A busy third week in Little Rock

By: Ashley Burton
Location: Little Rock
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This week has been very exciting for the Little Rock Summer of Solutions team! We started off the week with maintaining our garden and creating plans for achieving our goals! Through learning about ourselves through character tests we also gained the opportunity to better understand our team.

Tuesday we began another day of gardening, greeting community members, and furthering our entrepreneurship training! During this time, our team members Rebecca and Darryl furthered their weatherizing skills at Pulaski Tech. They passed their final test too and gained a wonderful certificate!

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Mind mapping for social entrepreneurship

By Merrill Schmidt
Location: Little Rock, Arkansas

We just finished the second week of Little Rock Summer of Solutions, and there’s a lot going on! We’ve been gardening, attending trainings, planning our summer projects, cooking community meals, and connecting with different organizations. Even though launch week is over, we’re still learning lots of new information—how to weatherize a house, how to lead a cooking class, how to start a business. In order to prepare for the rest of summer, we formed committees for planning specific programs, such as garden management and community dinners.

So far, I’ve particularly enjoyed our entrepreneurship workshops with Matt Hampton of Elevate Entrepreneurship Systems. Through weekly workshops, Matt is helping us develop social enterprises. Last week we learned about business modeling. Matt explained that there are four fundamentals of business: human resources, marketing, operations, and finances. First we practiced business modeling using Starbucks as an example. We mapped out how Starbucks carefully manages its operations, human resources, and marketing to create a cool coffeehouse environment. With its trendy vibe, Starbucks is able to sell $5 cups of coffee and bring in revenue.Image

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Environmental justice is a right, not a choice!

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Written by Katherine Dennis, a Nashville native and the Little Rock SoS Garden Manager!

This past week has been our orientation & training week for the Little Rock Summer of Solutions team. We have gone through a myriad of trainings including community organizing, conflict resolution, and social entrepreneurship.

One of the most meaningful trainings in which we participated was focused around environmental justice. I have studied this topic academically, and I understand what it generally means: how the environmental and people interact, and is it just. That is a really naive definition, and so I googled it to find out a little more about what it means. According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, Environmental justice is “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, sex, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” Okay, this is another academic definition, and I’m going to try and break it down a bit. Are people being treated fairly, regardless of their income, race, etc., in terms of the development and policies that are affecting them? I can think of national examples: The Exxon oil spill in Mayflower, AR on March 29, 2013 that killed flora and fauna. Another example are the oil operations in Niger that have spilled oil slowly over the past twenty years, thus, destroying their precious ecosystems. I understand environmental justice on the global scale, but how does it affect singular neighborhoods in the US?

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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

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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