October 30, 2023
Justina D. Thompson is based in Philadelphia, pre-colonially known as Lenapehoking. She is an Earth steward and storyteller as well as a Program Strategist for Environmental Justice in the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Sustainability and a HUB Coordinator for Black Girl Environmentalist. Read her spotlight below!
What communities are you most accountable to?
I am accountable to my ancestors and descendants that are currently beyond this realm. I am accountable to non-human kin that support my thriving on this land. I am accountable to native Philadelphians and their lived experiences, especially Black residents, Black youth, and Black elders! In my work I strive in humble servitude to these communities so that they can experience just futures rooted in harmonious relationship with each other and Earth.
In a few sentences, what would you like to share about yourself and your journey/personal connection to community-driven planning?
I really love what I do! A dear mentor of mine once told me I was meant to be a bridge in the career work I’d do, and I feel that I’m serving in that role! To strategically use my positionality in city government to not only facilitate resident-led decision making, but also funnel municipal dollars into community projects while building new relationships and connections, it feels so magical! I think it takes a lot of reflection to understand aspects of our privilege, including palatability and positionality. As a big queer black woman, who is also a 4th generation college-graduate* with an ivy league graduate degree, and city government job, I sit at a whole lot of intersections! And it is not a light lift to move through them with care and responsibility, but I try my best every day! I lean into this complex web of being as I communicate across communities, and have been nourished by the opportunity to use this as guide when planning with communities for their desired futures.
*Some of my grandmothers finished school and others started!
In a few sentences, can you share about a current community-based project you are working on? (What is your vision? What are some of your goals? How are you co-designing the community-driven planning process with community members?)
In my role with the City of Philadelphia, I support our resident-led Environmental Justice Advisory Commission (named PEJAC) in their operations! Within their operating structure, their Grant Fund Working Group has poured tremendous effort and care into a Community Resilience and Environmental Justice Fund over the past few months. From designing the application to co-hosting information sessions, reviewing applications and participating in decision days, this working group in collaboration with the city is now able to award 15 $10,000 grants to community organizations working to advance environmental justice in the City of Philadelphia.
The working group’s vision was to make this process feel accessible and supportive, take risks on funding organizations who may otherwise be overlooked, and specifically invest in youth leadership and development, as they understand this to be crucial in sustaining a shift in environmental justice work.
My role here was primarily as an administrative/data manager and facilitator, but this is the bridge work and capacity building that is essential for government partners to play when it comes to amplifying the impact that communities are already making, especially when it comes to environmental justice.
Lastly, in a few sentences, what does being part of the NACRP network/community mean to you?
Where do I even begin?!?! First, so much love and gratitude to the folks I’ve held space with! Discussing, laughing, grounding, reflecting, singing, and moving together over has been joyous and nourishing for my soul! Being a part of this community sets a standard for doing racial and climate justice work where it is grounded in love, care, accessibility, community, and joy! Doing the work together with these peers feels like the bouncy house you need when something needs to be released or replenished as we’re doing this very intensive work! This space reminds us that the work is personal, and that’s why we do it, and that’s why we have to care for each other through it. A space to make all of these things explicit has been so valuable and I can’t wait to see how it continues to grow and transform our communities!