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Philadelphians gathered at a leafy community center in West Philly Monday for a day of talking, learning, and connecting.
“We’re trying to ensure a world where not just the planet exists, but also Black people exist — and are living in a sustainable way,” said EcoWURD project manager and content coordinator Dylan Lewis, who organized the event.
Monday’s ecoFEST featured workshops, panels, vendors, and live music. It was an evolution of the Environmental Justice Summit EcoWURD has hosted the last several years on Indigenous Peoples Day, with a celebratory tone and programming aimed at a younger crowd.
“We thought about, how can we reimagine this event so that it attracts people who are younger, who are activists — people who definitely want to talk about the problem, but also people who are actively doing something about the problem,” said WURD General Manager Ashanti Martin.
Attendees of all ages roamed through One Art Community Center’s gardens, visited the center’s chickens, and took part in workshops.
“It’s an honor to be here to intergenerationally organize, but also support WURD and their efforts to continue what they’ve been doing,” said Keyssh Datts, the young founder of the environmental justice activist group DecolonizePhilly.
DecolonizePhilly led a “land revolution” workshop that introduced attendees to various land-related movements in Philadelphia, including groups fighting displacement of residents of the UC Townhomes, opposing the arena planned near Chinatown, pushing for land security for community gardens and urban farms, and working to support Palestinian liberation.
Essence Gaines, lead workshop facilitator with DecolonizePhilly, said the goal was to get more people involved and tie these local movements to global struggles.
“These various struggles would include climate change, housing, … colonization, white supremacy, and honestly, people power,” Gaines said.
A panel that stood out to EcoWURD host Tamara P.O.C. Russell centered around using nature to combat violence, with representatives from I Love Thy Hood, the Philly Peace Park, and Inner City Peace Organization.
“We talked to organizations who are … boots-on-the-ground, being involved in community activism, … for not just a greener Philly but also a violence-free Philly,” Russell said.
“Just really preparing for it,” she said. “Keeping the narrative pushing.”