Tuesday, August 5, 2014

AAUF Urban Garden Initiative and Academia

In the Social Animal: The Hidden Source of Love, Character and Achievement by David Brooks, the author analyzes popular methods of thought, including the French and British Enlightenment. According to him, thinkers from the French Revolution imagined we are Rational Animals, distinguished from other animals by our power of logic. Marxists and others in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries imagined that we are Material Animals; shaped by the physical conditions of our lives. Furthermore, thinkers in the British Enlightenment depict us as Social Animals and emphasized the power of sentiments and affections to bind people together on subconscious levels. Ultimately, Brooks argues that intellectual history has oscillated between rationalist and romantic periods, wherein rationalist thinkers reduce human behavior to austere mathematical models while intuitive leaders and artists emphasize feeling and imagination during romantic periods. Sometimes imagination grows too luxuriant. Sometimes reason grows too austere.
While Brooks posits the philosophers of the British Enlightenment were correct, I believe we are a combination of all three: logic, material and social. As a result, social change is achieved when reason and empathy lead to persuasion. For instance, recently it was revealed that the lawyer who defended California’s gay marriage ban, Charles Cooper, is now planning his daughter’s same-sex wedding. He admits his views have changed and will be evolving over time. More Americans support legalizing same-sex marriage because of the activist that fought for legal recognition of their human right to express love from a place of personal experience and feeling that was operationalized on a larger scale.
I could expound more on the history of social change movements but I want to focus on what such change means to many activists. It means connecting with individuals and institutions to collaborate on programs, projects and issues that increase parity for disenfranchised populations, including formerly convicted and incarcerated people, youth, the aging, the mentally ill, the poor, women and LGBT. Finding what we have in common with each other leads to community, which lends itself to understanding and empathy. These personal feelings and emotional ties create collective actions that lead to persuasion and outcomes creating massive, popular shifts in thinking. Eventually, such shifts have the potential to change the material circumstances of our lives and create a better world for everyone.
However, before structural change can occur, the basic needs of disenfranchised populations must be met. At the African American United Fund, we believe that in order to create broad-based change, the individual, then the family, then the neighborhood and finally the larger community must be stabilized out of crisis. Basic needs must be addressed before systemic causes of oppression are ameliorated. Our urban gardening initiative adopts this approach by providing resources for the community, including access to fresh produce, recreational space and education.
AAUF and I personally was honored to support Leticia Garcia’s thesis paper which captures the connections between logic, material and social operating at the AAUF and other organizations in North Philadelphia who do work with marginalized populations including those with low income, the formerly incarcerated and senior caregivers by adding to the cannon of research at the nexus of feminist, queer and critical race theories. Marginalized populations are not homogeneous, that is formerly convicted, senior caregivers and low income peoples cross pollinate within distinct movements to reduce barriers to equity.
This research is important because it brings together, in a cohesive manner, the works of other noted scholars that focus on distinct subsets of environmental justice communities, defined by the federal government as, "the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies." This is important within the context of Philadelphia because such communities, including those created/sustained by the African American United Fund, are often marginalized socially, politically and culturally.
The outcomes of my working relationship with Leticia Garcia have been to re-envision methodologies employed by the African American United Fund while staying true to our mission by creating Community Economic Justice along side Environmental Justice programs. Through our EJ programs, we have developed relationships with multi-racial, multi-ethnic, multi-class communities and have found allies across disciplines in municipal planning, urban agriculture, community organizing and food justice/food sovereignty. This cross disciplinary approach has increased the reach of the organization and increased the impact of our work regionally, nationally and internationally by using our garden space as a model and participating in conferences and symposiums that address community control of land use. Additionally, Leticia used ethnographic fieldwork, participant observation, archival research and conducted a symposium in preparation for her thesis. Through such activities, this thesis research has informed and reflected our organization’s work, providing insight into how communities can use food and gardening as organizing tools to break free of Western, paternalist concepts of usefulness and by redefining what work  is and therefore what the value of labor is.

With support and encouragement, Leticia will continue to explore concepts raised in her thesis by finding ways to share the practical knowledge she gained by expanding beyond academia into the public sphere to help others make connections between land use, culture and community.
Read Leticia's research on the AAUF Garden and her full thesis at the link below...

