Friends of Trees stands with our Black colleagues, partners, and community members

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together. -Lilla Watson

Friends,

Friends of Trees is incensed and stands in solidarity with the Black community. We add our voice to the many groups and institutions this week calling for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Aubrey, and too many others.

It is undisputed that Black, Indigenous, and all people of color bear a disproportionate impact of racial injustice and its deadly consequences. Environmental justice is among these systemic inequalities. FOT acknowledges that the Black community is more impacted by respiratory illnesses due to poor air quality making them more vulnerable. At Friends of Trees, we believe the benefits of trees should be experienced by everyone: clean air, clean water, and healthy communities are human rights. We heartily commit to listening to community needs as we work for an environmentally just future where Black folks can breathe freely.

Just as trees are connected via their root systems and intertwine underground with fungi to exchange nutrients, carbon, and water in order to survive and thrive, so too are our human communities connected. When white supremacy and police brutality affect some, it is a blight on us all. Just like a tree community’s root systems, the onus is on those with resources to combat the disease.

Friends of Trees is responding to the call for action and encourages you to join. Each and every one of us can use our voices to support the Black community. We urge you to get involved.

Onward,

Whitney Dorer, Interim Executive Director

Phoebe Krueger, Board Chair

Environmentalists For Black Lives Matter image by @greengirlleah

Partnering with Community Benefit Organizations to plant trees + grow community

“CBO partnerships are especially important for an environmental organization like Friends of Trees because they help us effectively reach low income communities and communities of color, communities that are impacted first and the most by climate change.” -Surabhi Mahajan, Friends of Trees’ Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Specialist

Trees + community is so much more than volunteers planting trees together. True community means that a diverse population has access to all of the benefits of trees, especially historically underserved communities of color. And in order to reach diverse communities we need a diverse range of partnerships.

Friends of Trees is fortunate to enjoy some amazing partnerships, and some particularly amazing partnerships are with Community Benefit Organizations (CBOs). CBOs are community-based nonprofit organizations, are often culturally specific, and provide some sort of community benefit. An example in Portland is Verde, which among other services provides workforce training for the Latinx community.

Friends of Trees’ CBO partners include Verde, Wisdom of the EldersBlack Parent Initiative, the Blueprint Foundation, APANO, and POIC. Most of these organizations are partners in our Urban Forestry Training Program*, which helps connect adults to jobs in the Urban Forestry field (learn more about this program here). Beyond this joint endeavor our CBO partnerships take a few forms:

Verde and Wisdom of the Elders each support our tree planting work through planting event preparation, participation, and follow-up, including post-planting tree care. Verde also provides some contractor services at our Portland office on NE MLK Jr. Blvd (get to know more about Wisdom in the next story).

Black Parent Initiative is a community-based organization that serves Black families or families with Black children through home care visits, economic job opportunities, and other services. The FOT-BPI partnership supports connecting Black families in Portland to nature and to tree planting events, as well as connecting to job training programs in the urban forestry and restoration sector.

The Grounding Waters program of the Blueprint Foundation exposes Black urban youth to careers in environmental science, and paid workforce training with Friends of Trees is part of the program. Grounding Water youth train and participate in planting events as Crew Leaders; Grounding Waters youth will also train and participate as Summer Inspectors, checking on the health of trees planted through our Neighborhood Trees Program, which will provide additional learning opportunities. * Note: The Blueprint Foundation is not a current partner in the Urban Forestry Training program, but is considering the program.

Our partnership with the Asian Pacific American Network of Oregon (APANO) focuses on the Jade Greening Projectwhich is working to increase the canopy of East Portland’s Jade District. Friends of Trees’ involvement includes tree-planting events and targeted community outreach toward getting more trees planted and volunteers engaged. A new feature of this partnership includes our first intern from APANO, whose focus has been supporting planting events through securing food donations from diverse neighborhood businesses and joining the planting teams.

Our partnership with Rosemary Anderson High School’s Portland Opportunity Industrialization Center (POIC) involves hands-on job training and leadership skill-building with high school students. Each season 10-14 POIC students train to be Crew Leaders and they participate in planning and leading Friends of Trees planting events; the students receive stipends as part of this program. Read more about this partnership in our December 2016 edition of Treemail.

Our CBO partnerships provide countless benefits, to both Friends of Trees and to our community. When youth are able to experience leadership positions, and when diverse communities have access to training that leads to internships and jobs with green organizations, preconceived barriers about green jobs and environmental engagement start to break down. Further, the youth interns can serve as role models for other youth volunteers, particularly for young people of color who can be inspired when someone who looks like them has a leadership role.

These partnerships also have an environmental justice aspect. Many of our partners and interns serve or live in under-canopied areas that experience greater impacts from climate change, such as heat islands. Involvement with community tree planting provides a way for participants to address some environmental inequities firsthand.

Equitable partnerships represent a core value of Friends of Trees and are critical to true community building, and we strive toward fostering this type of partnership in the work we do. We are thankful to the support of the City of Portland’s Bureau of Environmental Services and East Multnomah Soil and Water Conservation District for support that helps make these partnerships possible.

Pictured above: Urban Forestry Training Program participants from project partners POIC, APANO, Wisdom of the Elders, Verde, the Black Parent Initiative, and the Pathways to Farming program.

This story is from the January 2020 edition of our e-news, Treemail; check out other issues of Treemail here.