A bilingual radio show, urban farming, and community organizing collectively summarize the first few weeks of my internship with the environmental justice organization, GreenRoots. Located in Chelsea, MA (a city just north of Boston), GreenRoots is a non-profit organization that utilizes the power of community organizing to mobilize local residents of Chelsea and East Boston around issues of environmental injustice that directly impact residents. GreenRoots engages in environmental justice work through initiatives including waterfront access on the Chelsea Creek, youth leadership development (particularly with a team of six teen leaders from Chelsea known as Environmental Chelsea Organizers), transit justice, and food justice.
Over the course of this summer, I am working collaboratively with a team of four other interns to support the GreenRoots staff across a wide range of ongoing programs. With each intern offering support for specific projects, I am involved with the food justice work and the East Boston waterfront initiative.
Before starting my work with GreenRoots, I knew that I wanted to learn more about food justice and how it is put into practice, and so I have greatly appreciated the very hands-on approach here. This involves devoting a certain number of hours each day to help out at either the Chelsea urban farm or the youth community garden by weeding, watering, planting, harvesting, and distributing food to the local residents that live in the neighborhood. These two projects (the urban farm and youth community garden) represent a very grassroots approach to working to address food insecurity through direct distribution (all the food is free) while additional events such as open community work/harvest days invite people to bring their families to the farm and learn how to grow their own food. Both of these forms of community building are an important part of the overall movement towards food sovereignty, in which members of the community feel empowered through knowledge about/access to healthy food in their neighborhood.
The East Boston waterfront initiative is an equally ambitious and wide ranging project of GreenRoots, which at its core seeks to organize community members of East Boston to address issues of environmental concern taking place along the Chelsea Creek (a body of water running in between East Boston and Chelsea), which directly impact the health and lives of residents. The major current campaign aims to oppose the proposed construction of an Eversource electrical substation on the East Boston side of the creek, as this substation would be constructed in a flood risk zone that is also a mere 100 meters away from an eight million gallon tank of jet fuel. Concerned with the potential of an explosion that could occur with this proposed site as well as alternative uses of the site that would better serve the community while not being a public health risk (such as creating a soccer field), organizers at GreenRoots are currently working to build community awareness and engagement around this project.
Lastly, one relatively new project that I have been given the opportunity to work on is a weekly radio show called GreenRoots/Raices Verdes, which is a bilingual (English and Spanish) radio show that provides space for discussions on topics relevant to East Boston and Chelsea residents by interviewing guests from a variety of local organizations who share their stories and experiences around themes such as immigration and housing. Although through a different medium, Raices Verdes is yet another way that GreenRoots seeks to build community networks and power.