Ear to the ground

This post is from Little Rock Summer of Solutions!

One of my personal sheroes, the 97-year-old Detroit activist Grace Lee Boggs, talks often about the importance of keeping an “ear to the ground, ” or understanding deeply the evolution and current struggles of the community within which one is working.  But staying grounded and aware can be difficult, especially as a Summer of Solutions program coordinator responsible for logistical planning that leaves me with less time than I would like to be out directly engaging with community members and surveying the social/physical/economic/political environment.

Several recent occurrences have been jolting reminders of the importance of remaining grounded.  One realization was thanks to a friend who came to our April 27th garden work day and imparted some of her knowledge of Permaculture design.  She was helping us to build a lasagna bed, which basically incorporates layers of green material (nitrogen-rich) and brown material (carbon-rich) over a layer of weed block (pictures below!).  I was lamenting the fact that we hadn’t bought mulch or synthetic weed block, but she said, “what do you mean? It’s all around us for free!”  She sent a team down the alley behind the garden and they returned with wheelbarrows full of fallen leaves, which made excellent mulch.  We raided recycle bins nearby for discarded newspaper and snipped overgrown bushes and vines in an empty lot next door for green material.  The world is brimming with ample and free resources, if only we can open our eyes and our minds enough to SEE! Continue reading

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Race and class in Little Rock

Outreach team at work!

Outreach team at work!

Though the Little Rock team has not done any specific anti-oppression work yet, issues of race and class have begun to surface.  In particular, our plans for community events and fundraisers have sparked some interesting conversations.  After our March meeting, a few folks stuck around to talk informally.  One participant posed a question regarding an upcoming door knocking session: how will the majority Black, low-income community where we work respond to the diversity of our group? Several people told vivid and fresh stories illustrating a lack of acceptance for racial mixing from both white and Black people in our community. Little Rock, like the rest of the South (and the rest of the U.S., for that matter), has not found its way to racial healing or equity despite incessant talk about our role in the civil rights era with the Little Rock Nine, Daisy Bates, the Freedom Riders, etc.

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Getting better all the time…

Mosquitos and sweaty brows characterized Little Rock Summer of Solution’s first large group meeting on a recent and unseasonably warm 75-degree January day.  Despite the discomfort, our team showed their dedication and energy through active participation, which bodes well for our ability to make great things happen in what promises to be a hot and challenging summer ahead.

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Our gears quicken their pace every week.  After our January meeting, we organized working groups for outreach and fundraising. We have begun prepping our garden and starting seeds in the greenhouse at a nearby urban farm.  Donations of all kinds have started rolling in– a printer, a bucket of heirloom seed packets, $$$$, time/labor from volunteers, and a zine rack all in the past few weeks.

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Making connections in Little Rock

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Free stuff seems to be a pretty foolproof way to capture the attention of college students during finals week.  While some students passed our table with the sullen, unseeing eyes of preoccupation and sleep deprivation, many were lured in by our sirens song of “summer jobs here!” and tote bag giveaways.  Harmony, Caitlin, and I were at Hendrix College for a few hours of tabling in mid-December to build our email list, get the word out about SoS, and advertise for our latest job opening.

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