Category Archives: Social Justice

Martin Luther King Day 2023 reflections

Mural on the walls of Gideon Edward School, Philadelphia

Change the systems: On this day of remembering and honoring Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., many of us complete voluntary service to better our community. Yes, do the volunteering, but also change the systems that have systemically and systematically excluded Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. These two words are intentional. The exclusion is across the system (systemically). The exclusion is regular and automatic (systematically).

Here are some resources for change:

For self -reflection, education, and moving an organization away from harming BIPOC:

Fern emerging from fire damage in Wharton State Forest, NJ, summer 2022

Roots of Justice (ROJ): ROJ offers services to groups or individuals, in order us to see the hidden ways institutions have harmed Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, and for us to make changes. In ROJ’s website’s own words: “We are a collective of anti-racism educators and organizers…. We are indigenous, Black, Latino/a/e, and white people from across the U.S….Our core values are: Authentic Relationships; A vision of a Just World, Systemic Approach to Undoing Oppression; Long Term, Sustainable Life-giving Strategies; Liberated Spirituality”.

Arcadia: Birthed Out of Love – Amir Campbell, 2022

How is your group doing on Diversity, Equity, Inclusion or Justice choices? Plan deliberate improvements: Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Justice Screening Tool

The Environmental field is full of well-meaning caucasian-heavy structures. If we (diverse and inclusive) are moving forward in caring for the environment and ourselves, we need each voice. You know groups of people have been and currently are systemically and systematically excluded. How does an organization evaluate and change where it stands as it improves diversity, equity, inclusion and justice?

The Coalition for the Delaware River Watershed (CDRW) has created an effective DEIJ tool (see above link, below the photo) through its core priority of DEIJ.

In 2022, CDRW continued their work on DEIJ by contracting with Tribesy to evaluate what the institution (CDRW) said about itself on the topics of diversity, equity, inclusion and justice, and whether it met its own goals. Out of this effort, a roadmap for moving forward was determined, and a lens tool was created.

When any decision is being made, this lens can be used to broaden the decision in order to be more diverse, equitable, inclusive and just. It’s a powerful tool.

But only if it is being used.

Take a look. Try the series of questions when you are making a decision. Planning an event? Ask the questions. Hiring a new staff member? Ask the questions as you set the system of hiring in place. Choosing where to donate money? Ask the questions.

Local networking: right here, right now.

If you are white, it’s likely that your network is white, and likely that your decisions are centered on your voice and being in control. Consider connecting to BIPOC led groups and supporting BIPOC efforts first: local businesses or established networks that are centered in the BIPOC communities and equitable in their board, their staff, and their efforts. Here are some organizations local to Cheltenham/North West Philadelphia:

“Peace” 2022

TBC: The Business Center The BizCenter annual celebration in 2022 was inspiring, full of strength, expertise, networking, and joy. Connect to and support this business that is assisting to grow the black economic community.


POWER Interfaith POWER is a multi-faith group that collectively seeks to improve our community. Currently their campaigns include Education, Economic Dignity, Climate Justice, Civic Engagement, and The Live Free Campaign for Criminal Justice Reform.

Collaborative art 2022

In the spirit of Martin Luther King Jr., on this MLKDay of Service, aim for The Beloved Community. Look to changing the systems that harm Black, Brown, and Indigenous people. It is the right thing to do. Our future is dependent on all of us. What harms one, harms all.

Five minute reflection on “me and white supremacy” by Layla Saad Germantown Mennonite Church, May 2, 2021

One of the problems of white supremacy culture is that the culture centers on white people, and sees things through only white people’s eyes, for the benefit of white people.

As I worked with creating a 5-minute talk about Layla Saad’s book, me and white supremacy, I had a good talk written and ready to go. Practiced, re-written, honed. but it didn’t sit right.

Good story. All about what I had learned, how I had grown, the significance to me of facing hard questions, not only looking at white supremacy culture, but also looking at how facing white supremacy was helping me with other challenges in my life.

It was all about me.

I had to toss it.

This reflection is not as put together, but here are some points from Layla Saad’s book.

First: we can’t do this right. Do it anyway.  You’re going to make mistakes. Make them. Learn, and start again.

Second: this is not easy, and if you can walk away from facing white supremacy culture, and you can take a break from racism, you will be compelled to do so. When that happens, and you take a break, start again.

Third: where is your learning sweet spot? I like numbers, so a 21-day challenge of reading or practicing a new pattern every day and logging it motivates me. But you might have a different motivation. Find your motivation for learning about white supremacy culture, and make a commitment to do so. We need good ancestors.

Fourth: Facing white supremacy culture is uncomfortable. Practice staying present in uncomfortable conversations. Stay present. Understand and unpack your discomfort. The goal is to stop harming black and brown people.

Fifth: Imagine walking in another’s shoes.   I can’t tell you disclosing stories about the racially diverse situations that I’m in, so let’s look at publicly written work. Austin Channing Brown wrote a book called “I’m still here”. She writes about her experiences as a black woman within a white culture dominated evangelical church. When she describes meetings that harm and isolate her, I can see myself sitting in those same meetings, unaware that what is going on is harmful.

Arundhati Roy says
“The trouble is that once you see it, you can’t unsee it. And once you’ve seen it, keeping quiet, saying nothing, becomes as political an act as speaking out. There’s no innocence. Either way, you’re accountable.”

Austin concludes her book by saying she doesn’t have hope, but she is living in the shadow of hope. This is helpful to me, not only in the realm of dismantling white supremacy, but in other areas of my life where I can’t see hope.

I’ll accept that as I’m attempting to center on black and brown people, I’m failing. I keep circling back to me.  

Focusing back on Layla Saad’s book, clearly, I’m working on stepping into difficult topics and conversations. I’m also working on hearing correction without being defensive, and speaking out without first covering myself by getting someone else’s authority. In each of these healthier patterns, I’m vulnerable, I’m exposed.

Of course, I’m having a repetitive naked dream. In the dream I’m going about my business, shopping, driving, walking in a crowd, and I’m naked. And you know what? No one cares. It’s not about me. I don’t need to be hidden and falsely protected. I am in own my skin.

Thanks for listening.

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