On Friday, September 23, students from all over the Bay Area gathered together in Oakland to fight for the environment at the Youth vs. Apocalypse (YVA) climate march.
The strike consisted of speakers, dancers, and many young students representing schools all over the Bay Area. The strike was centered towards supporting the No Coal in Oakland (NCO) movement, which fights to stop coal from being transported through Oakland.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Frank Ogawa Plaza, then marched downtown through Oakland before returning to the Plaza.
YVA has organized many protests in the past, including one last year that many Berkeley High School students took part in.
This year, YVA was joined by NCO, which was created in reaction to the announcement in April 2015 of the building plans for a coal terminal in Oakland. According to Bonnie Lockhart, an activist and member of NCO, the coal terminal in Oakland is an extremely important issue, especially for the youth who will be affected by it in the future.
“One great thing about this event is that it’s youth-led. The youth has done a really incredible job of bringing people out and showing what it’s like when students don’t go to school, and instead use their knowledge from school to actually affect the world,” Lockhart said.
The strike started with a march through Oakland where protesters chanted and held many signs and banners including one that stated, “No to Coal, Yes to Life.”
The anger students were feeling was present throughout the protest as well as a strong sense of community.
Following the march through Oakland, the protesters gathered around a stage where many youth spoke out about the issues they were facing.
Meanwhile, tables were set up with activities and information on what people can do to help. In another area of the Frank Ogawa Plaza, students danced and painted a mural.
Though NCO was the main focus of the strike, many protesters present had more issues they were personally protesting.
One student present, Anuwaleela Gali-Garcia, was at the strike not only to fight for NCO, but also to raise awareness about the lack of clean water in reservations.
“I’m Native American and I know some of my aunties and cousins who live on the reservation, who don’t have access to clean water and have to drive tons of miles just to get some bottled water,” Gali-Garcia said.
According to the YVA, the main reason why so many people are fighting against the coal terminal is because of the environmental racism behind it. Oftentimes the neighborhoods that will be affected by pollution, toxic chemicals, and other climate issues are the ones that house primarily people of color. The coal terminal in Oakland is not an exception to this and will affect poor neighborhoods rather than wealthy ones.
Lola Aruda, a student protesting at the strike, was personally protesting this idea of environmental racism.
“The No Coal in Oakland campaign is just one of many examples of a community fighting against environmental racism. People try to put really bad stuff in the air in predominantly Black and brown communities and neighborhoods. We can’t ignore that,” Aruda said.
In the past, many people have felt disheartened about the coal situation in Oakland. The case has been going back and forth for many years, and it’s impossible to know what the outcome will be. But YVA and many other people in the community feel that there is a lot of power in numbers and speaking out.
“By showing solidarity across organizations, and by just showing up, we are saying no to coal, and saying yes to health,” stated Amber Lee, a member of the Mycelium Youth Network, a climate justice organization.
According to Chang-Min Kung, a sophomore at BHS, youth-led events like this allow students to reach out to each other and build a stronger community, while simultaneously fighting for what they believe in.
“We’re showing up for our futures, for our safety, and for our health,” Lee said.