2015 Tribute to Change: Environmental Justice

The 2015 Tribute to Change was held on October 1 at the National Museum of American Jewish History. This year we honored environmental justice activists–remarkable people who are taking bold and transformative action for the environment in ways that also challenge racism and economic injustice.

The 2015 Tribute to Change Honorees were:
Iris Brown & Tomasita Romero, Paul Robeson Lifetime Achievement Award
Amy Laura Cahn, Trailblazer Award
Mitch Chanin, Emerging Leader Award
Earth Quaker Action Team, Community Empowerment Award
Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition, Community Empowerment Award

About the 2015 Tribute to Change Honorees

Iris Brown and Tomasita Romero

Paul Robeson Lifetime Achievement Award
This award is given to an individual who has made an outstanding contribution to social change recently, or throughout his or her lifetime.

Lifelong activists Iris Brown and Tomasita Romero founded Grupo Motivos, a collective of Puerto Rican women that worked with West Kensington residents in the 1980s to establish the Norris Square gardens. These women reclaimed blighted vacant land in their neighborhood that had been utilized as an open drug market and created beautiful community gardens that are treasured by neighborhood residents. Now part of Norris Square Neighborhood Project, the gardens showcase Puerto Rican culture, provide communal gathering spaces, and create service and recreational opportunities for local youth. Community members cook meals in the outdoor kitchen, host neighborhood events, and grow vegetables, traditional herbs, and flowers in the gardens. After decades of organizing their community, Iris and Tomasita continue to envision new ways to celebrate Puerto Rican culture through horticulture.

Amy Laura Cahn

Trailblazer Award
This award is given to an outstanding leader in community organizing who has helped to pave the way for others.

Amy Laura Cahn is a staff attorney at the Public Interest Law Center, where she works primarily on environmental justice. Through a 2011 Skadden Fellowship, Amy Laura launched the Garden Justice Legal Initiative, which uses law and organizing to support Philadelphia community gardens and farms. Since 2012 Amy Laura has also worked with the Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition to ensure residents a meaningful and equitable voice in the future of their environmentally vulnerable neighborhood. A graduate of University of Pennsylvania Law School and Hunter College, Amy Laura currently serves as an appointed member to the Philadelphia Mayor’s Food Policy Advisory Council and on the boards of the Neighborhood Gardens Trust and Bread & Roses Community Fund.

Mitch Chanin

Emerging Leader Award
This award is given to an individual who is beginning to make their mark as a community organizer.

Mitch Chanin serves on the steering committee of 350 Philly, an organization that fights for the solutions to the climate crisis that science and justice demand. Born and raised in Northeast Philadelphia, Mitch has worked with a wide variety of social justice organizations as a volunteer and a paid organizer for 19 years, and in recent years has been focusing on the environmental justice movement. He has helped mobilize hundreds of Philadelphians to attend the People’s Climate March; has called on elected officials to protect the public from the threat of oil train explosions here in Philadelphia; has worked on campaigns to convince public sector pension funds and local foundations to divest from fossil fuel companies; and is building alliances between environmental, labor, and community organizations in the Philadelphia region.

Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT)

Community Empowerment Award
This award is given to a community organization, union or campaign that has accomplished a great deal for change, not charity.

Earth Quaker Action Team (EQAT) is a grassroots, nonviolent social action group that joins millions of people around the world fighting for a just and sustainable economy. EQAT was founded by Quakers but is inclusive of people of all faiths or no faith. After five years of escalating direct actions, EQAT recently succeeded in convincing the executives of PNC Bank to divest from mountaintop removal coal mining. Now EQAT is challenging energy corporations, starting with PECO, to create jobs and benefit low-income communities of color by shifting to locally generated solar rooftop power for electricity.

Eastwick Friends and Neighbors Coalition

Community Empowerment Award
This award is given to a community organization, union or campaign that has accomplished a great deal for change, not charity.

Community empowerment defines what Eastwick Friends & Neighbors Coalition (EFNC) has achieved in its first three years. EFNC is a grassroots coalition of Eastwick residents and stakeholders whose mission is to improve the quality of life for residents of Eastwick, ensure optimal environmental and ecological quality for Eastwick, and increase Eastwick’s economic growth and vitality. Eastwick residents endure chronic flooding and pollution from nearby oil refineries, the international airport, and I-95. EFNC has mobilized the Eastwick community to assert itself in calling for current and historical environmental injustices to be addressed and in demanding that residents be given an active role in shaping the future of the community.

2015 Tribute to Change Sponsors


Connie & Terry Dellmuth
Resource Generation, Philadelphia Chapter


William & Debbie Becker
Amy Laura Cahn & Natalie Costa
Steve & Barbara Gold
Andy Lamas & Ginny Vanderslice
Walden Asset Management


Lee Alter
Lis & Stuart Bass
Brian T. Baxter & Ilene W. Shane
Patrick & Jessica Cahn
William & Anne Ewing
Molly Frantz
Mary Goldman
David W. Haas
Leeway Foundation
Sara Nerken
Liz Werthan and Bob Brand


Rebecca Alpert & Christine Balka
Richard and Mary Ann Baron
Gene Bishop & Andrew Stone
Julie Bradburd & Brad Bradburd
Marty Brigham & Harriet Rubenstein
Jolley Christman
Casey Cook & Shauna Swartz
Joan Kathleen Davitt
Gloria Gilman & Joshua Rubinsky
Alison Hastings
Jenny Anne & Galen Horst-Martz
JJ Tiziou Photography
Jennifer Jordan & Rose White
Henry Nicholas
Catherine Ormerod
Philadelphia FIGHT
The Phoebus Fund
Leah Pillsbury
Irit Reinheimer
Susan Schewel
Tswana Sewell
Denise Scott Brown Venturi & Robert Venturi
Ken & Judy Weinstein


Irv Ackelsberg & Pat Urevick
AFSCME District Council 47
J. Bob Alotta, Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice
Judith Bernstein-Baker
Drick Boyd
Amadee Braxton
John Braxton & Marcy Morgan
Denise Brown
Judy Buchanan & Jim Parker
Canopy Consulting, Inc.
Harvey & Jan Chanin
Clean Air Council
Sherrie Cohen
Ann de Forest & Joseph Farrell
Joan Duckenfield
Helen & Leonard Evelev
Jill Feldstein
Harvey Finkle
Karen & Stuart Gansky
Patrice Green
Nadia Hewka
Jean Hunt
Johnny Irizarry
Itinerant Ink
Andrea Jacobs
Sara Jacobson
Mytili Jagannathan
Maura Kelly
George Lakey
Scott & Nan Langen Steketee
Joyce Lieberman
Jonathan Lipman
Rufus & Verita Lynch
Jerry Macdonald & David Acosta
Carolyn McCoy & Bill Sanderson
Nisha Nayak
Ezra Nepon
Erika Owens
Mariana and Marcela Pardes
Farrah Parkes
John & Bonnie Raines
Fabricio & Emily Rodriguez
Mary Catherine Roper
Rosalind Spigel, MSOD
JoAnn Seaver & William Van Stone
Special Vacations
Jonathan & Judith Stein
Rebecca Subar
Joel & Audrey Swartz
Therapy Center of Philadelphia
DJ Thornton
Charles Thrall & Sally Simmons
Elizabeth Thul
Walter Tsou
Emily Wyner


2015 Tribute to Change Planning Committee

David Acosta
Lis Bass
Amadee Braxton
Nelson Carrasquillo
Gloria Gilman
John Grant
Jean Hunt
Sara Jacobson
Mia-lia Kiernan
Tswana Sewell

Click here to see details from other past Tribute to Change events.