Before founding Maryland’s Forward Church, Dant’e Overture King was a welder and a ten-year veteran of nuclear and coal plants.  As Groundswell’s Director of Outreach, he is convening a gathering later this month for pastors and faith leaders from the District of Columbia and Prince George’s and Montgomery Country, Maryland to learn more about the potential of solar for their communities, called “Faith and Fellowship: Planning, Purpose and Solar Power.”  We caught up with him about the conference.

What is the goal for this conference?

The goal is to engage and to increase awareness among pastors of what solar and community solar can do. And not just solar power, but the emergence of clean energy more broadly. We’re going to talk about sustainability, being equitable in energy, energy justice, environmental issues, and of course the economic benefits of being able to empower our communities from the perspective of having solar projects in our communities.

What would you say are the biggest benefits to exploring solar in our communities?

I’d say there are three. 

There’s the economic component. These projects can create wealth in our communities through community ownership. They create local hiring opportunities that can put people on a pathway to a career. And by using solar and efficiency to reduce electric bills, it puts money pack in people’s pockets to do other things.  

There’s also the educational component. There are job opportunities and career pathways in the sustainability field, so we have someone from the U.S. Green Building Council coming as well to talk about different programs that they offer in energy efficiency and workforce development. So that’s the educational component.

Then there’s the benefit to the environment, of course. As pastors, my hope is that we can continue to make this part of our ministries: that we are responsible for being stewards of the earth.

What kind of response have you seen so far on the topic of solar?

It’s been very positive. Of course, nearly all pastors are aware of solar. They’ve seen solar somewhere in their neighborhoods or they’ve seen it somewhere in their travels, and I’m seeing more awareness of the benefits of solar. The economic benefits, the benefits to the environment, education, training – these are all direct benefits to the pastoral mission of community growth and empowerment – of helping people.

What drew you to advocating for energy equity?

I used to work at a nuclear power plant, and I’d sometimes also go to the coal plants.  I had firsthand experience with the coal and the sulfur headaches and the bloody noses – how toxic of an environment it created.  When I left the plant and got into ministry, I always wanted something – a platform – to get the message across that there are alternatives to dirty energy, and a way to get more African Americans involved in the conversation.  So that drew me to being an advocate, and Groundswell provided the vehicle for me to be able to help spread that message.

Is there anything else you want to say about this conference?

We want pastors and faith leaders to leave this conference with a better knowledge of what solar can do and a call to action. Whether it starts with a green ministry in their church, or an energy efficiency program among their congregants, we’re looking for them to walk out of this with call to action in their local churches. 

For more information about our upcoming pastor's luncheon, "Faith and Fellowship: Planning, Purpose and Solar Power" on August 31st 2017, please click here.