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


African American United Fund: Entering its Fourth Decade of Community Economic Development

DATE: Saturday, February 1, 2014
TIME: 1:00 pm-3:00 pm
SITE: African American United Fund Conference Center 2231 N. Broad Street Philadelphia, PA 19132

Join us at the AAUF Conference Center as we celebrate the efforts of neighborhood organizations, community leaders and academics who work to improve access to local, healthy and culturally appropriate food. Through an interactive panel discussion, we will reflect on food movements and imagine how they might improve in years to come. The forum will also mark 20 years of service of the AAUF’s president, Aissia Richardson, who established a food-producing urban garden in North Central Philadelphia to improve the health and wellbeing of African Americans. Through critical dialogue, we will consider the capacities and limitations of such projects, while carving out new directions for transformation and growth. Join us for refreshments, raffle prizes and lively conversation!

For more information, please contact Leticia Garcia at: leticiabgarcia@gmail.com

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Breathing Life into a Dead Space

For over 31 years, the mission of African American United Fund (AAUF) has been to actively engage Pennsylvania’s African American community to collectively address social, environmental and economic injustices by pooling resources to enhance the quality of life of those most affected by these problems. I created the AAUF African Marketplace Health and Wellness program in 2007 to highlight health disparities in the African American community after my father suffered a stroke and subsequently was diagnosed with heart disease. After my father had his stroke, he was afraid to leave home. He stopped working, stopped teaching, and stopped exercising. All activities he had previously enjoyed. As a work therapy project, I asked him to help coordinate this new program to educate our family and our community about preventable disease and to connect African American men to traditional health care providers. Sadly, my father lost his battle with heart disease in 2008 and died the day before our first healthy food cooking demonstration took place. As a tribute to him, I vowed to provide access to health care for the poor and in minority communities, to present information about how to maintain health and recognize warning signs of preventable diseases and to work with young men by talking with them early about maintaining their health.

 In 2009 I began a community garden on a vacant lot where illegal dumping, prostitution and drug dealing were rampant. After seeing a news clip about gardening at the White House, the Urban Garden Initiative was born and it’s now a meeting space for our community. We’ve hosted film screenings, dance performances, plays, musical productions, farmers markets and an annual health fair. The urban garden is a demonstration model to teach our neighbors how to garden, to grow and distribute produce and to conduct farmers markets with items from small, family owned farms. In addition, the site is used as a job skills training program for adjudicated minors in the Philadelphia Youth Advocate Program and the formerly convicted, in conjunction with X-Offenders for Community Empowerment, as well as other neighborhood re-entry facilities.

In 2010, I started Garden to Plate cooking classes with adjudicated minors which introduced youth to healthy eating options. My personal philosophy is that all men should know how to cook breakfast, lunch and dinner. It’s what I’ve taught my son and what I pass on to youth who regularly eat cheeseburger specials rather than fruits and vegetables. Over 70 young men have graduated from the program. It costs $23,000 to house a prisoner in state facilities. I estimate the gardening and cooking class has saved taxpayers approximately $1,610,000 and only costs $10,000 per year to maintain. The participants raise their grades, get off probation and have marketable skills once they graduate!

If you live in the Philadelphia area and want to start a community garden, the first place to go is the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society Garden Tenders program. With a little bit of work and effective programming you too can breathe life into a dead space!


