|Posted by ny2no on January 15, 2010 at 8:50 AM||comments (0)|
Today, Nat Turner, teacher at Our School at Blair Grocery took our BC/Wes/Pitzer group, representatives from National Youth Leadership Council and others on a field trip!
So we went down to Tangipahoa, aparish with about 2,000 residents [about a quarter of whom came from New Orleans after Katrina], a parish with a 40% poverty rate and a median incomefor a family of three at 17,000. We went there and saw acres of land. That is what I would’ve said if I had driven past it. But today we saw and learned allthat the parish of Tangipahoa could be. What we saw out there on the great stretches of land that had thepotential to link the urban farm to the rural and vice versa. A place to expandthe work we’re doing and in doing so build with so many more people. Monday I probablywouldn’t have believe the words I’m typing , but currently , I know it’ll happen. Nat Turner and the Mayor of Tangipahoa, Michael D. Jackson (former NFL player) showed us the possibilities of using 40 acres of land to work towards food sovereignty in the rural town and in the Lower Ninth Ward. That would mean complete community control over good healthy food (production and distribution). The connection between Tangipahoa and the Lower Ninth would be not only built through a farm on that land but also would provide jobs for more then 300 young people as well as working towards rural and urban youth empowerment through service learning project together. Our School at Blair Grocery is making many partnerships with different organizations, restaurants and schools in Louisiana and after seeing Turner's vision. I believe that this is possible. OSBG is attacking inequality from all fronts: education, employment, food, housing and health this is a model that we hope to bring home to our own communities.
Then we went down to TREE [Teaching Responsible Earth Education] and learned of new ways to learn about the earth and understand how important our involvement in it actually is. The change theearth undergoes has everything to do with us, and it is when we understand that, that we realize we have to take steps in creating a better world.This organization uses alternative education and experiential leanring to teach 5th and 7th graders about responsible energy consumption through awesome and engaging activities. I wish I had gone to a school like that! OSBG is partnering with them and plans to take young people from the L9W and Tangipahoa on field trips in order to learn and grow together.
And partnerships are important inall of this. You can’t make changes alone and if you try, there’s a good chanceyou’ll burn out. This is a fear a few of us here have. We’re here now andcurrently being surrounded by other students interested in organizing hashelped us stay focused. But Saturday we leave, and then what? It’s so easy togo back home and forget about the problems addressed in our stay here. That’s the luxury so many people have and I think it’s one of the primary reasons change isn’tmade. Because the problems are so easy to ignore back home, even while thosevery same problems are a real possibility anywhere. The Lower Ninth Ward is notin the state it’s in now simply because of a really bad hurricane and really weak levee. It’s because the residents were ignored.
|Posted by ny2no on January 13, 2010 at 7:08 PM||comments (0)|
Our book list has grown quickly, and our second installment is full and ready for viewing:
"Interpreter of Maladies" - Jhumpa Lahiri
* Great anthology of short stories.
"The Yarabian Building" - Asya Al-Aswany
* A great look into the eyes of modern Egypt.
"Orientalism" - Edward Said
* Just read it if you have the slightest interest in the Middle East!
"The Respectful Prostitute" - Jean-Paul Satre
"Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" - Robert Pirsig
* Mind-blowing philosophy, societal interpretations
"Things Fall Apart" - Chinua Achebe
"Mountains Beyond Mountains" - Tracy Kidder
"Song of Solomon" - Toni Morrison
* Speaks of the importance of your roots! self-love!
"Under the Feet of Jesus" - farm works in Cali. Awesome book!
|Posted by ny2no on January 13, 2010 at 9:41 AM||comments (1)|
We here at the alum blog decided that it would be great for ourselves to create a group booklist of interesting and relevant reading material. So, we've all been writing down some of our favorite books on a piece of paper taped to the wall, and we thought it would be fun to share what we've come up with. Each book is followed by a short descripion for your enlightenment (when available). So without further ado, here is the first page:
"The Little Prince" - Antoine de St.-Exupry
* Beautiful things can be said simply.
"Cloud Atlas" - David Mitchell
* Relates to the future of our world & the power of the individual in the grand scheme of things.
* Fictional novel, but beautifully written.
"A Raisin in the Sun" - Hansberry
* Play about a Black family in NYC in the 1950's!!!
"Earth Democracy" - Vandana Shiva
* A book about justice, sustainability, and peace through embracing our connection with the Earth.
