by Christine Cordero, APEN Co-Director
I first encountered APEN’s work 15 years ago. At the time, I was volunteering at an environmental health organization based in Oakland, working with communities in the Philippines fighting for the removal of a dangerous and highly explosive oil depot in the middle of their community in Metro Manila, partly owned by Chevron.
Our research and solidarity work led us to APEN. We learned there were communities dealing with similar issues, also fighting Chevron right here in the Bay. I remember seeing sleepy streets and giant oil tanks, the familiar tang of fuel in the air. I felt the kinship and anger as I learned the health and economic impacts so similar to our sister communities in the Philippines.
APEN felt like home.
Christine Cordero speaking to a crowd including APEN members in Richmond. Photo by the Climate Justice Alliance.
I grew up in a working class Filipino immigrant family in Pittsburg, 30 minutes east of Richmond. In a lot of ways, Richmond doesn’t feel so different from Pittsburg. My parents moved our family east to Pittsburg to join relatives who ventured out of the city for wider spaces and warmer weather, which was supposed to be better for my asthmatic infant lungs.
Our working class neighborhoods included Asian immigrants and refugees living alongside Black, Brown, Indigenous, and White neighbors. People showed up for each other, and even when we didn’t have the most, we gave what we could to take care of one another.
Little did any of us know that we were moving into a Dow Chemical, PG&E, and rail town with some of the worst air in the state. We didn’t know that we would grow up with bloody noses on playgrounds and cancer diagnoses as regular as church and birthdays.
We are in such a unique time right now. The growth of racial capitalism has overtaxed our actual living systems, both human and ecological. The destruction we’ve seen in recent years — Hurricane Ida ripping across Louisiana and the eastern coast leaving thousands of people without homes and power, the Great Resignation driven by stagnant wages and the enduring exploitation of our most necessary workers — teachers, nurses, grocery store clerks, and the burnout of working families navigating a resource-starved education system and free-for-all childcare industry — is at levels that I haven’t seen in my lifetime.
It’s become clearer to the vast majority of us that this system cannot last. Our planet can no longer sustain it and our people will no longer tolerate it.
In moments like this, we can get smaller, more isolated, and try to make the crises more manageable. But in my gut, I know that we cannot manage alone. Now is the time to be brave, to get with your people and step into this opening for transformation.
For me, stepping into this Co-Director role alongside Vivian means coming home to the people that I’ve thrown down with for over a decade, to the land that has raised me, given me energy and life. It means working with all of you to make the Just Transition we want for our communities real.
Christine pictured in Point Reyes with Co-Director Vivian Huang and immigrant rights leader Deanna Jang. Photo by Christine Cordero.
For the next decade, two “north stars” will guide APEN’s organizing: we will steward a just transition from our fossil fuel infrastructure, and we will build resilience in communities on the frontlines. This year, on both fronts we have big opportunities to win real, transformative change for our communities.
If you see in APEN what I see — our people, our grandparents and aunties and uncles and little ones fighting for a future where all of us have a clean and healthy environment where our communities can thrive, jobs that allow us to take care of our families and each other, and no one gets left behind — come get down with APEN. Now is the time.
P.S. – To make all this happen, we need you. Please consider donating to APEN to support our organizing in working-class immigrant and refugee communities this year.