Awardee: Linda Fernandez – Literary Arts – Round 2

Impact Statement:

Throughout the pandemic I have been teaching virtual workshops with youth of all ages which focus on the climate crisis and environmental justice. One thing I have noticed is that there are very few resources available for covering these topics with young people. The resources, such as videos and books, that are available rarely feature People of Color. This is not only a problem in the environmental sphere. Children’s literature is lacking in representation of BIPOC characters (Black, Indigenous and People of Color). This has fueled my interest in further developing this project to create an interactive children’s book designed to engage young people and their families in discussions about environmental justice and everyday actions we, as citizens, can take to care for our environment and advocate for justice. The BIPOC characters in the book will be based on real people from the Cobbs Creek neighborhood who are doing things to positively impact the environment such as leading weekly clean ups, advocating for public safety and traffic slowing measures and working with young people to preserve the urban tree canopy.

I am currently in the process of creating my first coloring book about climate change and urban heat in Philadelphia with a particular focus on one of the hottest neighborhoods in Philly. I learned a lot through this process and am eager to create my first ever children’s book which will focus on environmental justice and my neighborhood of Cobbs Creek. For this project I intend to research the history of Cobbs Creek through written documentation and personal interviews with people in the neighborhood. Along the creek there are many points of historic significance. The area that is now the Cobbs Creek Golf Course, for example, was once a significant stop on the Underground Railroad. I also want to include information about native plants and animals that live in the creek and pay homage to the ancestors who lived off the land before the arrival of European settlers and the development of the urban environment.

My goal is for this book to be an educational, fun and interactive resource for educators to use in their classroom and for families to engage in important conversations about the environment where we live. The creation of this book will include collaborations with local artists, writers and historians. I plan to collaborate with the Cobbs Creek Environmental Center, Alliance for Watershed Education, EducationWorks, Power Corp PHL, as well as students from nearby schools such as Sayre High School, and Bryant, Anderson, and Hamilton Elementary.