What’s Up September 2020

September 2020, Volume 3, Issue 9

In this issue, read about:

Cool Planet Focus on Environmental Racism

For many years, the climate movement has put increasing emphasis on climate justice, recognizing the disproportionate suffering of communities of color and low-income communities. Cool Planet pledges, in our communications with you, to step up the explicit connections between climate/environmental concerns and racism. 

Environmental Racism: Some Background

Here’s how Robert Bullard, considered the “father of environmental justice,” responded to the following question:

 “I Can’t Breathe” has become a kind of slogan of the fight against police brutality. Can you explain what that phrase means in environmental terms? 

Bullard’s answer: America is segregated, and so is pollution. Some people and communities have the “wrong complexion for protection.” The phrase “I can’t breathe” took on a special meaning, beginning in the nineteen-nineties, during “toxic tours” [of industrial sites in heavily polluted cities] and community protests against racist industrial facility-siting practices that turned people-of-color communities into pollution hot spots and environmental “sacrifice zones.” People of color breathe thirty-eight per cent more polluted air than whites. More pollution means more illnesses and deaths. African-Americans are almost three times more likely than whites to die from asthma. Black children are four times more likely to be admitted to the hospital for asthma and ten times more likely to die from asthma than white children. Breathing is natural. Pollution is unnatural. 

How Is Cool Planet Responding? 

One of our missions is to help the FPCPA community stay informed and to offer calls to act. In the time of COVID, we miss providing in-person opportunities to act. We especially miss the narthex conversations we were able to have as you responded to those calls to act, signing petitions or writing letters. 

We now send information and invitations to act virtually. Presently, the best way for you to take advantage of information and calls to act is by opening and reading the emails sent to the cool-planet-FPCPA google group. Pat Kinney manages this group; contact her at pkinney48235@gmail.com to join it. 

Susan Chamberlain is our liaison to the 350 Silicon Valley Palo Alto City Team. She will keep you up to date on the Palo Alto sustainability plan and racism concerns within our own community. Note that as members of FPCPA, we can all participate in Palo Alto issues. 

Janet Cox is our liaison to the 350 Silicon Valley Legislative Team. As head of that team, Janet has become expert at sending emails that succinctly summarize the case and clearly explain how to take action, such as clicking on a petition link, signing a letter or following a script as you call your political representative. When she sends these emails to 350, she also sends them to our Cool Planet FPCPA google group. 

Some Calls to Act

SB 54/AB 1080 will ensure that California is on the forefront of reducing pollution from single-use plastic packaging and products. The bills set ambitious waste reduction and recycling goals and establish a framework for packaging producers to keep the most problematic plastic disposable items out of our environment. Current expansion of petrochemical plants to make plastics is disproportionately in communities of color and low-income communities. This is the last week of the legislative session, so your representatives need to hear from you today. Here is a link that helps you through that process: 


Cool Planet and Social Justice are co-sponsoring, along with Acterra and others, a film and panel discussion of The Invisible Vegan on Tuesday, September 15, at 7pm. Directed by Jasmine and Kenny Leyva, The Invisible Vegan is a 90-minute documentary that explores the history and problems of unhealthy dietary patterns in the African-American community, as well as the health and wellness possibilities enabled by plant-based diets. Here are links to register for the event and to the trailer for the film:



Palo Alto City Council Candidate Climate Forum

Save the Date of October 6 at 7 pm for a virtual Palo Alto City Council candidate forum focused on environmental and sustainability policies. Reverend Kaloma A. Smith, Pastor of University AME Zion Church and Chair of the Palo Alto Human Resources Commission, will moderate the forum. Reserve a space at: 


Shirley Eglington

Social Justice Ministry Notes

Focus on Racial Justice

We held a Zoom retreat on Saturday, July 25, to talk about future directions for the Social Justice Ministry. Sixteen people attended, including Cool Planet members and a few others in the congregation. Bruce facilitated, and we discussed the idea of an overall church focus on Anti-Racism over the next year, as well as an immediate focus this fall on elections. At our August meeting we refined these ideas, approved an SJ focus on Racial Justice and appointed an exploratory task force. We are working to present these ideas to Session.

