March. Divine Feminine. Rebirth. Rejuvenation. Renewal. Ecological Reckoning. Spring forward. New Moon arrived 8:55 pm.
Many of us were inspired by Majora Carter’s palpable testimonial and vision for redefining environmental justice and inequity in her now legendary TED Talk, “Greening the ghetto”, presented in 2006. In her passionate homily, Carter conveys her devastation on returning to her childhood home in the South Bronx, only to discover that city and state agencies had written off the area as a wasteland while stealthily dispatching more sewage plants.
Given the dizzying statistics of Black and Brown families and children that live below poverty levels in this often overlooked New York City borough, Carter also found that their needs remained unaddressed by political and business development interests. Further compromised by poor health, limited access to fresh, whole foods, and longstanding environmental degradation, she quickly realized that only a collective resolve to “dig ourselves out and take homegrown actions,” would reinvent the South Bronx as a more sustainable and economically viable neighborhood. The rest, as we know, launched history-making revitalization solutions and environmentally galvanizing models that now distinguish Carter’s greening vision.
This past weekend, I was excited to take part in a similar coalescing of energies, resources, and organizing, at a planning gathering of the Newark Urban Agricultural Alliance (NUAA), held in the South Ward. The third in anticipated monthly meetings, the Alliance is an eclectic group of independent farmers, gardeners, sustainability educators, advocates and community organizers. The constituency also includes affiliate representation from neighboring schools, the Greater Newark Conservancy and SWAG Project Newark/Planting Seeds of HOPE.
SWAG Project Directors Emilio Panasci and Alex Payne, served as my attendant guides to the youth-based services organization, that I first spent time with last spring. Founded by Rev. Eric Dobson in the early 2000s, Planting Seeds, in its original conception, was always committed to a “healthy lifestyle element.”
Among the racially and culturally diverse coalition of farmers and growers who participate in (NUAA), many offer Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, in which they sell “shares” of their produce to local residents. Increasingly, CSAs are supported by communities across the country, given rising international concerns for GMO and related biologically comprised food growing. Not only does the CSA model allow small growers to make a living—at its best, it also encourages consumers and restaurants at all economic levels, through sliding-scale payment plans, to be involved in the local sourcing of their foods and farm-to-table eating.
The (NUAA) is concerned with issues that many urban-based green alliances prioritize, including, Land Grants and Management, citywide greening conservation, securing vacant residential lots and cultivating relationships with municipal programs, politicians, and business leaders. They are particularly focused on the affordability of organic and locally grown foods for low-income families. Central to their efforts, is dismantling the complexities that surround accepting two federally funded public health and nutrition programs commonly known as SNAP and WIC, which assist the neediest with food-stamps and healthy food purchases.
Even folks who don’t usually support federal programs agree that purchasing locally grown foods brings added-value and benefits to the families and by extension the growers. However, navigating the daunting bureaucratic forms and compliance hurdles remains a dispiriting task for the smaller agri-business owner. Though a tough issue to address, (NUAA) expects to tackle a list of formidable challenges on their journey to sustainable farming and environmental, social justice for Newark.
I look forward to reporting more about the Alliance as we all continue to build community and socially strategic justice. Oh…and grow some good food along the way!
Until the next New Moon, Stay in touch. Stay green. Stay Square. Pamela
National Urban Alliances sites for you to check-out!