On October 22-24 we launched our Right to Thrive Campaign, which seeks to repair 154 years of violence from the South Philly refinery as the land is given new life. The clean up has a huge role to play, and that's why Phase 1 of the Campaign is focused on mobilizing 500 residents to submit comments on the clean up before the end of the year (submit your comment now!). Given the agencies in charge of the clean up haven't yet agreed to teach the public about the contamination the ways we've suggested, it's time to teach each other about the clean up!
Our country & our communities are at a pivotal point of power. To continue with the status quo at this point is to sink deeper into the crisis of a power structure that refuses to respect & honor life, whether by unprecedented wildfires, police force, or deadly hoarding of wealth by the few. But as close as we are to the brink of destruction, the signs of another system coming forward- one based in relationship, justice, & our Right to Breathe- are unmistakable.
We in Philly Thrive believe that the path ahead will largely depend on our ability to continue to act with intention together.
Today we celebrate the official end to over a century of unjust, racist, and deadly oil refining in South Philadelphia, as Hilco Redevelopment Partners closed on the purchase of the site in bankruptcy court. In spite of the bankruptcy court’s process that excludes residents as a key stakeholder, Philadelphians influenced the outcome by uniting, organizing, and mobilizing for our Right to Breathe. Today the victory of permanent refinery closure has been solidified.
Hilco CEO Roberto Perez called Philly Thrive as one of their first acts as the new owner of the site. This is the right first step towards holistic inclusion of residents in the next era of the land. In accordance with Philly Thrive’s principles as a leaderful organization, three Thrive members spoke to Mr. Perez about what the sale means to us and what the future must hold.
Update: Application deadlines extended to May 17th!
Winning back our #RightToBreathe from the PES refinery was the first chapter of Philly Thrive's work. Going forward, we need more support to keep growing & leading on climate justice in Philadelphia. Read on to see if you have the skills to join Philly Thrive in one of the roles we're looking for!
Philly Thrive organizes in action circles that move forward critical parts of our work. Read all about what our circles are up to & join us:
- Strategy Circle: There are several pots on the stove when it comes to ways Philly Thrive is using our collective power during this period. We are throwing our support behind local campaigns on the frontlines of COVID-19, including with our coalition partners at the Alliance for a Just Philadelphia. We’ve also started a circle to study & prepare policies for a Green Recovery in Philadelphia, and are still keeping our sights on Hilco in anticipation of refinery land redevelopment.
- The Cleanup Circle is preparing to meet with the EPA, and we’re thinking of how our pro bono technical advisors can be most helpful to us. We are also continuing to learn about the contamination on the refinery site, and we will be creating a "knowledge base" with questions that we have, and answers that we receive, so that we can pass that knowledge on to everyone as we work together to ensure the site is cleaned up properly. Check out the circle’s first-ever Remediation Bulletin to learn more.
- The Communications Circle is getting ready to update our social media with our community care efforts, to make sure we can connect as many people as possible to care for each other! We are also still building relationships with press and working on some storytelling work, like videos and flyers. Check out Philly Thrive in the news talking about PES & how pollution makes environmental justice communities more vulnerable to COVID-19: E&E News, WHYY, and Mother Jones.
- The Tech Circle has formed during COVID-19 to address the unjust technology gap amongst Thrive members so everyone has access to internet & can participate in the movement’s online activities. We’re building a squad of “tech teachers” to teach each other how to use Zoom & other programs, and also redistributing devices to access the internet. If you want to volunteer teaching Zoom virtually to Thrive members or have a device to donate (laptop, tablet, smart phone) contact Tarik at 240-753-5600.
- The Funds Circle is raising money through a crowdfunding campaign so we can rise to the challenge of COVID and meet folks’ needs, through food boxes, laundry, prescription errands, emotional support, and more. We’re also applying for grants to support our ongoing work including paying 3 part-time staff. The Funds Circle is continuing to dream up ways we can be fundraising AND building community in this moment, including an online concert (Breath of Fresh Air round 3!). Give Rachel a call at 571-276-1737 to chat about resourcing our movement.
- The Membership Circle, during this time of the coronavirus pandemic, is working to reach out to our community, identifying resources and supporting community members who need to help them and referring them to services available through Philly Thrive’s Community Care Circle.
- The Home/HQ Circle is still looking for Philly Thrive’s first office space. At this time we are not able to visit locations, however we are maintaining a list of places to visit once Stay-At-Home is lifted and it is safe to do so. If you come across a property that could potentially become our home, please contact James at 703-965-4866
- The Youth Circle is continuing to build connections with Philadelphia Youth Climate Strike and brainstorming how to adapt the Strike to a virtual format. We are thinking about how we can center youth as powerful leaders and change-makers within the community. Our preliminary ideas (which will be shaped by social distancing) include building partnerships with food justice, gardening, and urban farm organizations with strong youth leadership models as well as imagining our own ways to grow and garden within Thrive. Call Jendaiya at 919-985-4855 to learn more and help build the youth circle’s vision.
On Thursday February 13th, the sale of the PES refinery site was confirmed to Hilco Redevelopment Partners in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. Hilco’s bid on the site involves permanent closure of the refinery, and therefore a major victory for Philly Thrive’s organizing for the Right to Breathe.
The end to 150 years of oil refining in Philadelphia was brought about through people power. The leadership of South Philadelphians who have survived the fossil fuel industry for generations galvanized people & political will never seen before on this issue. Residents told stories of the direct impact of the refinery on human life and the veil was pulled back on the largest oil refinery on the East Coast. The truth about the issue as a matter of racism, classism, & ecological destruction- instead of just “the environment”- birthed a new force for climate justice in Philadelphia that shook the foundation of power relations in our city.