Growing up in the Bronx, Alexie Torres-Fleming watched her borough burn. As a little girl perched on the ledge of her ninth floor window in the Bronx River Public Housing Projects, she witnessed the fires that led to the devastation of the South Bronx in the late-1960s and 1970s. Although she was too young to understand things like ‘Planned Shrinkage,’ ‘Urban Renewal,’ ‘Divestment,’ and ‘White Flight,’ she knew that it was a frightening and tumultuous time for her and all of the children of the South Bronx. When later urban planning initiatives sought to transform the rubble of her neighborhood, Alexie grew determined to see that local residents had a role in the rebuilding process.
Alexie Torres-Fleming herself became a grassroots organizer with her involvement with the Williamsburg activist group, El Puente. She founded Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice (YMPJ) in 1994 with the mission to rebuild the Bronx River neighborhoods of the South Bronx by preparing young people to become prophetic voices for peace and justice.
Faith has been a central component of YMPJ’s work. The desire to promote justice and healthy community growth is at the core of the successful projects that have added parks, provided access to the Bronx River, and cleaned-up brownfields – and the legacy is a community that understands its own power.
A nationally and internationally sought after speaker, Alexie has received numerous awards throughout her career, including the 2008 Rockefeller Foundation’s Jane Jacobs Medal for New Ideas and Activism, the Caritas Medal from the Vincentian Society for her service to the poor, and the “Servant of Peace” medal from the Permanent Observer Mission of the Vatican to the United Nations. In January of 2009 Alexie was named one of “50 Visionaries Changing Our World” by the Utne Reader. In addition to founding Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice, she is the co-founder of the Bronx River Alliance and the Southern Bronx River Watershed Alliance. Alexie continues her public speaking and writing while also serving as Executive Director of Access Strategies Fund, a philanthropic foundation that harnesses the collective power of underserved communities to use the democratic process to improve their lives. She is a New Voices Fellow for Sojourners in Washington, DC and a 2014 Loeb Fellow at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design.