This weekend, communities from across the northeast San Francisco Bay came together in the fourth of four "connecting the dots" refinery Healing Walks that connected fenceline communities facing refineries and crude by rail oil infrastructure in Contra Costa County.
Led by Indigenous elders, the walks focus on healing and on connecting communities, with prayers offered at each refinery along the way for healing and for a just transition away from fossil fuels.
Many described the walks as a powerful experience -- walking together, praying together, interacting with community members along the way, and building connections to grow the resistance.
The communities of Pittsburg, Benicia, Martinez, Rodeo, and Richmond, California, joined together in these walks that spanned 44 miles from the Valero refinery in Pittsburg south through the refinery corridor to end on Saturday at the Chevron refinery in Richmond.
Saturday's walk spanned 13 miles from the Phillips 66 refinery in Rodeo to the Chevron refinery in Richmond -- here are some photos that attempt to capture the experience and the strength and spirit of these communities that are fighting for their health, safety, and survival.
Here's the view looking up the train tracks at the refinery in Rodeo. As participants gathered, a train carrying oil passed on the tracks, shaking the ground where the Healing Walk participants were standing.
Participants gather and sign in for the opening ceremony before the walk begins in Rodeo. Flags and signs, drums and singing were key parts of the walk.
The Healing Walk makes its way into Pinole, Calif. Many of the roads we walked on Saturday did not have sidewalks, spreading the walkers out in single and double file along the side of the road.
The walk stopped at the Kinder Morgan facility to offer prayers right in front of a crude by rail facility. The communities have been banding together to fight proposals to bring more and more explosive Bakken crude by rail into the Bay area. The Healing Walk on Saturday honored the memory of 47 residents of Lac-Mégantic in Canada who were killed this week last year when a train carrying explosive Bakken crude derailed and incinerated the town. Many of the residents of these Bay Area communities live along crude by rail "blast zones" that could face a similar tragedy.
It was particularly moving this weekend to hear Pennie Opal Plant, one of the lead organizers for the walks, pray at the Chevron refinery for the workers' safety and for the workers to continue to have jobs that support their families as we transition away from the fossil fuel economy, as security and workers for the refinery looked on.
Richmond residents and community groups also talked about their struggle for health and safety with the refinery in their back yard, especially with the recent Chevron refinery explosion that sent many residents to hospitals.
As the walk ended at the waterfront in Richmond, in view of the marine facility where Chevron ships its oil, residents from each of the five communities connected through the walk expressed their commitment to each other and expressed gratitude for these walks bringing them together across 44 miles of the refinery corridor in the northeast San Francisco Bay.
Because we're stronger when we walk together.
-- Text and photos by Rachel Rye Butler, Sierra Club Beyond Oil Campaign.