One by one each volunteer stepped up to the shallow pans of water. Against a backdrop of security personnel, each one carefully leaned on two supporters and allowed a third to remove their shoes and socks and gently wash their feet. Eighteen times, Rev. Holston of POWER lay his hands on their backs and offered a blessing. They carried the blessings of all of us as they faced arrest to interrupt PECO's daily profit from dirty energy, and demand transformation for green jobs and justice.
At a powerful action on Tuesday, March 27, more than 60 members of the Power Local Green Jobs Campaign processed in silence to PECO headquarters. Our action was a Day of Mourning for the lives and opportunities lost because of PECO’s continued reliance on fossil fuels. These losses are not abstract. In front of the largest utility in our state, we heard personal stories about children struggling with painful asthma, neighbors trying to foster community in the midst of oil refinery pollution, and Philadelphians struggling with poverty because of the lack of good jobs. We honored this loss with religious symbolism from different traditions - tearing of fabric, wailing, dance, and the mourner’s kaddish.
On December 7, the Big Change for Green Jobs day of action brought 240 elders, youth, faith leaders, and community groups to PECO locations across the region.
It's been clear for a while that PECO is accustomed to delaying change through small steps and short-lived programs. The company has been prepared to dodge and delay for many years while the most damaging and oppressive impacts of dirty energy continue to fall on vulnerable communities.
As the country was remembering it's 9/11 Memorial Day, five of us hopped into Walter's Prius at 30th St. station. We were on our way to Allentown to drop by a meeting of the Energy Association of Pennsylvania, a lobbyist and trade group which it just so happens that Craig Adams, CEO of PECO, sits on the board of.
Although I live only 8 miles away, I had never been to Chester before this spring. As a white, middle class man, I had allowed the race and class divisions of our segregated society keep me away. But now, as a participant in a Tactical Urbanism workshop, I am visiting various vacant lots in the Chester Made Exploration Zone (the downtown arts district) to brainstorm their potential as people-oriented public spaces.