Currently — March 8th, 2023

What you need to know, currently.

In honor of Women’s History Month, Currently is spotlighting the women and femmes who are—and continue to be—the backbone of the environmental and climate justice movement and pioneered the work to protect communities.

“We’ve already lost too many trees, houses and people…your community – you owe something to it. I didn’t care to run.” — Hattie Carthan

Hattie Carthan was a community activist and environmentalist who radically changed her Brooklyn, New York community of Bedford-Stuyvesant. And it all started with a seed.

Though she moved to a tree-lined block in Brooklyn in 1953, by 1964, only three trees were left. First, she started planting trees on her own. Intent on regreening her neighborhood, Carthan founded the Bedford-Stuyvesant Beautification Committee, in 1966. She sent postcards to everyone on her block and formed the T&T Vernon Avenue Block Association, which threw block parties to raise money to buy and plant trees. With over 100 block associations, they planted over 1,500 trees along the city’s sidewalks.

In 1975, Carthan was recognized by Parks Commissioner Edwin L. Weisl Jr. for her service to the city of New York.

Carthan died on April 22, 1984, in Bedford-Stuyvesant. Her legacy stretches far beyond the city and its now lush sidewalks. She established herself as one of the first Black community ecology activists, and her work started a whole new kind of environmental justice movement.

In 1985, a vacant lot was transformed into a community garden. In 1998, it was renamed the Hattie Carthan Garden to honor Carthan’s work. In 2009, the garden expanded to become the Hattie Carthan Community Garden Farm.

The Hattie Carthan Garden Youth Corps is a grassroots Black-led organization that works to carve out food justice within low-income communities through gardening, food education, and livestock, providing young people with the opportunity and knowledge to see the ways in which food production affects their local communities, particularly the “fresh food deserts” within them.

Similarly, the Hattie Carthan Community Farmer’s Market centers rural and BIPOC farmers to sell what they’ve grown.

—Aarohi Sheth

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