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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: East Bay | Racial Justice
Town Hall on Environmental Justice in Oakland and Mehserle Change of Venue, 11/7/09: audio
This week's Town Hall for Justice for Oscar Grant focused largely on environmental racism and the struggle against toxics that is being fought in communities of color in Oakland and across the Bay Area. Minister Keith Muhammad and Nehanda Imara of Merritt College and Communities for a Better Environment address the issue. Cephus Johnson, Oscar Grant's uncle, speaks briefly near the end of the Town Hall regarding issues related to the change of venue in Johannes Mehserle's murder trial.
Minister Keith Muhammad opens this week's Town Hall by noting that, "We hold these truths to be self-evident," from the Declaration of Independence was repeated by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Written by Thomas Jefferson, a slave owner, that all men are created equal. The document was better than the authors. It profits the rich to steal land and labor of people. So who will government support and protect? Those who need it, the poor, or the rich?
Minister Keith urges caution with swine flu vaccinations. What is in the vaccine? First recipients should be weak and poor agencies say, but costs of pharmaceuticals not lowered. NYC schools innoculating all children. Some people get sick from innocculations and sometimes batches are tainted. We know government has experimented on people in Tuskegee and on prisoners and on the poor. Minister Keith clarifies that he is not asking people not to do what they think is best for your health but for you to hink about decisions you make. Think five times before you get a shot, learning more each time.
Polluting companies increase their PR when bad news and community pressure increases. BART said at State Legislative meeting that everything they've done since January 1st is to improve their public image. There are brown fields all over Oakland, one just a few blocks from here, with nothing more than a chain link fence around it to "protect" the public.
28:00 into the Town Hall, Minister Keith introduces professor Nehanda Imara of Merritt College who teaches Environmental Justice. She notes that the Environmental Justice movement goes back several decades. Dr. King's fight for sanitation workers was not just economic but for safety and health as he is now seen as an early environmental justice advocate. Native Americans have deep spiritual connections to earth and honor that as Thanksgiving approaches. Yes, I love whales and spotted owls, Nehanda Imara says, but I also love my people. The term environmental racism was put on the map by Benjamin Chavis/Muhammad in 1981. There is a racial discrimination regarding toxics in communities of color and a lack of diversity in related government boards. He organized against the building of PCB dump site in African American community in rural North Carolina. Four hundred people were arrested for the first time in the environmental movement. She has worked with Communities for a Better Environment in East Oakland for the last three years, and has been focused on the environment for about 30 years overall. CBE organizes a "Toxic Tour" of East Oakland. Marvin Gaye sang "Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" in 1971. Oakland has a long tradition of social justice, and the Black Panthers were interested in environmental justice. Bobby Seale spoke about pollution, from that in the air to in politics. Lots of toxics left from industry in Oakland like the General Motors plant where Eastmont Mall is today. CBE has mapped the Hegenberger corridor and it includes over 200 toxic sites, including a metal foundry and auto body facilities, next to schools and senior centers. The Toxic Triangle includes Oakland, Richmond (Chevron and refineries), and San Francisco (Bayview-Hunters Point) where toxics are located in clusters in low-income neighborhoods. Dirtier air in the flatlands, because diesel trucks are not allowed on the wealthier Interstate 580 but are on I-880 instead. Honor Narive brothers and sisters this time of year by honoring and showing respect for the earth. Go back and learn what we used to know: cleaning with vinegar and baking soda instead of bringing toxics into our houses.
59:00 into the Town Hall, Minister Keith reminds those in attendance that the video tape of the shooting of Brownie Polk in August has still not been made available to the public. There has been no word from the Oakland police department on the internal affairs investigation. There has been only silence since the early public relations releases that lied. Will the new police chief Anthony Batts be different that those in the past? Mayor Dellums and Batts held a town hall and will hold two more. Minister Keith adds that Black men are not visiting inmates, mostly just women visit. Increased arrests and sentencing have not made communities safer. Oakland schools are about to get $1 million from the Department of Justice to install cameras, not social services and guidance. They need to teach how to settle differences, not just call the police and increase incarceration.
Judge Jacobson granted the change of venue but Minister Keith wonders if it can be appealed by prosecutors. The "expert" was well-paid at $200/hour to spew racist filth and he simply reviewed articles in the SF Chronicle to get up to speed on the case. If it's true that people can't get a fair trial in Oakland, then let my people go! Security was upped in the Alameda county court house, but it will be anywhere the trial goes. This country was built on activism. At a November 19th hearing, the judge was set to determine what the venue county for the trial. There will need to be a benefit to raise money for family and activist's travel to attend the trial.
At 1:25:00 into the Town Hall, Cephus Johnson says that the venue survey used by the courts can't be investigated. He does not like the attack on the 1st Amendment rights in the change of venue decision, but it has re-awakened us.
previous Town Hall on BART Police, DA Failing in Mehserle Change of Venue, and Rape of Women, 10/31/09: audio
Town Hall Meetings
Every Saturday 4pm - 6pm
Olivet Institutional Missionary Baptist Church
807 27th Ave, Oakland