Philly Thrive

This is part of series of posts by recipients of the 2020 Career Services Summer Funding Grant. We’ve asked funding recipients to reflect on their summer experiences and talk about the industries in which they spent their summer. You can read the entire series here.

This entry is by Elliot Bones, COL ’21

This summer I interned with Philly Thrive, the community-led environmental justice organization that was responsible for the PES oil refinery’s closure. Philly Thrive continues to fight for a safe cleanup of that site, community voices in city government, and Philadelphian’s right to breathe. During my internship I helped conduct research and resident out-reach.

One of my main tasks with Philly Thrive was calling Philadelphians to check in on them and see if there were any resources Philly Thrive could provide, such as food deliveries and prescription pick-ups. On one of these calls, I talked to a Philadelphia resident who had lived in the city for decades. I ran through my script, “Hi my name is Elliot, and I’m working with Philly Thrive. How’re you and your loved ones doing in this challenging moment?” — and then waited for a response. At this point in the call most people either hang up or start politely hinting that they’re busy, but instead this resident sighed and said, “how come it’s a challenging moment now, but there wasn’t anything wrong when one of my boys started having asthma attacks and the other got sent away?”

I sought an internship with Philly Thrive because I believe in community organizing as a means to bring about environmental justice. When I talk about the climate crisis with people I often lament, using general terms, the “disparate impacts that the crisis will have on underserved black and brown populations.” This statement is incomplete. What this internship reinforced for me is that the climate crisis and integrally related cataclysms, such as this pandemic, do not create inequalities; they aggravate, and result, from inequalities that have caused people, predominantly underserved black and brown people, to suffer for centuries

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