“It is our duty to fight for each other. It is our duty to WIN…” the audience shouted together at the end of Thursday evening’s “Strengthen Our Community” forum at the Carver Community Center. The call-and-response, led by Rev. Tony Pierce, was the last event on the last night of a 4-part community series. The series focused on bringing clean energy and the jobs that go with it to Peoria. The crowd, a mix of Black and white, young and old, financially secure and struggling, came together to learn what the Future Energy and Jobs Act might mean for our Peoria—provided that Peorians rise to the challenge and seize the opportunity. It was a fitting response to Peoria being “the worst city for Blacks to live in.”
Rev. Lynnda White (Unitarian Universalist Church in Peoria), set the stage for the event by leading the audience in an interactive reflection. The entire audience became the heartbeat of the community during her opening remarks and that collective action was felt throughout the evening.
Naomi Davis, founder of Blacks in Green which seeks to create self-sustaining and healthy Black communities using the new green economy, was the keynote speaker. She opened her address talking about her roots and how her heritage contributed to her wanting to conserve the environment. The audience sat at rapt attention as she talked about the intersection of race, the environment and opportunities for wealth building. She called for the whole community to come together to fix a “whole system” problem. And she lifted up the Future Energy and Jobs Act as part of that solution provided we don’t stop with the passage of the law; we must insist it is implemented in an equitable way.
Early in Davis’s presentation, she talked about why geese fly in formation; they work collectively for the good of the flock. She emphasized that we too must work collectively for the good of the community. Her presentation, at times humorous, at times poignant but always on point urging the audience to be as smart as geese.
Davis was followed by Rebecca Judd from the Illinois Sierra Club who encouraged audience members to get involved in upcoming community conversations about how we move forward in creating a clean energy revolution that includes jobs for people who have been historically left behind.
Tracy Fox, leader in Illinois People’s Action and the Central Illinois Health Community Alliance was the moderator for all four events. A tireless advocate for Peoria, Tracy has been organizing on the Future Energy and Jobs Act behind the scenes for several years to make sure it held opportunities for Peorians. On Thursday, as she has for each of the forums, she wove the fabric of the evening together connecting each speaker and the heart of their message to the next speaker, and calling on the audience to get involved.
A $1 million grant came to Peoria to train workers for jobs for solar installation jobs over the next four years. But this can’t be the landing-place. It must be the launching place. A small group of us have been meeting to strategize how to implement the Future Energy and Jobs Act in Peoria. It is clear to us that we need to expand our ranks. Even if you didn’t make it to a single one of the forums, you can join us.
If you want a say in how we move forward together, please join us. Call me at Mt. Zion (309) 674-4379 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will make sure you are included. It is our duty to fight for each other. It is our duty to win.