Category Archives: Social Justice

8th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum: Leading in improving Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice

The 8th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum organized and hosted by the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed, September 2020 is an outstanding example of hosting a conference that is inclusive in equitable structure, messengers, and content. In the midst of a pandemic nonetheless.
Bartram’s Garden, photo story “a”

As we build a future together, we must consider ways that white centered culture in the environmental field can change and stop harming black and brown people at every level.

The 8th Annual Delaware River Watershed Forum stands out as a model of diversity, inclusion, equity, and justice, for all of us to follow. Every one of the workshops that I viewed seemed to demonstrate a healthy serving of DEIJ. Plus the coalition for the Delaware River watershed created The Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice toolkit for the rest of us to consider and use.

Access Delaware River Watershed presentations: Uniting The Delaware River Watershed

This annual forum and the toolkit provide resources for continuing the conversation on the change that is happening, that needs to happen, in the environmental field with regards to white supremacy culture.

Resource: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice of the Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed

The Town Hall with U.S. Representative Antonio Delgado (NY-19) & DRBRP Lighting Rounds -2020 DRW Forum presentation stepped solidly and unapologetically into the topic of diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, acknowledging historical problems, and changing the narrative by example.

Recommended YouTube: Town Hall Presentation

There was no bemoaning of the lack of presence of people of color. Instead, stellar people of color were given the floor.

Mic drop.

The opening speaker, Eric Stiles, from New Jersey Audubon Society acknowledged the harm done to people of color, and to trans folx.  Then the floor and attention was centered on United State Representative from New York, Antonio Delgado. End of story. Excellent presentation by Rep Delgado.

Of note in the “lighting round” presentation following Rep Delgado’s presentation is the work done by Lamar Gore, Refuge Manager for Heinz Refuge Center, one of the 5 speakers. Follow Heinz on facebook, and look for Lamar’s comments about diversity the week or so after the “black while birding” incident of Central Park, NYC.

Resource: National Wildlife Refuge / John Heinz at Tinicum 

An Equally impressive presentation was Power and Privilege in the Workplace.

Recommended YouTube: Power and Privilege in the Workplace / 2020 Delaware River Watershed Forum

The lead expert was Todd Pride, Managing Director from The Land Conservancy for Southern Chester County (TLC). The topic was changing the diversity, equity, inclusion and justice of the board members of an organization. No apology, no small potatoes, the board needs to understand and embrace DEIJ. The workshop structure was: Todd as the senior expert, and two other people and organizations who had learned from Todd.

Mic drop.

How often does an environmental conference give voice to a person of color who is the expert, demonstrating that white people can learn from a POC? This should not be momentous. But it is.

There were other presentations that were also excellent. During each presentation, the spotlight was shared amongst racially diverse presenters. One such presentation, by water utility leaders discussing COVID 19 challenges, included our own Randy Hayman, Commissioner of Philadelphia Water Department.

All in all, The 8th Annual Delaware Watershed Forum is a stellar example for all of us to follow.

Bartram Garden’s Photo story “b”

We can be anti-racist by personal internal process, by intent, and by action. White centered culture is harming all of us by excluding some of us. We need all of us in order to be successful with facing today’s challenges that include climate change.

Resource: National Geographic / Environmental movement
Resource: Dismantling Racism Works / White Supremacy Culture - White supremacy culture refers to the white centered culture that is (perhaps unconsciously) harming black and brown people.
Resource: New York Times / 1619 Podcast

Intersection of The Environment, Mennonite Faith, and White Centered Culture

August 16, 2020 Sermon at Germantown Mennonite Church, reflections from a swamp, considering Joseph and his brothers, Genesis 45:1-15

https://www.germantownmennonite.org/post/sermon-reflection-dottie-baumgarten-august-16-2020

https://www.germantownmennonite.org/ Go to the podcast for August 16, 2020, for the full service.

I’ve been a member at Germantown Mennonite Church since 1976 (!) when my Church Membership transferred in, along with my parents, the year I went off to college. We have a tradition of lay people providing a sermon off and on, and during the years that there weren’t a lot of women voices, I made a point of speaking once a year. Once our pastor was a woman, I did not see the need to continue that pattern. But an occasional sermon, well, this I can do.

Check on the links above for either the written version, or the podcast version (full service). (My talk starts at 28 minutes.)

lit prayer candle

Black Lives Matter

Listen in on Dottie’s interview on Planet Philadelphia’s Radio Show that was aired on June 19th: “Racism and the Environment”.

Black lives matter.

Say the names of black people who have been recently killed:  Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade.

Demonstration in Mt. Airy; Photo by Anya Rose
Demonstration in Mt. Airy; Photo by Anya Rose
Front step vigil this week.

Don’t stop there. Commit to making changes, in ourselves, in social settings, in organized settings, and in the systems that we work in, live in, and are governed by.

As I’m writing this, I’m aware that I’m speaking to myself as much as I am speaking to you. I own my hesitancy, my inadequacies, my hiding. And I’m stepping in. I’m committing to doing better.

If you say, “I don’t know what to do, I don’t know where to start”, you are avoiding responsibility and you have not been listening. Pick a resource to read, and start the work.  I’m not an expert. I’m stepping into the conversation because I must.

There are three areas of change that are on my mind: personal change, policing, and systemic change.

Personal Change: I know this is hard. Don’t look away, and don’t stop. You know where you are in this path. Step in. Take the next step.

There are many resources for doing the work of facing racism. Find them. One place to start is http://davidsonmicroaggressionsproject.org/

The recent book that I’m working through a second time is Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad. Her approach is invitational: be a good ancestor. Her work is spiritual-based, but not exclusive. Lacking melanin or blessed with melanin, you can read her book and grow.

Policing: Black people are dying at the hands of police. Don’t argue the nuances to this. Don’t look away. There are changes that must happen. Researched, vetted changes are voiced by Campaign Zero and by the demands of the NAACP. Police decisions are made mostly at the local level. So, where I live, the township is the place to raise the topic, and insist that the police make structural and training changes.

https://www.joincampaignzero.org/

Systemic Change: I’m working in environmental and educational fields. People of color are underrepresented. This has been shown to be a problem of white supremacy, not a problem black people need to solve. White people need to make the changes. The system has to change.

One organization that has started researched and targeted work on changing barriers to people of color in the workforce is the National Science Foundation. Their program GOLD-EN identified the systemic and cultural barriers to people of color, and set up four funded projects to address the systemic problem. I can’t tell you that this is the way to go, but I can tell you that there are models to research and learn from, and this is one of them. https://www.nsf.gov/pubs/2020/nsf20058/nsf20058.jsp

One of many murals in Philadelphia celebrating its community life

Are things in turmoil right now? Yes. Am I very sad? Yes. Do I have hope? Yes. Change is hard, and change is life-long, and change is generational.

An image that is meaningful to me is one that Valarie Kaur put forth a couple of years ago. If you are in despair, consider that maybe we are not in the darkness of the tomb, but we are in the darkness of the womb. What are women told when they are birthing a child into the world?

Breathe.

Push.

In order for our society to be fair and equitable, the systems that protect white culture have to dramatically change, and stop protecting white people at the expense and cost to everyone else.

This is hard. This is necessary.

Breathe.

Push.

Love to you all. Dottie