Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Grassroots and Grass Roots

Today was comprised of site visits. 
A Map of Philadelphia Public Transportation 

We began our morning with a visit to the Village of Arts and Humanities. The Village of Arts and Humanities is community resource serving a poor neighborhood in North Philadelphia. It is a non-profit organization comprised of several art parks, and based around providing art programming to children in the area. It was founded by an artist, Lily Yeh over 30 years ago and has been expanding its presence in the neighborhood ever since. The Village and its art parks provide a safe learning environment for kids who are deprived of that elsewhere in their lives, as well as academic support and enrichment. Our guest speaker from the Village, Jonah, is in charge of the community garden there which features chickens, composting, beekeeping, and a vegetable patch. The garden's primary role is educational. In the garden, kids learn about healthy eating habits and agricultural practices. 
Part of the vegetable garden at the Village of Arts and Humanities

One of my favorite things about the Village of Arts and Humanities is its intersectional approach to Social Justice. When the Village needs to build something new or make repairs, it is deliberate about hiring inside the community, such as people of the neighborhood who have arrest records or served time in prison. This is important because most people who have been convicted of a crime have very limited job options after their release from prison. The institutionalized lack of employment opportunity is a major cause of recidivism, because no one will hire someone with a criminal record. The Village is different because it tries to alleviate this problem and teach people trades that will help them go on to earn a living. 

After a lunch of pizza at South Philadelphia High School, we visited the immigrant-rights organization Juntos. We heard from members of the organization who are undocumented youth activists. I was awed by their incredible courage and commitment to justice. Juntos works to change the system through political activism; marches, rallies, petitions, and community support. A lot of undocumented immigrants are susceptible to intimidation because they don't know their rights and Juntos works to educate people about this.  The constant fear of deportation is something that no one should have to deal with. As Juntos says, Immigrant Rights are Human Rights. 

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