Member Spotlight is a semi-regular editorial series shouting out Generocity members. Learn more about membership at generocity.org/membership.
Generocity members are a fascinating lot. Bright. Articulate. Passionate.
Aja Beech is a good example. She’s an essayist, op-ed and freelance writer whose byline has appeared at WHYY, Broad Street Review, PennLive, Al Día News and Huffington Post, among others. She also writes poetry — which has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for which she was the recipient of a Leeway Foundation Art and Change grant.
But there is a lot more to her than just her writing — as our Q&A with her reveals.
Generocity: Tell us about yourself.
Beech: I am Philly born and raised. My father still lives in the home I grew up in, located in the Olney neighborhood. Growing up, my family talked a lot about social responsibility. We had a lot of different kinds of people in our lives that made for exciting conversations on policy, equity, civics, and the purpose of people leaving this world better than they found it.
After having two sons, both are now teenagers, I returned to college to get my degree. At first, I went to Community College of Philadelphia and then to Temple University, where I got my bachelor’s in history. I think it is important that people in Philadelphia understand what Community College has to offer, some of the most important learning of my life occurred there.
One thing some people may not know about me, I have played music nearly my entire life. I can play a few instruments, including alto saxophone, and can read music. For years I played in bands local to Philadelphia like Sugarsmack Daddy, Black Landlord, The Jealous Type, and The Riveters, to name a few.
Generocity: Where do you work? Is it a nonprofit?
Beech: Much of my work is contracted writing, like communications, press, and grant writing. Currently I work for the national nonprofit organization Winning Play$ as a grant writer.
Winning Play$ is an amazing financial education program that focuses on the cognitive behavioral processes that can impede financial management. Many of these impasses are created in poverty by oppressive systems, but they can also present with people who have not encountered poverty. Stacey Tisdale created the program and also does a monthly series with NYC radio host Angela Yee called Wealth Wednesdays to engage a large and diverse audience in a regular discourse on finance. It is an honor to work with Stacey, who I have known for years now and also consider a wonderful friend.
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I work consulting on political campaigns, as well, primarily in Philadelphia. I currently manage the campaign for Beth Grossman for Judge of the Court of Common Pleas and am the treasurer of Beth Grossman for Judge. I strongly support qualified and dynamic women running for office and do all I can to support those kinds of candidates.
Generocity: Do you have a side hustle that is important to you?
Beech: Overall, my perspective is that: what you do for money is your hustle, what you do because you need to is your passion. I am always a writer, I write even in my dreams.
Generocity: What is your proudest accomplishment?
Beech: Riding a bike. Being born with clubbed feet required having many operations just to be able to walk. Until I was about 6 years old much of my life was spent in and out of hospitals and wheelchairs. During one visit a doctor informed my parents, merely to be realistic, that even after all of the operations, it was unlikely I would ever run or ride a bike. I have been able to do all of those things and I am still an avid cyclist in the city, so please remember to share the road!
Generocity: Is there a cause that is important to you?
Beech: There are so many causes that are very close to me for many reasons. Victims services, disability rights, education (for youth and adults), housing, addiction treatment, prison reform, etc.
Right at this moment though, my biggest passion is bringing back meaningful and reasonable political discourse, particularly here in Philadelphia. This is not this first time in history, but we have all found ourselves inundated with information that we all need to be skeptical about. Supporting great media outlets, holding each other accountable, this all helps encourage that discourse.
I am also on the board of The Trauma Survivors Foundation, and that work is very dear to me. We offer supports for people who have experienced trauma and have the unique ability to offer trauma support to First Responders.
Through my work in restorative justice, I have taken part in many workshops focused on mending relationships between police and communities. Trauma supports that serve the unique needs of First Responders can help entire communities. The Trauma Survivors Foundation is one of the very few national nonprofits to offer these services. They are called in as supports after mass tragedies for officers and civilians as well, including the Pulse night club shooting in Florida.
The Trauma Survivors Foundation is having our annual Black Tie and Sneakers Gala November 16 in Wilmington, DE if anyone is interested in coming out to support.
Generocity: What do you love best about the Philadelphia region?
Beech: Philadelphia is like a small town in a big city.
Generocity: If you had the power to change one thing about the Philadelphia region, what would it be?
Beech: The political landscape. The people here are so dynamic, but the political system is either one dimensional or absurdly polarized. I would love to see more political diversity at City Hall. Having one option in a general election to vote for is a disservice to all of Philadelphia.
Generocity: How long have you been a Generocity member? What made you decide to become one?
Beech: I have been a Generocity member for about a year.
As I mentioned earlier, people need to sift through information to get to something real. There are times throughout history where this has been at greater or lesser issue. At this time, the truth in reporting is at a point of great concern, and Generocity offers one of those spaces for truth.
Supporting news about real workplaces, people making a real and positive impact on our city, and participating in events that inform and challenge Philadelphia to be better, I’m all about that.
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