1. PENNSYLVANIA IS “WAY BEHIND” ON SOLAR. HOW DOES IT CATCH UP?
  2. Pandemic Relief For Black Farmers Still Is Not Enough
  3. A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT URBANISM
  4. THAT ELECTRONIC & CLOTHING WASTE PILES UP. SO WHERE TO PUT IT?
  5. THE WOMB IS THE FIRST ENVIRONMENT
  6. A FRIDGE FOR EVERYONE WHO’S HUNGRY
  7. OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY VS. NEW SCHOOL CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
  8. ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IS THE TOP SOCIAL JUSTICE PRIORITY
  9. IN 2020, DID “BIG GREEN” BECOME LESS WHITE?
  10. CLIMATE ACTION CAN POWER OUR RECOVERY
  11. IN PANDEMIC, AN HBCU DOES IT BETTER
  12. A DANGEROUS LACK OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROTECTIONS
  13. HOW FAST CAN A BIDEN PRESIDENCY MOVE ON CLIMATE ISSUES?
  14. CRAFTING A BLACK-DRIVEN CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE “STIMULUS” AGENDA
  15. Penn to donate $100 million to Philadelphia school district to help public school children
  16. BLACK ECOLOGIES IN TIDEWATER VIRGINIA
  17. WHAT IS “FROM THE SOURCE REPORTING?”
  18. LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
  19. THE ECOWURD SUMMIT LAUNCH
  20. National Geographic Virtual Photo Camp: Earth Stories Aimed to Elevate Indigenous Youth Voices
  21. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2020
  22. TOO MANY NATURAL GAS SPILLS
  23. GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
  24. BLACK VOTERS ARE THE ECO-VOTERS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE LOOKING FOR
  25. CANNABIS PROFIT & BLACK ECONOMY
  26. THE NATURE GAP
  27. BLACK PEOPLE NEED NATURE
  28. WHAT IS TREEPHILLY?
  29. IS AN OBSCURE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE IN HARRISBURG DOING ENOUGH?
  30. AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S RACIST ROOTS
  31. “THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF QUIET SUFFERING OUT THERE
  32. “WE NEED TO GET INTO THE SUPPLY CHAIN”
  33. “AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW THAT GIVES YOU A VOICE”
  34. URBAN PLANNING AS A TOOL FOR WHITE SUPREMACY
  35. HEAT WAVES REMIND US CLIMATE CHANGE IS STILL HERE
  36. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
  37. IN PANDEMIC, MAKING SURE PEOPLE EAT & HOW HBCUs HELP
  38. WE’RE NOT DONE, YET – MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IS NEEDED AT THE PES REFINERY SITE
  39. COVID-19 IS LAYING WASTE TO RECYCLING PROGRAMS
  40. THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH EQUITY GAPS THAT COVID-19 EXPOSED
  41. THE POWER OF NEW HERBALISM
  42. THERE’S NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
  43. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit
  44. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit 2020 Press Release
  45. Too Much Food At Farms, Too Little Food At Stores
  46. THE LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION & COVID-19
  47. CORONAVIRUS REVEALS WHY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF OUR TIME
  48. FROM KATRINA TO CORONAVIRUS, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  49. COVID-19 SHOWS A BIGGER IMPACT WHERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVE
  50. THE CORONAVIRUS CONVERSATION HAS GOT TO GET A LOT MORE INCLUSIVE THAN THIS
  51. MEDIA’S CLIMATE CHANGE COVERAGE KEEPS BLACK PEOPLE OUT OF IT
  52. “WE DON’T HAVE A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS”
  53. PHILADELPHIA HAS A FOOD ECONOMY
  54. HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN U.S. CITIES
  55. MAPPING THE LINK BETWEEN INCARCERATION & FOOD INSECURITY
