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NY2NO 2011

After we have returned...

January 28, 2011 - by Erika I can’t tell you in a blog post “what I saw”. I could give you my eyes and my thoughts and my lips and you could understand it but thats impossible so heres an abstract: I learned SO much (understatement of the year). I learned about agricultural and organic sustainability, political infrastructures that do/ do not function properly, I learned that I have the ability to be more of a construction worker than a lady, I to never fear confrontation. I learned about the disturbing racist events that occur TO THIS DAY and conspiracy theories (that are actually facts). New Yorkers dont know New Orleans until they have spent a week in the Lower Ninth Ward. Some burial grounds are still segregated, as well as some gas stations. Some of the buildings make it look like the storm happened yesterday. roofs and doors are still precariously hanging off of blighted houses, and still no one had the decency to take them off? The "Perfect Storm" was just a perfect masking device for the actual intentions of the city councilmen. So, suddenly, millions of working class families lost their homes, not to the storm, but to these citymen. The average drop out grade is 5th grade. Why? There physically ARE NO more grades or schools after that. Farms are being closed day after day due to mechanic farms and pre packaged food in large industries. How can the working class make their living then? only through loopholes in the government. I saw beauty though, in the free range farms with a single fence around the whole property and nothing keeping the animals contained besides that. Just dwelling together eating as they please. I saw beauty in the family on 10 acres of land being put to use for the GOOD of the community. I saw beauty in each other, on quiet nights and loud nights, through discussions and reflections. I saw beauty in things I hated, that these things could be transformed, if they could accept what was missing and rid themselves of what was replacing. Most importantly, New Orleans made me ask questions, as well as providing me with answers to bring back home. The trip didnt end after our flight landed back in LaGuardia- it really only began then. There is still so much work to do, but it begins here, in our own area codes, before we can head back to Louisiana again.

Photos from NY2NO

January 18, 2011 - by Yana Kusayeva How to Compost sign
How to Compost sign at the OSBG farm

Janae inside a green house

Erika setting a post

sorting carrots
Students sorting carrots

Youth Organizing in New Orleans

January 06, 2011 - by Janae

“If you give me a fish, you have fed me for a day. If you teach me how to fish, you have fed me until the rivers are contaminated or the shorelines are seized for development. But if you teach me how to organize, then whatever the problem, I can join together with my peers and we can fashion our own solution.”

Some of the most challenging work I have done came from collaborations with my peers. We are young, fiery and ready to try different things. However, the work we are trying to do while simultaneously learning about ourselves can be difficult to balance. Yesterday’s debrief was definitely very powerful for me, and I am hoping it was powerful for the rest of the participants, as well. This debrief was designed to explore two essential questions:

1) What does your ideal community look like?

2) Why can’t we have that?

We documented everyone’s answers on a poster board and then asked for everyone to go around and explain why we cannot have the ideal community we seek; only we asked that people used “I” statements. For example, we used the prompt “We cannot have our ideal community because I….” It was powerful for me because I was both nervous and excited to see how the workshop would turn out. As an organizer, one of my main goals when designing workshops is to make connections for the students who participate and work towards authentic self-reflections. This workshop definitely conquered those goals because it promoted natural discussions related to self-reflection. I feel like right now, the Adelphi students are open to learning about the connections between growing food and youth empowerment, and I am excited to continue to construct more meaningful debriefs that produce more youth organizers who are dedicated to promoting positive change. I feel like we are definitely making a difference, and I am super excited for the partnerships with Adelphi University students and the projects going on at Our School at Blair Grocery for many years to come!"

First Impressions

January 05, 2011 - by Shannon From the minute I left the airport in New Orleans and journeyed to the Lower Ninth Ward, I felt like a little kid on Christmas. I had so much built up anticipation for what was to come! When I traveled through the Lower Ninth Ward, everything I had heard about it just hit me. Reality sunk in, the life of the city seemed upside down with blighted and boarded houses on every block, empty lots of property, and scant amounts of people on the streets. Once I arrived at the Our School at Blair Grocery, I felt hope. Yet, I was definitely out of my comfort zone of home and had no idea what I was about to experience on this trip. I unloaded my bags and walked through the gates, feeling like this place was filled with many opportunities, and immediately saw all the hard work that was put into it. There were man-made hoop houses, hand-made signs, and groups of kids moving compost. I already felt like I was a part of a movement and became empowered to just be a part of this project. This is a project that provides education to the kids of the Lower Ninth Ward, a project that is growing a farm for sustainable living and healthy good food for the community - two important things that can create social justice and become a further inspiration to this community. I'm working together with this organization and community to make positive change in this community. This runs through my head each day I'm here. It's something I will take home with me; to be the change I want to see in my community.