"Zeitoun" - David Eggars
* A story surrounding a man who went missing in Katrina.
"End Game" by Derrick Jensen
* Culture of Make Believe
"The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay" - Michael Chabon
* Must-read if you're a Brooklynite! Best. Book. Ever.
"The House of Spirits" - Isabel Allende
* Family, history, and culture - can I say more?
"Brief Interviews with Hideous Men" - David Foster Wallace
* A look at gender relations through fictional interviews, along with other short stories about life
|Posted by ny2no on January 11, 2010 at 11:58 PM||comments (0)|
After two nights of sleeping in uncharacteristically freezing cold weather, New Orleans finally warmed up today. Turner returned to Blair Grocery early this morning and we embarked on a tour of the levee on the NY2NO school bus. The tour was long, lasting from 10AM to 4PM, and although we were tired and hungry, I think we all left with a surplus of food for thought (Apologies for the terrible pun).
We began our tour at the levee in the Lower Ninth Ward. Turner gave us a historical background of the events leading up to Katrina that impacted the level of relief efforts with each neighborhood. As we toured various locations in and surrounding the Lower Ninth, including the bayou and the Mississippi River, we learned of the inequalities that local residents were predisposed to. We were able to see firsthand the roles that race and socioeconomic status play in shaping the surrounding landscapes of each neighborhood. Residents of the Lower Ninth have grown accustomed to the heavy pollution surrounding their homes, a factor that has come to affect their health and well-being. They were hit hardest by Katrina, due to a levee that was not well built, and compared to wealthier neighborhoods surrounding the Lower Ninth, efforts to rebuild the neighborhood have been sparse. After learning about the aftermath of Katrina, we were able to see why residents of the Lower Ninth would be disenheartened by the government, as they were clearly neglected as a neighborhood in terms of relief efforts and government support.
We wrapped up our tour with a visit to a Save-A-Lot store, an experience pertaining to our food justice project. Over the past week, we have been grocery shopping at different supermarkets in order to compare the availability of healthy foods to neighborhoods of different socioeconomic backgrounds. We found that, while it may appear on the surface that customers of Save-A-Lot stores are saving money, they are sacrificing the health of their families in the long term. Many of the foods sold at Save-A-Lot contain additives and saturated fats and are low in nutritional value. In addition, many residents of the Lower Ninth Ward do not possess the transportation necessary to reach larger supermarkets that offer fresh produce and meat.
After returning the Blair Grocery, we briefly discussed what exactly is going on in this community. Some of the issues we identified were the lack of faith with authorities, an unhealthy living environment, and inadequate educational resources. Later on, after dinner, we continued our discussion, branching off into an intense discussion on race, and the role that it can play in community organizing, especially in a community of a different demographic than your own. We shared our personal experiences with our racial identities, and discussed what being white or a person of color meant in our society. We spoke about stereotypes and discrimination, and what society expected from us according to our ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds. We debated the role that Blair Grocery plays in the Lower Ninth Ward, whether it is truly integrated into this community, and what changes can be made to meet its goals. This may be one of our most personal discussions to date.
I can honestly say that we, as a group, have grown a lot closer over the past few days. We are all "displaced peoples" in terms of space and time -- an observation that was made during a previous debrief. We came to Blair Grocery as guests, and for many of us, the tour of the levee exposed us to issues that we have never previously encountered. Our discussions during debrief have become a safe space for people to share their opinions and spread their knowledge and personal experiences with others. Personally, the intensity and weight of the things we have seen over the past few days have left me questioning the values that I previously held. Our discussions have caused me to rethink my personal identity and my role in my community and beyond. Seeing the extreme conditions that Lower Ninth residents live under and the state of race relations in New Orleans have left me wondering whether I should be jaded or optomistic that change is possible. I am glad I am surrounded by a community of intelligent and compassionate people to help me make sense of my thoughts. There is still so much work to be done and so much more to be seen, and I'm eager to see what the rest of this week has in store for us.
|Posted by ny2no on January 10, 2010 at 11:18 PM||comments (0)|
Before I begin, excuse the poor grammar, the mixed-up typing, and the stream-of-consciousness. It's late, I'm tired, forgive me.
Today was Day 2, but it feels like Day 1,000. Lots of work got done today, and new jobs were created within our group. We fed the chickens, washed the dishes, added to the compost pile, cooked a delicious taco dinner (both beans & beef), cleaned up Our School for Turner's return tonight, walked the goats so they could graze across the street, shopped for our food at Magnolia and Winn Dixie, walked the dogs - Buddie and Diamond, and finally wrote this blog entry.