  56. PHILLY’S JAILS ARE, LITERALLY, MAKING PEOPLE SICK
  57. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2019
  58. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit
  59. “We Can’t Breathe: Zulene Mayfield’s Lifelong War with Waste ‘Managers’”
  60. “Is The Black Press Reporting on Environmental Issues?” by David Love
  61. “The Dangerous Connection Between Climate Change & Food” an interview with Jacqueline Patterson and Adrienne Hollis
  62. “An Oil Refinery Explosion That Was Never Isolated” by Charles Ellison
  63. “Philly Should Be Going ‘Community Solar'” an interview w/ PA Rep. Donna Bullock
  64. “Is The Litter Index Enough?” an interview w/ Nic Esposito
  65. “How Sugarcane Fires in Florida Are Making Black People Sick” an interview w/ Frank Biden
  66. Philly Farm Social – Video and Pictures
  67. #PHILLYFARMSOCIAL GETS REAL IN THE FIELD
  68. THE LACK OF DIVERSE LEADERS IN THE GREEN SPACE Environmental Advocacy Organizations – especially the “Big Green” – Really Need More Black & Brown People in Senior Positions
  69. PLASTIC BAG BANS CAN BACKFIRE … WHEN YOU HAVE OTHER PLASTICS TO CHOOSE FROM
  70. WE REALLY NEED POLITICAL STRATEGISTS LEADING ON CLIMATE CHANGE – NOT ACADEMICS
  71. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN A MUCH MORE CLIMATIC WORLD
  72. A SMALL GERMANTOWN NON-PROFIT “TRADES FOR A DIFFERENCE”
  73. IS PHILLY BLAMING ITS TRASH & RECYCLING CRISIS ON BLACK PEOPLE?
  74. BUT WHAT DOES THE GREEN NEW DEAL MEAN FOR BLACK PEOPLE?
  75. HOW GREEN IS PHILLY’S “GREENWORKS” PLAN?
  76. The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy event recap #ecoWURD #phillyisgreen
  77. Bike-friendly cities should be designed for everyone, not just for wealthy white cyclists
  78. RENAMING “GENTRIFICATION”
  79. FOUR GOVERNORS, ONE URBAN WATERSHED IN NEED OF ACTION
  80. JUST HOW BAD IS THE AIR HURTING PHILLY’S BLACK FAMILIES?
  81. EcoWURD Presents:The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy
  82. IF YOU ARE LOW-INCOME OR HOMELESS, THE POLAR VORTEX IS LIKE A FORM OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
  83. NOT JUST FLINT: THE WATER CRISIS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
  84. DO THE TRAINS STOP RUNNING? THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT ON MASS TRANSIT
  85. BLACK WOMEN & THE TROUBLE WITH BABY POWDER
  86. A WHITE COLLAR CRIME VICTIMIZING NICETOWN
  87. IN NORTH CAROLINA, CLIMATE CHANGE & VOTER SUPPRESSION WORKED HAND-IN-HAND
  88. LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS WOULD GAIN THE MOST FROM GREEN ROOFS
  89. YOUR OWN HOOD: CLOSING THE GENERATIONAL GREEN DIVIDE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
  90. THE PRICE OF WATER: LITERAL & FIGURATIVE THIRST AT WORK
  91. THAT CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT TRUMP DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE? YEAH, WELL, IT’S THE LAW
  92. RACIAL & ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES
  93. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS Philly Has a Cigarette Butt Problem
  94. HOW SUSTAINABLE CAN PHILLY GET?
  95. USING AFROFUTURISM TO BUILD THE KIND OF WORLD YOU WANT
  96. UNCOVERING PHILLY’S HIDDEN TOXIC DANGERS …
  97. WILL THE ENVIRONMENT DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS? (PART I)
  98. ARE PHILLY SCHOOLS READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
  99. 🎧 SEPTA CREATES A GAS PROBLEM IN NORTH PHILLY
  100. 🎧 BREAKING THE GREEN RETAIL CEILING
  101. That’s Nasty: The Cost of Trash in Philly
  102. 🎧 How Can You Solarize Philly?
  103. 🎧 “The Environment Should Be an Active, Living Experience”
  104. Philly’s Lead Crisis Is Larger Than Flint’s