Donations to Local Nonprofits

Social Justice dispersed additional donations to the Day Worker Center, Puente, Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity, and Ecumenical Hunger Project this month to help meet the increasing needs in their communities. Donations come from the Social Justice budget, derived from your pledges. Thank you, all.

Hotel de Zink 

We all did it!! Overall HdZ went well and we were pleased that so many people participated. We’re hoping that we won’t have to host this way in July 2021. Many thanks to Joy Sleizer and her team for coordinating Hotel de Zink this challenging year; she has written a report which she can send to anyone interested. 

Youth Community Service Panel 

On August 6, YCS co-sponsored a Zoom Panel called Youth Rising Up: Can Gen Z Lead on Social Change? Julie Lythcott Haims facilitated four high school students and recent grads as they spoke about their experience with racism in local schools and efforts to lead movements for change. They provided a number of ways that adults could step up to support them and to make change. The forum was both painful and very motivating. You can watch it at https://www.youtube.com/user/paweekly/videos.

Accompaniment Team Update

Our formal accompaniment will end at the end of August, and Kelly, our liaison from Interfaith Movement for Human Integrity (IM4HI), will lead a final Zoom meeting with our Guatemalan family then. To tide the family over, we will deliver another $300 at the end of August, and we have arranged for a $500 VISA debit card to be mailed to Tereso, courtesy of a local nonprofit. We will also explain how he should deal with his legal team as they prepare his asylum appeal (which has been fully paid for by FPCPA donations). Tereso has found some work, but nothing like the number of hours he was working last winter. 

Some of us have been watching the new Netflix miniseries Immigration Nation. According to Margaret Rosenbloom: “It closely tracks ICE operations rounding up people for deportation in several parts of the country, with many heart rending vignettes of individuals and families separated. It also shows ICE up close and personal and people working for immigrant rights. It makes what is happening very real.”

Save the Date for the Crop Walk on October 18

Crop Walk is a national program to raise funds to fight hunger. This year’s Crop Walk may be a “virtual” walk, or possibly a socially distanced walk. Of the funds raised, 25% go to local nonprofits, including Ecumenical Hunger Project; 75% to national hunger projects. To sign up for our team or to support a walker, go to https://bit.ly/1PresPA20CROP.

Get Out the Vote(GOTV) Letter Writing with Vote Forward

We have completed 2000 letters to individuals in swing states. We thank this community for their tremendous response and we will get at least 500 more. If you’d like to help, please contact either Pat (pkinney48235@gmail.com) or Melissa (mkirvenbrooks@gmail.com). We’ll provide instructions for completion and mailing, and we ask that you provide your own postage and envelopes. 

Holly Brady and Pat Kinney

Talent Show

On Friday, August 7, FPCPA had its first Virtual Talent Show. We had an age range from 13 to 96 years and a diverse collection of talents. Thanks to all the performers for taking part and for doing such an amazing job.

The set-up for the show via Zoom seemed quite successful. Zoom has an intimate feel where one can see performers close-up in their homes. The camera spotlights the performers as if they are on a stage. It is fun to see the different backdrops and lighting. All these elements add a certain variety and spontaneity to the overall production. 

Karen Huddleston has produced an edited video of the show that will be available soon on the FPCPaloAlto YouTube Channel (https://bit.ly/FPCPAonYoutube.) Here is a summary of the show and what you can look forward to as you watch it:

