Jenny Abrams – Live from the GA at Simmons College – August 10, 2012
Old and new faces gathered in front of Simmons College to spark off the ‘field trip’ part of our annual General Assembly. Despite a bit of jet-lag and looming clouds, we headed into the heart of Roxbury, watching how not only the buildings, but also the faces of passers-by changed. We gathered around a welcoming table at ACE, the nonprofit Alternatives for Community & Environment for a scrumptious lunch catered by Haley House.
I quickly learned that this non-profit did not only cater delicious and healthy food, but they do so ‘with purpose and the power of community.’ Haley House, an organization run primarily by volunteers, came out of a need in the inner city for ‘real food’. Director of wholesale and transitional employment, Daniel Cordon, explained to us the various aspects of his organization. They have a live-in community and soup kitchen that hopes to ‘meet people where they are,’ and make sure what they’re putting in their bodies is true nourishment. The organization also provides education and training to aid residents in job placement, resulting in decreased rates of recidivism in the area. The bakery provides affordable, healthy food in this inner city neighborhood, but has also expanded to include catering, and all proceeds go toward the aforementioned projects to expand food access and justice. Consider getting a sweet slice of their pie, or checking them out at www.haleyhouse.org.
Shortly after lunch Dave and Stuart, two community activists and leaders at ACE, gave us an overview of their organization. In a brief discussion on environmental justice, we learned that the number one factor that predicts the location of a waste facility in a city is the location of the highest concentration of African Americans. This puts a whole different spin on the word ‘environmentalism.’
Frank Coughlin, 4th year medical student at BU, stated ‘It’s not just about buying a Prius or recycling your paper. It’s about every human’s right to be free from ecological destruction.’ We quickly set off on a ‘toxic tour’ of Dudley Square where we learned about how ACE’s youth group called REEP, Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project, has been kicking butt and keeping the city of Boston accountable for an incredible amount of environmental INjustice and racism present in the neighborhood.
To site some of their accomplishments, they got the state to place an air monitoring station in Dudley Square, they reclaimed green space in Dudley Square and John Elliot Square, and they launched a movement against diesel pollution, which helped lead to the transformation of the entire MBTA bus fleet off of dirty diesel fuel and shut down the Bartlett Garage, relocating several hundred buses! Now they’re working toward growing healthy, affordable food for their community on vacant lots in Dudley Square.
DGH has always believed that having basic human rights, access to education and a safe environment, and creative expression, is imperative to achieving health. Therefore ACE's work on environmental justice is perfectly aligned with DGH's Mission and Pricinples of Action.
Our time at ACE came to an end all too soon, but inspired us by learning about yet another like-minded organization working toward improving the health of their community. You can learn more about their great work at www.ace-ej.org.
That evening we had an informal welcome dinner for those who had come into town for the General Assembly and for new friends who were interested in learning more about DGH. It was hosted by local friends of DGH. Getting to socialize and exchange ideas and experiences with like-minded people is one of the most important aspects of the DGH General Assembly.
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