  105. Despite What You Heard, Black Millennials Do Care About the Environment
  106. Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
  107. Are You Going to Drink That?
  108. The Origins of ecoWURD
  109. We Seriously Need More Black Climate Disaster Films
  110. 🎧 Why Should Philly Care About a Pipeline?
  111. 🎧 Not Just Hotter Days Ahead… Costly Ones Too
  112. Philly’s Big and Dangerous Hot Mess
Friday, April 16, 2021
  1. PENNSYLVANIA IS “WAY BEHIND” ON SOLAR. HOW DOES IT CATCH UP?
  2. Pandemic Relief For Black Farmers Still Is Not Enough
  3. A BLUEPRINT FOR THE NEXT URBANISM
  4. THAT ELECTRONIC & CLOTHING WASTE PILES UP. SO WHERE TO PUT IT?
  5. THE WOMB IS THE FIRST ENVIRONMENT
  6. A FRIDGE FOR EVERYONE WHO’S HUNGRY
  7. OLD SCHOOL FOSSIL FUEL ECONOMY VS. NEW SCHOOL CLEAN ENERGY ECONOMY
  8. ENVIRONMENTAL INJUSTICE IS THE TOP SOCIAL JUSTICE PRIORITY
  9. IN 2020, DID “BIG GREEN” BECOME LESS WHITE?
  10. CLIMATE ACTION CAN POWER OUR RECOVERY
  11. IN PANDEMIC, AN HBCU DOES IT BETTER
  12. A DANGEROUS LACK OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE PROTECTIONS
  13. HOW FAST CAN A BIDEN PRESIDENCY MOVE ON CLIMATE ISSUES?
  14. CRAFTING A BLACK-DRIVEN CORONAVIRUS AND CLIMATE “STIMULUS” AGENDA
  15. Penn to donate $100 million to Philadelphia school district to help public school children
  16. BLACK ECOLOGIES IN TIDEWATER VIRGINIA
  17. WHAT IS “FROM THE SOURCE REPORTING?”
  18. LEADERSHIP IN ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE
  19. THE ECOWURD SUMMIT LAUNCH
  20. National Geographic Virtual Photo Camp: Earth Stories Aimed to Elevate Indigenous Youth Voices
  21. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2020
  22. TOO MANY NATURAL GAS SPILLS
  23. GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK
  24. BLACK VOTERS ARE THE ECO-VOTERS CLIMATE ACTIVISTS ARE LOOKING FOR
  25. CANNABIS PROFIT & BLACK ECONOMY
  26. THE NATURE GAP
  27. BLACK PEOPLE NEED NATURE
  28. WHAT IS TREEPHILLY?
  29. IS AN OBSCURE ENVIRONMENT COMMITTEE IN HARRISBURG DOING ENOUGH?
  30. AMERICAN ENVIRONMENTALISM’S RACIST ROOTS
  31. “THERE’S REALLY A LOT OF QUIET SUFFERING OUT THERE
  32. “WE NEED TO GET INTO THE SUPPLY CHAIN”
  33. “AN ENVIRONMENTAL LAW THAT GIVES YOU A VOICE”
  34. URBAN PLANNING AS A TOOL FOR WHITE SUPREMACY
  35. HEAT WAVES REMIND US CLIMATE CHANGE IS STILL HERE
  36. Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land
  37. IN PANDEMIC, MAKING SURE PEOPLE EAT & HOW HBCUs HELP
  38. WE’RE NOT DONE, YET – MORE ACCOUNTABILITY IS NEEDED AT THE PES REFINERY SITE
  39. COVID-19 IS LAYING WASTE TO RECYCLING PROGRAMS
  40. THE PHILADELPHIA HEALTH EQUITY GAPS THAT COVID-19 EXPOSED
  41. THE POWER OF NEW HERBALISM
  42. THERE’S NO RECIPE FOR SUCCESS
  43. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit
  44. ecoWURD Earth Day Summit 2020 Press Release
  45. Too Much Food At Farms, Too Little Food At Stores
  46. THE LINK BETWEEN AIR POLLUTION & COVID-19
  47. CORONAVIRUS REVEALS WHY ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE IS STILL THE CRITICAL ISSUE OF OUR TIME
  48. FROM KATRINA TO CORONAVIRUS, WHAT HAVE WE LEARNED?
  49. COVID-19 SHOWS A BIGGER IMPACT WHERE BLACK PEOPLE LIVE
  50. THE CORONAVIRUS CONVERSATION HAS GOT TO GET A LOT MORE INCLUSIVE THAN THIS
  51. MEDIA’S CLIMATE CHANGE COVERAGE KEEPS BLACK PEOPLE OUT OF IT
  52. “WE DON’T HAVE A CULTURE OF PREPAREDNESS”
  53. PHILADELPHIA HAS A FOOD ECONOMY
  54. HOW URBAN AGRICULTURE CAN IMPROVE FOOD SECURITY IN U.S. CITIES
  55. MAPPING THE LINK BETWEEN INCARCERATION & FOOD INSECURITY
  56. PHILLY’S JAILS ARE, LITERALLY, MAKING PEOPLE SICK