My Sprout Experience

January 05, 2011 - by Reaz

As the glare from the rays of sun shined in my face, my eyes suddenly opened and I looked up. I ran past the rest of the group scrambling for cereal on the table, to the bathroom to get ready for the day's proceedings. I glanced at my clock and realized it was only 7:00 a.m, thinking to myself that if I was home I would have never been up this early. We then went out into the yard to begin the day's work. We started by trimming sprouts of herbs like arugala, cilantro and different types of mustard. We basically gave these sprouts a 'haircut' by holding the plants and cutting them a little after the leaf with some stem. This really put into perspective the fact that there are millions of people who live this lifestyle around the world. The fact that vegatables, fruit, and spices are actually picked by people somewhere in the world as we are engrossed in our blackberry's and iPads often escapes our minds, especially for us who are coming from a city like New York. It took me back to a quote that began the movie "Fresh" from a farmer, "Americans fear one thing: convenience." If anything, this experience so far has helped me understand what goes into not only a farm, but a community at large. There are political, economic and environmental factors that all impact society in one way or another and play a crucial role in the model of sustainable development.

After about two hours of dedicating myself to sprout harvesting, we then threw all the soil from the used trays into a huge compost pile. The compost pile was later used to refill trays in order to provide adequate soil for other plants. Like communities, farms are dependent on different aspects of team work. The next activity during the day was certainly the most exciting. Along with Corey - a dedicated AmeriCorps volunteer who is doing amazing work in the New Orleans area, we went to local restaurants to sell our products. He brought a list of restaurants with which he works to distribute and sell these herbs and vegetables. All proceeds go to the school where we are staying, Our School at Blair Grocery (OSBG.) This is a major source of revenue for them. These goods are locally grown, which cuts the shipping costs for these restaurants dramatically. It was nice to see that upscale, five star restaurants in this area are dedicated to giving back to the community, as well as supporting a worthwhile cause.

Visiting The Gotreaux Family Farm

January 04, 2011 - by Porsha On Monday, January 3rd we took a trip to the Gotreaux Family Farm, which is outsise of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It was 3 hours away, but my experience at the Gotreaux Family Farm, which is one of the partners of Our School at Blair Grocery, was a memorable one. The owner of the farm, Brian, is the only farmer in Louisiana who raises tilapia fish. He ensured us that his fish are raised without antibiotics, chemicals and hormones, which benefits us and our ecosystem. I loved how he told us that farming was a lifestyle for him and his family, not just a check in check out job. Farming for Brian is not just about money, it's about giving back to his community and having his community know what they are eating and where the food comes from. Brian also raises catfish, goats, chickens, and cows, and grows a garden. This trip was an amazing experience. Definitely out of my normal comfort zone and I loved it. ;)

Queen Afi's in Hammond, Louisiana

January 03, 2011 - by Janae

Today, our group went to Hammond, Louisiana, which is located about an hour away from the city of New Orleans.We were set to work with Queen Afi, or Sunflower, as she likes to be called if the sun is out, on her 10 acres of land. The school we work with mainly in New Orleans developed a partnership with Afi so that they could grow new crops on her immense area of land. Throughout the summer, Afi hosted over 300 students from across the country, along with our main partner - Our School at Blair Grocery, hoping to develop Afi's land into an urban garden and cultural learning and healing center.

Afi's land was given to her by her father, a native of Hammond who was a sharecropper of the same land. She tells the story of her acquiring the land as part of the 40 acres and a mule promised to hundreds of thousands of African-Americans post-slavery. Interestingly enough, her land has once been a place for young people to come and foster spiritual and artistic growth. She has a long fence between her sacred land and the highway, which was painted by her and students from a local high school in vibrant native tribal shapes and colors in order to decrease the number of accidents. We were all working on this fence creating an extension of the original fence-line so that Afi would feel more comfortable with other groups who will be coming down in the future to continue planting and growing and seeking out both the vision of OSBG and Queen Afi.

Some refer to Afi as a spiritual healer, some as a strong pillar of African poise and pride. I had met her once before when there was an initial interest in partnering with her last spring. And even after all of this time and only one meeting, she still managed to remember my name. Afi is a burst of positive vibes and constantly sends out wonderful signs of love. She can read your spirit and will often tell you things about yourself that are very distinct to your character. She can do this because she has a unique ability to connect with people on a spiritual level and explain the the connection with one's soul and how it correlates with one's body. I enjoyed spending time on her land and working with my group in such a historic place. I couldn't stay long enough to engulf myself in all of the great oral stories Afi gives of her homeland Dominica, and I am sincerely hoping that we will have one more day to work with her and to further the vision of this spiritually enlightening place.

About the Authors

NY2NO 2011 is written by
Janae Cummings
Shannon Kern
Porsha Tomer
Yana Kusayeva
Erika Heinmann

The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author(s). The contents of this page have not been reviewed or approved by Adelphi University. The copyright and all related rights to original work posted via the blog service are owned by and are the sole responsibility of its author(s).


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