Dec 1

2022: A Pivotal Year for Climate Justice in Philadelphia

by: Jonathan Leibovic

2022 has been an exciting time for climate justice in Philadelphia and beyond! Climate Justice Initiative (CJI) collaborators have been hard at work to heal their communities and have celebrated many victories, both large and small. Each CJI circle (Land, Air, and Trash) has benefitted from the transformative power of public art in different ways. Read more about the CJI’s accomplishments below, and learn about what’s coming up in 2023!

SPRING: TRASH CIRCLE 

Through teach-ins, clean-ups, gameplay, and performance, Trash Circle collaborators have engaged hundreds of Philadelphians in conversations about dumping while also building political power to push systemic changes to our waste system.

This spring, as part of a partnership with the Trash Circle Dumping Project, community members from Kensington and Fairhill developed a dramatic, artistic performance piece called Die, Dumping, Die! (D3) to celebrate the death of the fictional character Dumpington Baggins, a personification of Philadelphia’s trash issues. Evolving with great vitality, D3 has been performed in Kensington/Fairhill between April and November.

Art is an amazing mechanism to discuss a serious topic in a playful manner.

- Nishi Dsouza, D3 performer and community member

In addition to street theater, the Trash Circle and additional collaborators took a deep dive into the intersection of C&D waste and dumping to inform the creation of a beautiful and informative poster distributed in the May issue of Grid Magazine about the root causes, impacts, and solutions to Philadelphia’s epidemic of illegal dumping.

Looking ahead to 2023, Mural Arts is working with Trash Circle collaborators and other zero-waste advocates across the city to develop a comprehensive anti-dumping platform for Philadelphia’s 2023 mayoral race! On Saturday, December 3, from 10 am – 1 pm, you’re invited to participate in a virtual conversation to draft the Clean Philadelphia Now platform, linking zero-waste demands from across the city from clean-up campaigns, anti-dumping measures, and better waste collection practices to the development of a circular economy that works for all. Read more about Clean Philadelphia Now and register for the conversation.

SUMMER: LAND CIRCLE 

All summer, Land Circle collaborators continued building power to protect green spaces and secure community stewardship. Mural Arts brought a shipping container to the Iglesias Garden in North Philadelphia, where it served as a colorful, versatile community hub space. Urban gardeners and land protectors gathered here for all kinds of events: a community health and wellness fair; a panel discussion about indigenous sovereignty and stewardship practices; a solstice celebration for Black and Indigenous community members, and more. Open to organizers and activists from across the city and beyond, these hub space events catalyzed connection and strategizing between North and South Philadelphia communities facing similar fights against land grabs and gentrification. Today, as the garden community prepares for the winter, the shipping container still boasts roof-mounted solar panels and provides ample storage for garden materials and supplies.

 

  • Community members gather to celebrate the summer solstice at the Iglesias Gardens. Photo by Manuel Alé Vasquez.

  • The colorful shipping container supplied by the CJI for the Iglesias Gardens is now home to solar panels and free community wireless. Photo courtesy of the Iglesias Gardens Facebook page.

  • Community members gather to celebrate the summer solstice at the Iglesias Gardens. Photo by Manuel Alé Vasquez.

  • Panelists Cesali Morales, Boogie Rose, Anthony Patrick, and Chief Vincent Mann speak with moderator Kermit O at the Holding Ground Panel on land sovereignty at the Iglesias Gardens in June 2022. Photo by Adrian Moran García.

FALL: AIR CIRCLE 

“I didn’t really understand this whole art thing before, but now I can see its value,” quipped Zulene Mayfield, chair of Chester Residents Concerned for Quality Living (CRCQL, pronounced “Circle”). “This was the best engagement we’ve ever had here.”

This fall, CJI worked with CRCQL and artist Molly Thayer to produce a creative disruption in Chester County, educating Philadelphia Union soccer fans about Subaru Stadium’s waste management practices and how they affect air quality for Chester residents. With a mobile and zany soccer net woven from bright colored mesh bags from the waste stream, coupled with inviting signage, soccer fans were invited to participate in an interactive trivia scoring game, CRCQL members conversed with stadium patrons about incineration, public health, and environmental justice. Chester residents, Swarthmore college students, and Mural Arts staff spoke to several hundred attendees, including many families with children, and signed up dozens of people for information and updates on CRCQL’s campaigns.

 

 

  • A creative disruption at Subaru Stadium where attendees will be welcomed to play a soccer game with the activists from CRQCL to learn about the environmental harms of trash incineration and bring attention to the fight against incineration. Photo by Troy Bynum.

  • A creative disruption at Subaru Stadium where attendees will be welcomed to play a soccer game with the activists from CRQCL to learn about the environmental harms of trash incineration and bring attention to the fight against incineration. Photo by Troy Bynum.

  • A creative disruption at Subaru Stadium where attendees will be welcomed to play a soccer game with the activists from CRQCL to learn about the environmental harms of trash incineration and bring attention to the fight against incineration. Photo by Troy Bynum.

  • A creative disruption at Subaru Stadium where attendees will be welcomed to play a soccer game with the activists from CRQCL to learn about the environmental harms of trash incineration and bring attention to the fight against incineration. Photo by Troy Bynum.

LOOKING AHEAD TO 2023 

We’re incredibly proud of what we have accomplished this year! Our hub space and creative disruptions demonstrate the transformative power of public art: strengthening relationships and networks, sharing knowledge about problems and solutions, sparking meaningful conversations, engaging community members, and creating opportunities for unexpected narrative shifts. Art has a powerful and unique role to play in the growing movement for climate justice.

The winter months, especially with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, are often a period of rest and reflection for activists and organizers who have worked hard throughout the year. We take time to be with family and to recharge our bodies, minds, and souls. The land lies dormant; large outdoor gatherings are rare; even the animals hibernate.

But the spring of 2023 is on its way, and CJI will be ready to reactivate when it arrives. We’re thrilled to announce that after two years of searching, we have finally found a host wall for the Climate Justice mural! Our mural will be painted on the front facade of 1800 N. American Street in North Philadelphia. We love this location because it’s walking distance from the Iglesias Gardens and the site of an existing community of artists and environmentalists (including NextFab, The Resource Exchange, and Keystone Bicycle Co.). The wall is nearly five hundred feet long, positioned along a developing commercial corridor that will see increased foot traffic over the next several years. Please stay tuned for more information about the mural painting timeline, including a mural dedication and upcoming events at the site!

Last updated: Nov 29, 2022

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