  57. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit 2019
  58. ecoWURD Environmental Justice Summit
  59. “We Can’t Breathe: Zulene Mayfield’s Lifelong War with Waste ‘Managers’”
  60. “Is The Black Press Reporting on Environmental Issues?” by David Love
  61. “The Dangerous Connection Between Climate Change & Food” an interview with Jacqueline Patterson and Adrienne Hollis
  62. “An Oil Refinery Explosion That Was Never Isolated” by Charles Ellison
  63. “Philly Should Be Going ‘Community Solar'” an interview w/ PA Rep. Donna Bullock
  64. “Is The Litter Index Enough?” an interview w/ Nic Esposito
  65. “How Sugarcane Fires in Florida Are Making Black People Sick” an interview w/ Frank Biden
  66. Philly Farm Social – Video and Pictures
  67. #PHILLYFARMSOCIAL GETS REAL IN THE FIELD
  68. THE LACK OF DIVERSE LEADERS IN THE GREEN SPACE Environmental Advocacy Organizations – especially the “Big Green” – Really Need More Black & Brown People in Senior Positions
  69. PLASTIC BAG BANS CAN BACKFIRE … WHEN YOU HAVE OTHER PLASTICS TO CHOOSE FROM
  70. WE REALLY NEED POLITICAL STRATEGISTS LEADING ON CLIMATE CHANGE – NOT ACADEMICS
  71. EMERGENCY PREPAREDNESS IN A MUCH MORE CLIMATIC WORLD
  72. A SMALL GERMANTOWN NON-PROFIT “TRADES FOR A DIFFERENCE”
  73. IS PHILLY BLAMING ITS TRASH & RECYCLING CRISIS ON BLACK PEOPLE?
  74. BUT WHAT DOES THE GREEN NEW DEAL MEAN FOR BLACK PEOPLE?
  75. HOW GREEN IS PHILLY’S “GREENWORKS” PLAN?
  76. The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy event recap #ecoWURD #phillyisgreen
  77. Bike-friendly cities should be designed for everyone, not just for wealthy white cyclists
  78. RENAMING “GENTRIFICATION”
  79. FOUR GOVERNORS, ONE URBAN WATERSHED IN NEED OF ACTION
  80. JUST HOW BAD IS THE AIR HURTING PHILLY’S BLACK FAMILIES?
  81. EcoWURD Presents:The Future of Work in Philly’s Green Economy
  82. IF YOU ARE LOW-INCOME OR HOMELESS, THE POLAR VORTEX IS LIKE A FORM OF CAPITAL PUNISHMENT
  83. NOT JUST FLINT: THE WATER CRISIS IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY
  84. DO THE TRAINS STOP RUNNING? THE SHUTDOWN’S IMPACT ON MASS TRANSIT
  85. BLACK WOMEN & THE TROUBLE WITH BABY POWDER
  86. A WHITE COLLAR CRIME VICTIMIZING NICETOWN
  87. IN NORTH CAROLINA, CLIMATE CHANGE & VOTER SUPPRESSION WORKED HAND-IN-HAND
  88. LOW-INCOME NEIGHBORHOODS WOULD GAIN THE MOST FROM GREEN ROOFS
  89. YOUR OWN HOOD: CLOSING THE GENERATIONAL GREEN DIVIDE IN BLACK PHILADELPHIA
  90. THE PRICE OF WATER: LITERAL & FIGURATIVE THIRST AT WORK
  91. THAT CLIMATE CHANGE REPORT TRUMP DIDN’T WANT YOU TO SEE? YEAH, WELL, IT’S THE LAW
  92. RACIAL & ETHNIC MINORITIES ARE MORE VULNERABLE TO WILDFIRES
  93. NO IFS, ANDS OR BUTTS Philly Has a Cigarette Butt Problem
  94. HOW SUSTAINABLE CAN PHILLY GET?
  95. USING AFROFUTURISM TO BUILD THE KIND OF WORLD YOU WANT
  96. UNCOVERING PHILLY’S HIDDEN TOXIC DANGERS …
  97. WILL THE ENVIRONMENT DRIVE VOTERS TO THE POLLS? (PART I)
  98. ARE PHILLY SCHOOLS READY FOR CLIMATE CHANGE?
  99. 🎧 SEPTA CREATES A GAS PROBLEM IN NORTH PHILLY
  100. 🎧 BREAKING THE GREEN RETAIL CEILING
  101. That’s Nasty: The Cost of Trash in Philly
  102. 🎧 How Can You Solarize Philly?
  103. 🎧 “The Environment Should Be an Active, Living Experience”
  104. Philly’s Lead Crisis Is Larger Than Flint’s
  105. Despite What You Heard, Black Millennials Do Care About the Environment
  106. Hurricanes Always Hurt Black Folks the Most
  107. Are You Going to Drink That?
  108. The Origins of ecoWURD
  109. We Seriously Need More Black Climate Disaster Films
  110. 🎧 Why Should Philly Care About a Pipeline?
  111. 🎧 Not Just Hotter Days Ahead… Costly Ones Too
  112. Philly’s Big and Dangerous Hot Mess