Wednesday, October 2, 2013

The Green Divide Voter Education Series: Preparing for the New Economy

Press Release
For More Information contact: Aissia Richardson, 215-236-1878 Aissia.Richardson@gmail.com Fall Voter Education Forum The Green Divide Series: Preparing for the New Economy Wednesday, October 23, 6:30 PM to 8:30PM TWU 234, 500 N. 2nd St. REAR Entrance on Noble & N. American St. Philadelphia: On Wednesday, October 23, 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM at Transport Workers Union Local 234 Union Hall 500 N. 2nd Street (parking and entrance in rear on Noble Street & N. American Street) there will be a Voter Education Forum focusing on environmental justice entitled, The Green Divide Series: Preparing for the New Economy. Rob Fleming, Architect, LEED® AP BD&C, Associate Professor and Director, MS in Sustainable Design Program, Philadelphia University will be the keynote speaker. The first 50 to register and attend will be entered into a raffle to receive a signed copy of Rob's new book, Design Education for a Sustainable Future. The evening will also include an update on Greenworks 2013 from Katherine Gajewski, Director of Sustainability, City of Philadelphia. Candidates will also be invited to introduce themselves in preparation for the November 5 Municipal General Election. Offices being contested are JUDGE OF THE SUPERIOR COURT - JUDGE OF THE COURT OF COMMON PLEAS - JUDGE OF THE MUNICIPAL COURT - JUDGE OF THE TRAFFIC COURT - DISTRICT ATTORNEY – CONTROLLER Candidates Invited Giovanni Campbell, Judge of Court of Common Pleas; Timika Lane, Judge of Court of Common Pleas; Sierra Thomas Street, Judge of Court of Common Pleas; Alan Butkovitz, City Controller; Seth Williams, District Attorney (D); Danny Alvarez, District Attorney (R) What is the green divide? What is Sustainability? What is Environmental Justice? Why is this topic important? Sustainability is a growing movement that's not just about recycling and compact florescent light bulbs; it is the future of design, development, agriculture, business, food, tourism, and living. Yet, many organizations that work in low income, communities of color have not integrated sustainability into their programs, projects or policy advocacy. While many institutions are concerned about the eradication of the social safety net, a focus on sustainability is absent from broader discussions about the future of the communities many of us work in. The Green Divide is cultural, economics based and about who has access to what resources both financial and technical. As organizations that provide our constituents with the tools they need to navigate through public and private services, jobs, education and housing, we must educate ourselves as we educate our consumers. Several organizations work collectively to host annual forums focusing on issues and with candidates seeking elective office. They include African American United Fund, DNA Connect, Ethical Humanist Society of Philadelphia, Grands As Parents, Greater Philadelphia Caucus of the I.C.W.A.D., Institute for the Development of African American Youth, Men United for a Better Philadelphia, PhillyEcoCity, The Frator Heru Institute, Uptown Entertainment & Development Corporation, and X-Offenders for Community Empowerment. Please join us on Wednesday, October 23 at 6:30 PM at TWU 234 500 N. 2nd Street, at Spring Garden (ENTRANCE IN REAR on Noble and N. American Street) to learn about sustainability, what the city is doing to promote sustainability, hear from candidates and get educated about the Municipal General Election on November 5. If you don’t vote, you don’t count.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Board Member Profile: Wayne Jacobs

Saturday, March 10, 2012

March 14 Public Meeting re: Fern Rock Transportation Center in North Philadelphia

The Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission is hosting a special public meeting on Wednesday, March 14, 2012 at 6 PM at the African American United Fund Conference Center, 2231 N. Broad Street, Philadelphia. Please join us for dinner, networking, and discussion! This meeting is an opportunity to meet with DVRPC staff, learn about a topic in the regional planning process, and meet with other interested community members.

Gregory Krykewycz, PP, AICP, DVRPC Senior Transportation Planner, will highlight the Commission’s regional transit planning initiatives, including a recently completed plan for the Fern Rock Transportation Center. DVRPC’s Office of Transit, Pedestrian, and Bicycle Planning is engaged in a variety of transit planning work on an ongoing basis, typically pertaining to SEPTA, New Jersey Transit, and/or PATCO service.

The types of work we perform include:
Planning and research studies in support of "best practices" to improve the efficiency of our regional transit network, as well as coordination between states, counties, and transit agencies.

Survey and data support for regional transit carriers to facilitate operational, service, capital, and long-range planning.

Public outreach and engagement activities to support and articulate a long-range vision for our regional transit network.

Feel free to pass this information along to colleagues, constituents, etc. This meeting is open to the public, but RSVP is preferred.

To RSVP, or if you have any questions, please contact Jane Meconi at 215-238-2871 or jmeconi@dvrpc.org.

Please note: there is no cost for this event.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

30th Anniversary Events & Activities in Spring

Monday, February 20

Community Meal for those in need of a free nourishing meal.
Site: 2231 N. Broad St., AAUF Conference Center
Time: 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM

Saturday, March 8
African National Congress 100th Anniversary celebration. Discussion and film on women's contributions to the end of apartheid in South Africa.
Site: 2231 N. Broad St., AAUF Conference Center
Time: 6:00-9:00 PM

Wednesday, March 14
Transit Planning in the Delaware Valley. Hosted by Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission
Site: 2231 N. Broad St., AAUF Conference Center
6:00 PM: Dinner and Networking
6:45 PM: Welcome and Introductions
7:00 PM: Presentation
7:30 PM: Discussion

Saturday, April 14
Community Beauty, Philly Spring Clean Up
Site: North Central Philadelphia
Staging Area: 2231 N. Broad St., AAUF Conference Center
Time: 9:00 AM to 2:00 PM

Tuesday, April 17
Candidates' Night - Voter Education Forum prior to April 24 General Election
Site: 2231 N. Broad St., AAUF Conference Center
Time: 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM