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Building sustainable communities one summer at a time

Building sustainable communities one summer at a time

Published: September 27, 2017
Photo: AFSC / Cfreedom Photography
Photo: AFSC / Cfreedom Photography

Peace by Piece New Orleans (PxP) is planting new seeds, literally and figuratively. We work in both the Hollygrove and Desire neighborhoods in New Orleans to promote healthy and whole communities by training youth leaders to provide mentorship and education in urban agriculture and organizing around the systemic distribution of resources and economic justice. Summer camps are a conventional way for programs to provide enrichment activities for neighborhood youth. Peace by Piece is no exception. In summer 2017 the program ran three camps, two of which were run in partnership with a local church and community center. This summer marked a new beginning for PxP and its Sustainable Communities Program in Hollygrove.

Peace by Piece hosted its second youth camp in Hollygrove at St. Peter AME Church where four garden beds were built on the church property. Fifteen youth from the neighborhood attended camp this year planting cucumbers, watermelon, corn, okra, parsley and oregano. A few goals for the summer included: 1) helping Hollygrove youth to understand and realize the vision of a sustainable community; 2) developing the leadership of youth and young adults in Hollygrove; and 3) encouraging youth to understand and seek to change the social factors impacting their lives and community.

In 2015, we built a backyard garden on Eagle street in Hollygrove, a traditional New Orleans neighborhood full of life and blight. The garden grew mustard greens, lettuce, melons okra and herbs like dill, and mint. The program hosted three garden giveaways during summer 2016. Once our inaugural summer camp concluded, we were unable to remain on the garden property. Thanks to lots of love and attention from neighbors, PxP persevered and currently works with the city and St. Peter to continue urban gardening down the block from our original Eagle Street location. PxP has built two additional gardens in the community and continues to use these spaces as tools of engagement with the neighborhood’s youngest residents as well as its eldest elders.

The summer programs use a Sustainable Communities Curriculum, created by program associate Tabitha Mustafa, that helps young people explore forms of oppression, different types of economic systems and practices in sustainability. Participants interact with the garden space participating in community building, learning the city and neighborhood histories, and discussions from slavery to the Black Lives Matter Movement.

The program uses academic and interactive learning, the principles of Kwanzaa and popular education methods to positively impact the lives of Hollygrove residents. In addition to all of the learning, there are talent shows, cyphers, field trips, laughter and an overall uplifting and affirming environment that fosters Black joy.

- Dee Dee Green
NOLA Area Program Director