A Conversation with Li Sumpter

Li Sumpter is an activist specializing in a blend of topics you’d least expect from an activist: mythology, science fiction and “Afrofuturism.” But that’s just because she knows you must imagine the world you want and then create it.

She is the founder of MythMedia Studios, an art and design studio that uses myth and media to tackle “existential concerns through creative resistance and design strategies.”

Sumpter is the  Director of the Escape Artist Initiative  and a professor teaching Curatorial Studies and Afrofuturism at Moore College of Art and Design. She is also  core staff at the North Philly Peace Park.

ecoWURD asked her about her forthcoming book, Philadelphia and the environmental changes she would like to see.

Tell us about Graffiti in Grass.

Graffiti in the Grass is a transmedia project that uses story and symbol to engage communities in the “art of survival” across multiple platforms.

The first of these platforms is a graphic novel by the same name created and written by myself and illustrated by my collaborator, the amazing Ron Ackins. Graffiti is the first project of its kind from my start-up company MythMedia Studios. At MythMedia we build worlds of the Black radical imaginary with luminous, sustainable futures in mind.

So what’s the world of Graffiti in the Grass look like? It begins in a speculative future Philadelphia circa 2029. Philly has been condensed to a grossly overpopulated metropolis surrounded by a vast, dry Wasteland with limited resources to sustain life, let alone society. Cities across the country and around the world are on the brink of collapse. Not only have Earth’s ecosystems been devastated and our civil liberties stripped away, we are also facing an external cosmic event that could bring about humanity’s extinction. Enter Roxi Redmoon aka VORTX. Roxi is a reluctant and rebellious heroine on a mission through the multiverse to find her missing sister, save her friends and family and possibly the planet. I like to consider Graffiti a new urban myth of apocalypse. But, this particular apocalypse myth is ecological and cosmic in nature—one that focuses on the rebirth of the world and the evolution of humanity rather than our imminent destruction.

How did the idea come to you?

Crop Circles. That’s the short answer.

Graffiti in the Grass is a metaphor for crop circles. For those who may be unfamiliar with this amazing phenomenon, crop circles are huge formations mysteriously and masterfully made across farming fields by “unknown artists.” Many believe the anonymous creators of these designs are entities from other worlds or perhaps other dimensions of reality. Formations are often intricately crafted using sacred geometry, spiritual symbolism, cosmic and even binary code.

For a long time I’ve been fascinated by the awe-inspiring art and science behind these coded messages. I love languages, visual lexicons and the art of the alphabet. I think that’s why I’ve always been such a HUGE fan of graffiti and street art. There was something about the perennial, pop-up nature of crop circles in empty fields every summer that reminded me of the way one is unexpectedly confronted with a new graffiti piece or mural on what used to be a blank wall of the city.

I knew I wanted to make a story about an ultimate survivor, an escape artist. Graffiti writers and street artist who use art as public intervention and creative resistance are the perfect archetypal fit for my heroine, Roxi RedMoon, aka VORTX. Once I had the title, the rest of the story started to unfold from there.

Why make Philadelphia the backdrop?

I lived in a lot of places, including Brooklyn for over 10 years. But, Philly is and always will be home to me. When it comes to imagining an epic quest adventure that will lead to a brighter future of my own design, where else would I begin the journey?

