Opinion: ‘Our Community, Our Voice, We Speak for Us!’

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Oakland has long been a diverse city, a melting pot of all ethnicities cohabiting together lifting each other up. A place where blacks felt at home. Over the past 15+ years, the landscape of our city has changed; West Oakland is no longer home to predominately Black residents with jazz and blues clubs. Downtown is filled with upscale condos with migrates from San Francisco and surrounding cities, North Oakland, the birth place of the Black Panthers, has priced Blacks out. The Black population has declined by more than 50 percent and risks further erosion without Blacks raising our collective voices to assert what we want as a community.   

Black displacement, unemployment and homelessness, demand that we speak up and be heard. While we acknowledge and appreciate well-meaning people who sincerely care about issues facing Black folks in Oakland, there also are people who have their own agendas and use our pain for their gain.  This is obviously the case when it comes to the debate over building a multi commodity terminal in West Oakland which includes coal as one of its many commodities.

Insight Terminal Solutions (ITS) is poised to build a state of the art multi commodity terminal at the old Oakland Army base.  The proposed terminal will bring life, economy, and resources to Oakland for Oakland residents.  ITS has addressed community concerns in the creation of its first of a kind handling of commodities and meets and exceeds material handling standards.

For decades other people were claiming to speak for us while advancing their own agenda and leaving blacks impoverished, poorly educated, under housed and dependent upon others.  Our goal is to bring this to an end.  The Sierra Club and other environmentalist, want to stop the building of the terminal and the many jobs and opportunities it brings to Oakland residents.  Their claim is that “it will hurt black folks” (here they go speaking for us).  This is not true.

Our research shows No adverse health risks and No safety risks.  What our research does show is: job creation, job training, entrepreneurship opportunities, a strengthened economy, a vibrant West Oakland operation and employed Oakland residents.  Some environmental groups may mean well, but the truth is that while they talk about world issues, our people suffer.

We are forging a broad-based coalition that will continuously speak to issues confronting our community.  What we don’t need is others speaking for us!  We think it is time for black people in Oakland to speak for ourselves.  AND WE WILL!

L.J. Jennings is a pastor, non-profit leader and community organizer for affordable housing.

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