Walking together to heal a neighbourhood

Sometimes, it feels like to only thing one should write about a found article is a huge heart emoji. This is such an article, but alas, a blog post needs to be more than an emoji.

Hunting Park is an 87-acre jewel of public land in the geographic heart of Philadelphia that has served the surrounding Hunting Park neighborhood since the 1850s. It is a refuge for the surrounding Hispanic and Black communities that have been unfairly burdened with the impacts of excessive heat, violence and decades of disinvestment.”

We Walk PHL, founded by Kelli McIntyre and Nicole Seahorn Hameen, in operation since 2017 and through the pandemic, organizes walk leaders to guide groups in Philadelphia’s parks to improve their health, connect with each other, and rediscover public spaces and nature.

Their weekly program attracts over 2,000 participants in 17 different parks across the city. “It focuses on communities with generational and ongoing racially-rooted, place-based trauma, economic violence, intentional disinvestment and environmental racism.” The volunteers are trained by the program administrators and commit to leading one to three walks every week during each of the program’s seasons.

Perhaps the most important part of We Walk PHL is how it helps Black and brown Philadelphians mitigate trauma by connecting to the outdoors. Reconnecting with themselves, each other, and nature helps the collective and community healing in communities that have experienced traumas from centuries of forced agricultural labor, ongoing destruction of Black property, public lynchings, displacement, and the violence associated with excluding Black people from public space. Too often, this has left Black Americans disconnected from nature, stewardship, and the outdoors, and cut off from the associated physical and mental health benefits they can bring. […]

Participants have organized listening sessions on environmental and social justice, being safe in nature, and the value of occupying space, remaining open to new experiences, and establishing new relationships in the community.

Seriously, what’s not to love?

Image: Courtesy We Walk PHL.