“Philadelphia” has actually transcended to an archetypal or mythic place in the world of science and speculative fiction. There are quite a few films shot or theoretically “set” in Philly that are actually some of my favorites of the genres. Most Philly film heads are already hip to the fact that film director M. Night Shamaylan is known for setting his sci-fi thrillers in his hometown. This includes “Signs” , which in a way, brought the crop circle phenomenon into public awareness. That film was actually shot in the outskirts of Philly in Bucks County, I believe. Other  sci-fi/speculative films set in Philly are World War Z and one of my favorites of all time, Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys.’  Last but not least, we can’t forget where Philly’s apocalyptic claim to fame all started—The Bible.

According to Revelation 1:11, “on the Greek island of Patmos, Jesus Christ instructs John of Patmos to: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamum, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

What is it about mythology and afrofuturism that make them effective tools to discuss the environment and  environmental justice?

For millennia, mythology has been a tool for understanding and making sense of our world and the multiple environments we inhabit—from the natural and cosmic worlds to the digital and virtual spaces indigenous to the 21st century. Mythology works so well with shifting consciousness and catalyzing social change because myths are like operating systems of the psyche. A mythology is a network of living, breathing archetypes and symbols. When a culture collectively embraces a given mythology, that myth ultimately becomes reality.

Afrofuturism gives Black and Brown people of the Diaspora the agency to create our own myths and images. These inspiring stories and visions of the Afrofuture aid in our psychological liberation and make fertile ground for new worlds to emerge where the souls of Black folk don’t just survive, but thrive.

I think what’s so powerful about myth is that it offers a framework of belief with the power to catalyze systemic change. When it comes to structural violence and environmental injustice, the solutions we require to really make a difference are those that address inequitable, broken systems. These are systems that have disproportionately impacted the lives Black and Brown people for centuries. Myths, particularly myths of the afrofuture, are essential tools that can bring us out of the darkness and into the light.

What changes would you like to see and how do we get there?

I think what’s weighing heaviest on my mind right now is the fate of planet. Just last week, the Washington Post and other sources reported that the world is on the edge of our own event horizon when it comes to keeping global warming at bay. Scientists claim temperatures are reaching dangerous, unprecedented heights and we have little over a decade to get our act together. We’ll have to really put on the breaks with carbon emissions and seriously slow down waste production if we want to see our planet and life, as we know it, survive. Climate change is fact, not fiction. But still so many are in denial to what Al Gore called the “inconvenient truth” years ago. More than anything, I’d like to see a collective awakening to the dark realities we face as a species, as an ecosystem of countless life forms. So far, humans have found only one viable home out in the infinite cosmos. If we’re not careful, if we don’t wake up to the warnings, we humans are about to be homeless.

Li Sumpter is an activist specializing in a blend of topics you’d least expect from an activist: mythology, science fiction and “Afrofuturism.” But that’s just because she knows you must imagine the world you want and then create it.

She is the founder of MythMedia Studios, an art and design studio that uses myth and media to tackle “existential concerns through creative resistance and design strategies.”

ecoWURD asked her about her new book, Philadelphia and the environmental change she would like to see.

Tell us about Graffiti in Grass.

Graffiti in the Grass is a transmedia project that uses story and symbol to engage communities in the “art of survival” across multiple platforms.

The first of these platforms is a graphic novel by the same name created and written by myself and illustrated by my collaborator, the amazing Ron Ackins. Graffiti is the first project of its kind from my start-up company MythMedia Studios. At MythMedia we build worlds of the Black radical imaginary with luminous, sustainable futures in mind.

So what’s the world of Graffiti in the Grass look like? It begins in a speculative future Philadelphia circa 2029. Philly has been condensed to a grossly overpopulated metropolis surrounded by a vast, dry Wasteland with limited resources to sustain life, let alone society. Cities across the country and around the world are on the brink of collapse. Not only have Earth’s ecosystems been devastated and our civil liberties stripped away, we are also facing an external cosmic event that could bring about humanity’s extinction. Enter Roxi Redmoon aka VORTX. Roxi is a reluctant and rebellious heroine on a mission through the multiverse to find her missing sister, save her friends and family and possibly the planet. I like to consider Graffiti a new urban myth of apocalypse. But, this particular apocalypse myth is ecological and cosmic in nature—one that focuses on the rebirth of the world and the evolution of humanity rather than our imminent destruction.

