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.
I walk because I want the twelve-year-old great-grandson who lives with me to know I’m “all in” for his future.
I walk because I’ve seen members of my family suffer when they were jobless, and I know that PECO could bring more good-paying jobs by building for solar instead of fossil fuels.
The last action I took part of with EQAT was in the summer of 2014, when, as a highschooler, I had the opportunity to engage in Quaker worship in the lobby of the PNC Headquarters. I remember how powerful that experience was and how at ease I felt. Particularly, I felt safe knowing that I did not have to engage in dialogue with any media, police, or security guards; there were trained individuals who held those responsibilities.
The result of the 2016 presidential election has spurred many people to step beyond their old definition of “good citizen” to become active for change. This presents a challenge: how can movements provide more volunteer opportunities to do meaningful, empowering work, and how can the newly active gain the skills they need?
On January 19th, I made the decision to crawl out of my warm bed at 6 o'clock in the morning, and make my way onto the cold city streets. Once there, I met with some people who were actively trying to make a difference in this world. Before this day, I never thought I'd be right alongside them, being the change I wanted to see.
On Tuesday evening about 45 EQATers gathered at PECO for our first action since the Runaround in October. We came with the intention to honor the time of year, the things we are feeling, and our resolution to hold PECO accountable to Power Local Green Jobs. For the first time, there was a large police presence there greeting us, approximately 15 bicycle cops and several civil affairs officers. It's clear that PECO was either expecting us, or particularly nervous about our action. So it was with some sense of audience and soberness that Reverend Rhetta invited us all to breathe together in the lobby to begin the action.
On November 13th, I left Philadelphia to travel to Standing Rock for a week to support the water protectors, an experience I'm still reflecting on. Early last week, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would deny Energy Transfer Partners the needed permit to build a portion of the Dakota Access Pipeline. This decision has at least temporarily halted construction, while the Army Corps completes an Environmental Impact Assessment. The struggle is far from over, and indigenous media resources continue to be the best sources for current information. Right now, I want to reflect on what this moment means for EQAT and our supporters.