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Thursday, July 29, 2010

New York 2 New Orleans Group 6

This week the New York 2 New Orleans Coalition ( began a 12 day service learning trip hosted by Our School at Blair Grocery. Young people from New York began their 6th trip out of 10 this summer to learn about just food systems, sustainable community development, and an effective way to approach global challenges on a local level.

Starting with an environmental justice/levee tour on the first day, students are introduced to challenges New Orleans residents face, ranging from environmental degradation, racial and economic inequality, to food accessibility.

Students are also introduced to the concept of upstream problem solving, and how to identify the different factoring issues that create a challenge. During the tour students are challenged to differentiate effective solutions to problems, and ineffective solutions , such as the difference between a food system that is locally based versus a system reliant on transportation across the country.

Progressing through the week the group participated in several workshops led by New York 2 New Orleans organizers and Our School at Blair Grocery staff.

Sprouts workshop!

Cory Ashby teaching a food justice workshop.

During the workshop with Cory, students explored the question "how can we do justice by growing food?" Students discussed the many ways food justice work intersects with work around sustainability, community development, food security and youth empowerment. Students discussed the power of food justice work as a means for "doing justice" in the most holistic sense of the phrase - young people and adults working together to tackle multiple, intersecting issues, building a larger movement and the resource rich safe spaces to support it.

As the end of the week approaches, NY2NO and OSBG will work on applying problems and solutions discussed in New Orleans to New York, and start to think about what a sustainable New York City can look like in all aspects of the word!

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Learning and Growing with Escuela Tlatelolco

Last week Our School at Blair Grocery had the pleasure of hosting an amazing group of students and teachers from Denver's Escuela Tlatelolco, a free school developed by Rudolpho Corky Gonzalez and others from the Chicano/Mexicano movement based on the concept that providing students with a foundation of cultural pride and self-esteem, these young people could obtain an education that would help them go on to become successful adults who would benefit the community in return.

As we do with most groups, the first day of their stay began with Our Levee Tour, exploring the compounding challenges facing residents in both pre- and post- Katrina New Orleans, throughout the gulf coast, and thier relationships to the rest of the country - starting at the place where, following Katrina, a barge came the Lower 9th Ward Levee (below).

Understanding the interconnectedness, of global problems, and developing ways to consider upstream problem solving is always an important take-away from the tour that we discuss when asking ourselves and each other, "what destroyed the bayou?" (below)

Students and teachers together participated in workshops facilitated by OSBG staff and interns, and NY2NO youth organizers. Participants learned about the challenges New Orleans, and particularly the Lower 9th Ward faces to food security, the devestating social and ecological impacts of the BP oil spill on the gulf coast region, and explored the power of youth to make change through urban farming and sustainable community development.

One day of thier visit was spent learning about an supporting the further development of our regional partnerships in Tangipahoa Parish. We all put in a lot of hard work, and made a lot of progress towards preparing the land for fall planting!!!

When we weren't putting in hard work, or engaging in deep and critical learning, we were learning from each other. We shared stories, ate food together, drummed, danced, celebrated life and culture, and built trust and solidarity.

"I shed tears of anguish
As I see my children disappear
Behind the shroud of mediocrity
Never to look back to remember me.
I am Joaquin.
I must fight and win
this struggle for my sons,
and they must know from me
Who I am."
From: "I am Joaquin/Yo soy Joaquin" by Rodolfo Corky Gonzales, 1928 - 2005

Monday, July 12, 2010

Local, Regional, and National networking

The past couple months at OSBG have been extremely productive! So far, since May 20, more than 200 YCCA and NY2NO college and high school students from around the country have continued to work with OSBG and rotate between the Lower 9th Ward, Hammond and Tangipahoa in the north, and Houma and Dulac in southern Louisiana. Collectively, we have been working to develop a regional cooperative of farmers, so that residents of these various communities can begin eating healthy, organic, locally grown food. Ultimately seizing control of their own food system.

In the 9th Ward, volunteers have been working closely with our students at OSBG to further develop the various sites of our growing urban farm. They have also run a number of educational workshops to raise consciousness about food justice, environmental justice, social justice, and the deeply rooted connections between these various forms of oppression.

Our students have also begun to develop an outreach plan in order to involve more residents of the community in the various components of our project.

In Tangipahoa, volunteers have been working with local farmer Wayne to build chicken coops, grow vegetables, herd cattle, and have all but finished constructing the volunteer cottage. We are also now beginning to develop an outreach plan for the village of Tangipahoa to start involving more and more local young people in the farm.

Hammond is also coming along quickly. Queen Afi, or Sunflower, has shared her unique energy with our groups. Instilling with them a strong sense of spirituality, passion, and a newfound connection to the environment around us.

In exchange, we are helping her transform her now empty acres of land into vegetable and herb gardens, as well as reconstructing her stage so that she can hold community events on a regular basis.