  • Jeff Grinnell began the show with his beautiful reading of two powerful poems, Elegy for the Native Guards and I am the Great Sun
  • Leo Marburg followed with his rendition on the ukulele of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah. You may remember Leo from the Christmas Pageant a few years ago where he played Joseph. 
  • Susan Chamberlain went next with the romantic Notturno by Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel. Fanny was Felix Mendelssohn’s older sister, an extremely gifted pianist and composer in her own right. Because of class and gender limitations during her lifetime, Fanny’s compositions weren’t discovered until the 1990’s. 
  • Elinor Sheldon followed with two songs, Summertime and Stormy Weather. Elinor’s youthfulness and joy for singing was evident as she sang these beautiful songs!
  • I, Andy Chislett, played the piano next, the jazz standard Autumn Leaves. I’ve had a fun and challenging time exploring a whole new world of jazz music. 
  • Evan Hughes came next, with his reading of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. Technical difficulties arose during Evan’s reading, but Evan was able to re-record his reading for the Talent Show video. 
  • Vija Lusebrink followed and shared four of her paintings, Anna by the WindowAt Pajaro DunesSummer Solstice in California, and Field Trials. The images of the paintings came across well, showing Vija’s vivid use of color and the variety of composition in her paintings.
  • Pianist Eoin O’Connell came next with Joseph Haydn’s Tempo di Minuetto from one of Haydn’s early piano sonatas. 
  • Karen Huddleston followed with a fabulous jazz dance routine Trickeration. This routine was created in 1930’s Harlem by Norma Miller, who was well known in the swing dancing community and passed away just last year. 
  • Jeff Grinnell followed with an original poem On the Evening Express. The poem describes a train journey from central Manhattan through Harlem, the Bronx, and out to the suburbs.
  • Bill Norton came next in the show with his moving rendition of Over the Rainbow. Who would have guessed that Bill had surgery just a few weeks prior to the talent show! Bill’s wonderful charisma and outlook on life is so evident as he sing.
  • Jonathan Bautista shared his talent on the tenor saxophone with John Coltrane’s Giant Steps. This is one of Coltrane’s more challenging tunes with a quick tempo and fast-moving chord changes.
  • Harvey Wolfson ended the program with George Gershwin’s I Got Rhythm. Harvey’s performance, full of energy and joy, was a great way to end the show!

Please stay tuned as there are plans for another Talent Show this fall, date TBD.

Andy Chislett

In Memoriam: Jim Bisbing

Jim Bisbing was our church choir director and organist for about a decade, leaving FPCPA in 1998 when his hearing began to fail. He’d been doing church music for over 40 years, serving in Detroit, San Francisco, Palo Alto, and finally in Marin. Jim had a wry sense of humor, an incredible talent for getting amazing singing out of just about anyone, a self-deprecating style that was disarming and jovial, a passion for church music and liturgy, and a powerful command of the organ. 

Jim was married to Alan Quan for decades. Alan helped with the music ministry to our children, fixing macaroni and cheese for them to eat between Sunday worship and choir practice. Jim and Alan lived in San Francisco, where they loved walking through the neighborhoods, good food, conversation and storytelling. 

During Jim’s last year he had multiple health problems. In May he fell in the shower and was taken by ambulance to Kaiser Hospital, where he passed away. Due to Covid restrictions, Alan could not be with him. Alan has moved to Oakland to be with his mother and siblings. As of now, no memorial service is planned.

The video of our Farewell Party for Jim in 1998 is available at https://vimeo.com/445285711.

Craig Weisner

In Memoriam: Mary McLean

Mary and Stuart McLean were active participants in our church from 1964 to 1977. Stuart was a campus minister at Stanford, a professor at the University of Santa Clara, and a candidate for Congress. Mary was particularly active in our Adult Study Committee. They were missed when they moved to Enid, Oklahoma, for Stuart to join the faculty at Phillips Seminary, but Mary continued her activities at the First Presbyterian Church there, and subsequently at La Mesa Presbyterian Church in Albuquerque. We recently received news of her death at age 90 on August 2, 2020. Here’s an excerpt from the obituary her daughter Catherine forwarded: 

Mary was active in many social action movements, convening people and ideas over her flavorful and nourishing meals, inspiring action. Hearing the experiences of others was a priority for her. Mary acted on the steps required to convert values and principles to reality. She participated in the national Presbyterian hymnal’s change to gender-neutral language, enacting the Church’s stated principle of sex and gender inclusiveness. 

Through conversations, individual action, and participation in large-scale peace and justice movements, Mary advanced justice, racial equality, and accessible and fair treatment for disadvantaged populations. Small in stature, but firm in conviction, her faith-based commitment to equal opportunities for advancement, safety, and health resulted in her own arrest in Washington D.C. with members of her Palo Alto First Presbyterian Church community. Her keen sense of humor, language, and belief in the untapped potential of all people inspired a future for herself and her family. 

Pat Irish