Green Movement Grows

Jakada Imani, the executive director of the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, discusses why using eco-power for housing projects could be a solution for helping the environment and communities.

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JACKI LYDEN, host:

Where do we go from here? And now, we're going to be joined by our next guest. Hello. Well, or perhaps we're not.

Mr. JAKADA IMANI (Executive Director, Ella Baker Center for Human Rights): Hello.

LYDEN: Hello. Yes, hi.

Mr. IMANI: Hi.

LYDEN: Is this Jakada Imani?

Mr. IMANI: This is Jakada, yes.

LYDEN: How do you do, Jakada?

Mr. IMANI: I'm well, thanks for having me.

LYDEN: What is the green initiative? You are the executive director of the Ella Baker Center and the Green Movement in Oakland, California, has really taken root. That's where you're joining us from today.

Mr. IMANI: That's correct. Yeah, we have a Green-Collar Jobs Campaign, which is getting folks with (unintelligible) employment into the new clean, green economy installing solar panels, performing energy audits at home, green construction.

You know, to avert climate change, the United States is going to have to invest billions of dollars in changing the way we build homes and build businesses and heat our homes and businesses, as well as transportation and that's going to create, you know, a wealth of new jobs that folks who most need work, should have access to. And so we've created a Green-Collar Job initiative to get our folks access to those jobs.

LYDEN: So you were, I hope, able to listen to a little bit of our chat about mixed-income housing and…

Mr. IMANI: Yeah.

LYDEN: …how it can and cannot replace public housing. How does that link up to green power and the Green Movement in trying to perhaps replace some of the utility component of what's expensive in public housing?

Mr. IMANI: Well, for us, you know, one of the ways that make these neighborhoods mixed-income is to improve the incomes of people who live there. Bringing people in, I mean, one of the things that seemed to be left out - I only got the last several minutes of the discussion - is race as you'd take, you know, predominantly African-American and Latino communities and you break them apart by moving in, basically, would end up being white newcomers who shift the voting demographic, who shift the whole sort of, that the stores, you know what, what's available around that completely changes - excused upon the pun, the complexion of the community.

And, you know, by lifting up the folks in the community and providing better economic opportunities, we're able to create mixed-income communities in a very different way. And so for us, our Green-Collar Jobs initiatives are Books Not Bars initiative, which is to transform California's abusive (unintelligible) prisons about them, the Silence the Violence Campaign, which is doing something about the violence in the inner cities - these are all initiatives that helped transform communities from within; that you don't have to bring people from outside; that there are folks there who want to get up and go to work every day.

It's just, it turns out that the four factory, the windows - the siding company, the toolmaker, all these companies have moved offshore or at least moved out of urban centers. And so there's an opportunity to revive urban centers from within doing what needs to be done most, which is averting climate change.

LYDEN: I see. Well, that has certainly true in the macro picture, but if we could talk just about the inner cities…

Mr. IMANI: Mm-hmm.

LYDEN: …many of which are very desirable now and where you see some of the most sophisticated housing. Is there a way to use the Green Movement in public housing whether the providing jobs for those who need them or in making buildings themselves greener?

Mr. IMANI: Yeah. Habitat for Humanity has done an incredible job here in the Bay Area of greening their houses and greening their homes and their building, everything from installing solar panels to solar heating to making them much more energy-efficient by heating the floors as opposed to heating the air.

All these things makes, in a long term, makes housing much more efficient and energy-efficient, which makes a much cheaper and the leasing is paid for themselves quite rapidly. But the other thing is it provides employment opportunities for people in a new industry.

One of the things that we watch was the dot.com boom particularly in Oakland, in San Francisco and (unintelligible) close to San Francisco and Silicon Valley. A lot of young people who need a job weren't able to get jobs (unintelligible) the street because there wasn't a pathway on that sort of information superhighway. In fact, in California, we're importing labor to have this sort of high-end jobs that we're not preparing our students in the inner city who desperately need work to have. And so this Green-Collar Jobs initiative for us is preparing our folks to get on that (unintelligible) green superhighway that's coming.

LYDEN: Have you been able to visit New Orleans or talked with housing activists and labor activists there are about transporting your ideas on the Bay Area to the Gulf Coast?

Mr. IMANI: We have and they're desperately excited about it. In New Orleans right now, they're really - it is a life or death struggle. You know, one of the things that I witnessed, it was called Hope Six here, the transition out of the big block sort of projects or public housing to the sort of smaller dispersed mixed used projects.

And, you know, it was very similar to what happened to the Native Americans, it was a Negro-removal project. It was just this project that shuttling black people out of urban centers, giving them vouchers and then trying to get people back into these housing when the bar was set ridiculously high.

In New Orleans, it's been 10 times worst because folks were pushed out by the flood and the storm and then fighting to get back ever since. And the only places those folks could land were - are being torn down. And so our folks in New Orleans are excited to work with us to do, to bring green-collar jobs in New Orleans. They're just trying to have some place where you can bring folks back to New Orleans to get those jobs and do that work and to rebuild their lives.

LYDEN: All right. Thank you very much for being with us today. Jakada Imani…

Mr. IMANI: Thanks for having me.

LYDEN: …thanks very much.

He's executive director of the Ella Baker Center and he joins from California.

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