Princess Robinson is a self-described city girl who used to avoid getting in the dirt. Then in 2015, she was hired at Urban Tilth, a North Richmond-based network of urban farms and educational programs dedicated to building a more sustainable, healthy, and just local food system. Here, she ran the first cohort of residents to help restore Wildcat Creek.
As Urban Tilth’s Community Engagement Manager, Princess led a program that hires, trains, and employs residents to improve watershed ecosystems while creating healthy safe spaces for outdoor recreation.
“The work of cleaning the creek and replacing invasive plants taught me to appreciate nature,” Princess says. Despite growing up in Richmond, she was unaware of the local watershed. The turning point came while working on various beautifully maintained creek trails throughout the Bay Area. When she went back to her community to work at Wildcat Creek in North Richmond (the only natural area in the city), she noticed that the trail left much to be desired.
Now, her drive to restore the creek and protect the shoreline is rooted in her work at Urban Tilth and the legacy of community activism in North Richmond.
Princess enjoys her work as an environmental steward and is also a community organizer.
Her devotion to keeping Richmond’s watersheds healthy is driven by her appreciation of nature. “Being outside and looking around, I don’t like to see trash,” she says. “It makes me upset even when my kids litter. Knowing that another generation is coming up after me, they can learn to take care of our Mother Earth.”
Princess finds North Richmond’s history of activism special. “I want to keep the legacy of community, resilience, Black Power, and decision-making. I’m not the first person to pick up trash or plant a tree, but it’s part of my ancestry and giving to the legacy.”
She sees the shoreline as something beautiful and at risk of impending climate impacts of flooding within the next 20 years. Her work today is to ensure that the shoreline is resilient to climate change, but she identifies two main obstacles: 1) a lack of implementation funding, and 2) a need to restructure power dynamics so that community members can inspire change.
“Community voices are so important because they’re going to live with the impacts and want to access this resource,” Princess says. “Having the money to invest isn’t enough, [government officials] need to engage with the community to learn and understand what they’ve been through and what they’ve achieved.” She adds, “North Richmond’s environment and decision-making power is vulnerable, but the people aren’t.”
Today, Princess channels her passion for community organizing into her new role at Cooperation Richmond, where she helps open new cooperative businesses for East Bay communities. Though this work differs from environmental stewardship, Princess’s drive for community organizing is at the forefront of her advocacy.
“North Richmond has a rich history of fighting for equity, and anything that happens here, we will get involved.”