will Scott, program director California Interfaith Power & Light; Susan Stephenson, executive director Interfaith Power & Light;
Rev. Dr. Kwasi Thornell, St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church, Oakland; Pastor Jim Hopkins, Lakeshore Ave. Baptist Church, Oakland; Archdeacon Carolyn Bolton
St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Oakland; Rev. Ben Daniel, Montclair Presbyterian Church, Oakland; Rev. Ambrose Carroll, Green the Church; Rev. Earl Koteen,
Universalist Ministry for Earth; Rev. Debra Avery, First Presbyterian Church of Oakland;
The Rev. Laurie Manning, Skyline United Church of Christ, Oakland; Rev. Cheryl Denise Ward, Oakland, Charles O’Neil, member, Evergreen Missionary Baptist Church, Oakland, Rabbi Oren Postrel, Emeryville; Rev. MaAn Barcelo, Retired Minister United Methodist Church, Pastor Linda Loessberg-Zahl, Epworth United Methodist Church, Berkeley.
The next community meeting to oppose the coal shipments will take place Monday, Jan. 25, 6 p.m. to 7:30 pm. at Westside Baptist Church, 732 Willow St. in West Oakland.
For more information, call Rev. Ken Chambers at (510) 239-6969.