How did the idea come to you?

Crop Circles. That’s the short answer.

Graffiti in the Grass is a metaphor for crop circles. For those who may be unfamiliar with this amazing phenomenon, crop circles are huge formations mysteriously and masterfully made across farming fields by “unknown artists.” Many believe the anonymous creators of these designs are entities from other worlds or perhaps other dimensions of reality. Formations are often intricately crafted using sacred geometry, spiritual symbolism, cosmic and even binary code.

For a long time I’ve been fascinated by the awe-inspiring art and science behind these coded messages. I love languages, visual lexicons and the art of the alphabet. I think that’s why I’ve always been such a HUGE fan of graffiti and street art. There was something about the perennial, pop-up nature of crop circles in empty fields every summer that reminded me of the way one is unexpectedly confronted with a new graffiti piece or mural on what used to be a blank wall of the city.

I knew I wanted to make a story about an ultimate survivor, an escape artist. Graffiti writers and street artist who use art as public intervention and creative resistance are the perfect archetypal fit for my heroine, Roxi RedMoon, aka VORTX. Once I had the title, the rest of the story started to unfold from there.

Why make Philadelphia the backdrop?

I lived in a lot of places, including Brooklyn for over 10 years. But, Philly is and always will be home to me. When it comes to imagining an epic quest adventure that will lead to a brighter future of my own design, where else would I begin the journey?

“Philadelphia” has actually transcended to an archetypal or mythic place in the world of science and speculative fiction. There are quite a few films shot or theoretically “set” in Philly that are actually some of my favorites of the genres. Most Philly film heads are already hip to the fact that film director M. Night Shamaylan is known for setting his sci-fi thrillers in his hometown. This includes “Signs” , which in a way, brought the crop circle phenomenon into public awareness. That film was actually shot in the outskirts of Philly in Bucks County, I believe. Other  sci-fi/speculative films set in Philly are World War Z and one of my favorites of all time, Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys.’  Last but not least, we can’t forget where Philly’s apocalyptic claim to fame all started—The Bible.

According to Revelation 1:11, “on the Greek island of Patmos, Jesus Christ instructs John of Patmos to: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, and to Smyrna, and to Pergamum, and to Thyatira, and to Sardis, and to Philadelphia, and to Laodicea.”

What is it about mythology and afrofuturism that make them effective tools to discuss the environment and  environmental justice?

For millennia, mythology has been a tool for understanding and making sense of our world and the multiple environments we inhabit—from the natural and cosmic worlds to the digital and virtual spaces indigenous to the 21st century. Mythology works so well with shifting consciousness and catalyzing social change because myths are like operating systems of the psyche. A mythology is a network of living, breathing archetypes and symbols. When a culture collectively embraces a given mythology, that myth ultimately becomes reality.

Afrofuturism gives Black and Brown people of the Diaspora the agency to create our own myths and images. These inspiring stories and visions of the Afrofuture aid in our psychological liberation and make fertile ground for new worlds to emerge where the souls of Black folk don’t just survive, but thrive.

I think what’s so powerful about myth is that it offers a framework of belief with the power to catalyze systemic change. When it comes to structural violence and environmental injustice, the solutions we require to really make a difference are those that address inequitable, broken systems. These are systems that have disproportionately impacted the lives Black and Brown people for centuries. Myths, particularly myths of the afrofuture, are essential tools that can bring us out of the darkness and into the light.

What changes would you like to see and how do we get there?

I think what’s weighing heaviest on my mind right now is the fate of planet. Just last week, the Washington Post and other sources reported that the world is on the edge of our own event horizon when it comes to keeping global warming at bay. Scientists claim temperatures are reaching dangerous, unprecedented heights and we have little over a decade to get our act together. We’ll have to really put on the breaks with carbon emissions and seriously slow down waste production if we want to see our planet and life, as we know it, survive. Climate change is fact, not fiction. But still so many are in denial to what Al Gore called the “inconvenient truth” years ago. More than anything, I’d like to see a collective awakening to the dark realities we face as a species, as an ecosystem of countless life forms. So far, humans have found only one viable home out in the infinite cosmos. If we’re not careful, if we don’t wake up to the warnings, we humans are about to be homeless.