Philadelphians envision Black green futures at inaugural ecoFEST

The event hosted by WURD radio’s EcoWURD featured panels, on-stage interviews, and workshops at a community center in West Philly.

Dylan Lewis speaking to the group

EcoWURD project manager and content coordinator Dylan Lewis acknowledges the local history of displacement of Indigenous people before a workshop starts. (Sophia Schmidt/WHYY)

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Philadelphians gathered at a leafy community center in West Philly Monday for a day of talking, learning, and connecting.

The inaugural ecoFEST hosted by WURD Radio centered around one goal: shaping vibrant and resilient Black green futures.

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“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.

Andres Gonzalez-Bonillas speaking to the group
Andres Gonzalez-Bonillas speaks about local land-related movements during a workshop at ecoFEST. (Sophia Schmidt/WHYY)

“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.

Hakeem Devore speaking to the group
Hakeem Devore of Inner City Peace Organization (second from right) speaks during a workshop at ecoFEST. (Sophia Schmidt/WHYY)

Other panels, workshops, and on-stage interviews included “plant care 101” by Plant & People and a discussion about building agricultural businesses with Christa Barfield, founder of FarmerJawn.

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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.

Stonez the Organic performing on stage.
Stonez the Organic performs at ecoFEST. (Sophia Schmidt/WHYY)

Russell hopes that the conversation around environmental justice, climate change, and building  Black green futures continues after ecoFEST.

“Just really preparing for it,” she said. “Keeping the narrative pushing.”

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