Everyone here is an amazing person. This entire organization began because a few kids wanted to do something positive, and instead of letting the real world stop them, they just got it done. Hardbody. Every kid/young adult I've spoken to on this trip has been brilliant and incredibly aware. I've never seen so much motivation or been so inspired. The craziest part is that we're doing this all on our own. I never realized that I am actually capable of getting done the changes I want to see made. This confidence and self-reliance is something completely new and amazing, and the trip has been worthwhile just for that reason alone. Within literally 10 minutes of arriving, we insulated our own sleeping quarters. We weren't really taught, we just kinda did it. And that's possible. I knew nothing about soil and farming, but I've spent the last two days sorting soil because I now know that in order to grow the best fruits and veggies and herbs, you need healthy soil, which is soil that is free of rocks and logs and garbage. And free of shoes. The seashells are okay, though, because they add calcium when they break down. We're learning skills, we're learning knowledge, we're learning about ourselves, we're learning about the world, we're learning about society, and we're doing it on our own. We are doing it only with the help and guidance of the peers in our community, and we are all filling that role for each other.
We were also instantly able to form a community. These people all genuinely believe in themselves, me, and the work we're doing. Some of the deepest and most open conversations of my life have been with people I've known for 48 hours, and that's okay. I trust them. We're in this together, "for all humanity."
We're capable of making complex decisions as a group without leaders (reppin' the Consensus Method here); the previously-blogged mission sentence was the result of about 45 minutes of group discussion and tweaking. It may take time, but the energy, enthusiasm and results are beautiful. Without anyone explaining what needs to be done, we found the tasks that will keep the school running, and we organized ourselves to get them done. This all goes back to my new-found independence, but it's just so mind-blowing that I can't get away from the idea. I'm incredibly disoriented and questioning lots of things about myself and my world, because the way we see the world is almost never the way it really is. I'm slowly learning how much I don't know, and for the first time I'm accepting that. Everyone here is conversing about some really heavy topics and meaning what they say, being open to opinions and honestly exploring the answers. At the same time, no one is a afraid to kick back and have fun. We're genuinely enjoying the work we're doing because we believe in it. This is not about an ideology and it's not about rebellion or revolt. It's about us learning to be more caring, more aware, more independent, and more productive human beings. That is not something most people work toward on a daily basis. I'm honestly amazed here.
I'm beginning to learn what it means to be humble as well. Humble isn't "oh wow, these houses are destroyed; how poor and unluckly these locals are." Humble is not about being thankful for what you have - that's important, but it's not humble. I've been truly humbled by realizing that I'm not the lucky one - I'm selfish, I'm ignorant, I'm easily confused, I'm hesitant, I'm prejudiced, I make excuses, I'm not exceedingly brilliant, I'm not actually aware of the world around me, and I'm not wholly the person I should be. I'm extremely, blatantly flawed. But we all are in some way or another. I've been humbled into acknowledging and accepting that. These people I'm with all share some of these faults, but almost all of them see it, accept it, and work to change it. My prideful/arrogant nature just got sucker-punched by Our School @ Blair Grocery and my compadres on the NY2NO brigade. This isn't about us. This isn't really about farms, or houses, or even community organizing. This is about reaching out to people who could benefit from our priviledges, and it's about reliquishing our priviledge to help those people, these people down here in the Ninth Ward, and it's about doing it because we are people and they are people and that's all that matters. It's not about helping; it's about helping people. All the rest is just tools and consequence.
|Posted by ny2no on January 1, 2010 at 5:54 PM||comments (0)|
Mission Statement:Were here to engage in and build on a model of urban farming and community organizing that can combat systemic and internal opression both here and at home for all humanity.
NY2NO first college brigade compised of 24 students from Wesleyan University, Pitzer College, and Brooklyn College came together to create the mission statment above. On our first day, we began to prepare the school new gardening lot by raking and applying new soil on the plot. Another group of students work on composting, others feed the chickens, goats and dogs. Following the activities we watched "Trouble the Water", a documentary comprised of actual footage of the Hurricane which evokes emotions that further expands our perspective on Hurricane Katrina and the community of the Lowe 9th Ward as a whole. The day concluded with our first debrief meeting.