EarthFest lures social justice activists to Clark Park

EarthFest at Clark Park promoted green initiatives to encourage residents to become self-sufficient.

Bands, poets, clothing designers and activists stormed Clark Park as the Uhuru Solidarity Movement kicked off the park’s flea market in honor of Earth Day.

Marketing Coordinator Kristy Schneider, a 2008 Temple alumna, said the USM started EarthFest to promote its African Village Survival Initiative. The initiative is to encourage people to be self-efficient with resources that are normally imported from Africa.

“African people need their resources back,” Schneider said. “You can’t have a green world until you have social justice in the world. This is the movement that sums up how the world really is.”

The market was the park’s first EarthFest, and it included performances, workshops and more. The USM has sponsored monthly Clark Park flea markets for the last five years, running them from spring to fall.

The I worked alongside the USM by hosting a booth that addressed resource issues in the United States.

Organization leader Wali Rahman, also known as Diop Olugbala, said the InPDUM fights for the democratic rights for the city’s African-American communities.

“The conditions in the African community have to change,” Rahman said. “The high rates of poverty, police violence and the degrading school system can only change if we organize.”

Rahman was arrested and charged with assault on March 20 after a fight broke out between police and protesters before Mayor Michael Nutter’s budget speech. The frenzy erupted after a civil affairs sergeant attempted to take Rahman’s protest sign.

At EarthFest, Rahman said Nutter only offered a “War Budget” that spends too much money on police and prisons.

Temple student Amber Tran helps children make handmade puppets at an arts and crafts table at Clark Park. (Roman Krivitsky/TTN)

“We strongly believe in community control,” he said. “We should have the ability to hire and fire the police in our community. We should have the ability hire and fire city officials who function in the African community.”

Local musician Djo Fortunato played in four bands at EarthFest, including the samba percussion group Unidos da Filadelfia.

“I’m more than confident that I’m ready,” Fortunado said, minutes before taking the stage. “I’ve always wanted to play in one of the festivals here, and this year, all four of my bands said ‘yes.’”

Sophomore environmental studies and Spanish major Elliot Swauger was the sound technician for speakers and artists when they took the stage.

“My interest in political action began in high school when my friends brought me to the culture of change,” he said.

Swauger became a volunteer for the USM after visiting the Uhuru furniture store located at 1220 Spruce St.

The store is a nonprofit organization run by the movement’s members. It raises money for the African People’s Education and Defense Fund and recruits volunteers for other projects.

Swauger spent hours working for the movement before EarthFest. The next Clark Park flea market will be May 16.

“Philadelphia is a place where there is a need for environmental action,” he said. “Here, it’s easy to get involved.”

Ian Romano can be reached at

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