Oakland, CA — I’ve lived in West Oakland for 14 years. And for a long time, I wasn’t able to see how differently West Oakland was being treated from the rest of the city.
Being a predominantly Black, low-income community, West Oakland has been a target of environmental racism for almost a century — dating back to government supported redlining in the 1930s.
Now, developer Phil Tagami and his company, Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal, are fighting against the city to build a fossil fuel export terminal near the Port of Oakland. But the transportation and utilization of coal at the terminal would contribute to carbon emissions and douse West Oakland with toxic coal dust.
Decades of research confirm that being directly adjacent to the port forces West Oaklanders to endure the most detrimental effects of pollution.
Oakland City Council and politicians at state and local levels are all in opposition to the threat of coal being transported by rail into Oakland. Alongside them is grassroots organization No Coal in Oakland, a community run campaign dedicated to protecting West Oakland’s climate, and its residents from environmental racism.
I had no idea that this was going on until a few months ago when my mom sent me news about the developers of the coal terminal project going to trial. But this fight began when I was in elementary school.
I’m in high school now, and learning about the community’s unwavering efforts inspires me to talk to other people my age about what’s at stake. My community is already trapped in exhaust and suffering from decades of environmental injustice. West Oakland doesn’t deserve to be invaded by coal carrying trains further polluting our air.
Phoebe Lefebvre (she/her) is a high school student at Oakland School of the Arts focusing on creative nonfiction writing.
Edited by Shaylyn Martos and Amber Ly