Continuing the Movement

Written by FCJ Editor. Posted in Arts/Entertainment, Politics

Published on January 18, 2010 with 2 Comments

Markese Bryant raps about the legacy of Dr. King, President Obama, and how a growing movement
is creating opportunities for communities of color through the green economy.

By Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins

January 18, 2010

America is struggling.

Families strive to make ends meet while facing an uncertain economic future. The deterioration of our environment – rather than slowing – continues to gain speed. At a moment when we need every opportunity possible, climate change threatens the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable people at home and around the world.

We are all impacted by these hard times, but it is the historically disadvantaged – people of color and low-income communities – who find themselves at the point of the spear.

This challenge is the Civil Rights Movement’s unfinished business.

As we seek solutions and look for strength, it is fitting to turn to Dr. King and the movement he represented, a struggle for equality and justice.

The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s shifted the hearts, minds, and laws of our nation. The solutions to today’s challenge must be no less sweeping, and our movement no less powerful, righteous, or relentless.

For all of his strength and grace, Dr. King was also the face of a movement of tens of thousands of people who struggled daily for a better existence. Their work was not glamorous; their courage didn’t make the evening news. But these ordinary people, their ordinary battles, are what comprised the Civil Rights Movement – and what changed our nation.

We are not without heroes today, heroes whose leadership is often as moving as Dr. King’s. President Obama is an inspiration to a grassroots movement – people who do what they can to improve their communities and to help America live up to its promise. But as we honor President Obama for his leadership as we look towards the anniversary of his inauguration, we must look beyond the hero to the energy and solutions that power his inspiration.

Today, I want to tell you about another, less-acclaimed leader: Markese Bryant. Markese was born and raised in East Oakland. At the age of six, he lost his mother to the streets and his father to the prison system. Markese nearly met the same fate after being caught selling crack cocaine – but, given the opportunity, he enrolled in community college. There, he was inspired – learning from the Civil Rights Movement to build, not destroy. He learned the role he could play in his community.

Markese’s inspiration turned into action upon discovering the movement for a new, green economy. He learned about those bringing good jobs in the clean-energy economy to communities thirsting for opportunity. He read about solar power, urban gardening, and about energy-efficiency retrofits. He learned that these practical, almost mundane innovations have all of the glamour of riding the bus – but that these simple actions, like those of Rosa Parks, can shake the core of our society.

Markese is now organizing his campus and his community as a Green For All College Ambassador, talking about the opportunities presented by an inclusive green economy and, in doing so, helping to build a movement.

Markese, also a rapper, tells his story through his music. Today, he is releasing a video, in partnership with Green For All, that tells much better than I can the story of the people-powered movement for green-collar jobs – and how it builds on the legacy of Dr. King and the inspiration of President Obama.

Dr. King’s legacy is thriving, as evidenced by Markese’s creativity. Yes, the solutions to our problems look a little different now. Dr. King did not know green-collar jobs or the clean-energy economy. But the principles of equality, justice and opportunity remain the same.

This movement – the movement started by Dr. King, reignited by President Obama and exemplified by Markese – is strong, and growing.

Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins is the Chief Executive Officer of Green For All. Prior to joining Green For All, Phaedra was head of the South Bay AFL-CIO Labor Council and Working Partnerships USA.


Comments for Continuing the Movement are now closed.

  1. “Where in the world is Van Jones”
    Since his departure and the ascension to power of Ms Lamkins, this organisation has become increasingly co-opted and joined the many other organisations that are green in name only. They have yet, as far as I am aware, to issue any position statement on the whitewashing and gentrification of BayviewHuntersPoint, or take any principled stand on the continuing corporate takeover of other, particularly minority, communities in the Bay Area. The only time I can recall Ms Lamkins standing up locally was when she stood behind Newsom during his PR-ess conference announcing the misleadingly named “UN” Green Center, another front for corporate ‘green’ business.
    Hey Van, love the book, hate the new ‘direction’.

  2. An Urgent Message To Green For All

    This article and video, is, to put it bluntly, alarmingly bad, and harmful.

    To put out this warm fuzzy illusion that our president is somehow ‘green’ and is some rising extension of KIng’s legacy is dangerous nonsense that is playing right into the hands of the multi-national fossil fuel based military-industrial power structure that has totally co-opted the Obama administration and is using it to push disastrous anti-climate and pro-war legislation to give the corporate superstructure -more- entrenched power, and dangerously delay -real- responses to the climate crisis.

    Obama’s climate and economic platform promotes carbon trading & offsets, ‘clean’ coal, nuclear power, highway funding that dwarfs both mass transit and renewables subsidies, and biofuels, the latter which are -bad- not good, and are now destroying both the global ecosystem, and economies/food security in the global south, even more rapidly than the climate crisis itself. To see just -how- bad biofuels are go to

    To perpetuate the false image of the Obama administration as green, and the near term future of climate legislation as hopeful, is incredibly damaging to the movement and threatens to make Green For All nothing more than a tool for corporate greenwashing.

    Green For All needs to stop trying to be a smiley-face media vanguard unwittingly taking part in a corporate driven green illusion show, and start coordinating closely with local neighborhood and environmental organizers who actually know what’s up at ground level with green jobs and the environment; and it needs to start taking its lead from those organizers instead of getting out ahead of us with dangerously naive photo-ops that help perpetuate the status quo and dose the public with the false opiate that things are getting better.

    Things are -not- getting better. And we need to start turning that situation around immediately.

    A good local example of the depth of this problem is Green For All’s premature participation last year with Mayor Gavin Newsom in his totally deceptive press conference promoting his Global Compact ‘United Nations’ Climate Center proposed to be built in the Bayview Hunters Point, which will in reality, both shove people of color and low income San Franciscans out of that neighborhood to make way for gentrification, -and- promote the huge corporate funded international greenwashing entity called the ‘Global Compact’ which is -not- in fact a United Nations body and which exists solely to help multi-national corporations like Coke and Nike pretend to be environmentally friendly while making their environmental practices worse.

    For the straight dope on the ‘Global Compact’ see

    The Global Compact is a strong promoter of carbon trading, ‘clean’ coal, and a cavalcade of other faux ‘solutions’ to the climate crisis which are designed to cash -in- on that crisis while allowing carbon emissions and economic exploitation to go up, not down.

    Last year, local organizers contacted you about the disconnect between your media work and real campaign conditions on the ground, asking you to coordinate more closely with us on our local green jobs and environmental efforts. You have not followed up with us.

    Please, Green For All, contact local grassroots organizers to start cooperatively working with us for a real green jobs future.

    Groups like POWER and Our City are waiting to hear from you, so that we can all work -together- to build a green, just, future.

    Please note that I posted POWER’s web site as a contact opportunity only, and that POWER had no part in writing this open letter.

    With respect, but concern,


    Eric Brooks