This was the third summer that my youth-led community organizing education organization, The New York 2 New Orleans Coalition (NY2NO.org), led trips to post-Katrina New Orleans. This time it was bigger than ever, with 8 groups of 25 young people over July and August. We worked with Our School At Blair Grocery (www.schoolatclairgrocery.blogspot.com) — a recently started community high school that also functions as an urban farm. Among their curriculum is a food justice unit and a Build Our Village Program, which empowers students with the physical and critical thinking skills to design and build their community as they want it.
However, as important as the work we did for the school was, we wanted to do more than just be volunteers who came and worked, and then went back to our lives. The problems that poor communities in New Orleans face — such as lack of housing, unequal public education, bad health care, and few jobs — were all present before Katrina, and were only exacerbated by the storm. What’s more, these problems exist all over the country, especially in our home in NYC. Our organization therefore trains youth organizers who can return and work on issues in their own communities. So along with handling logistics, I also got to spend this summer writing lesson plans and running workshops on organizing and anti-oppression topics.
It is unquestionably the most fulfilling work I’ve ever done. But after three years of packed summers and other trips throughout the year, I luckily now have new young people to run the organization, and I have moved on. However, I am excited to be able to expand this work, starting with 6 Wes students, who will join Pitzer and Brooklyn College students in New Olreans this January.