Wow. What a year.
2016 proved to be a watershed year for Kheprw Institute. While there are many things I could focus on from our growing relationships with a variety of institutions, organizations and community all working to improve the quality of lives of people, I’d like to highlight 3 programming initiatives for 2016: the Community Controlled Food Initiative, Critical Conversations and Youth Leadership Development.
Community Controlled Food Initiative
The Community Controlled Food Initiative (CCFI) was launched January 2016 when KI, residents and other community voices came together to address the challenges of healthy food access in our community. Every month CCFI provides fresh produce (primarily from local farmers) and cooking demonstrations at our center.
Since June, which was our first food share, we’ve grown to 40 families/members. Each month members pool their resources to purchase at wholesale prices. Members pay $25 per month (only $12 if they have SNAP/EBT). More details and online ordering can be found at food.kheprw.org
CCFI was born out of the closing of a local grocery store chain that served a predominantly inner-city, African American population. The closing led to 4 critical conversations about food access, food security, food systems and food, race and power.
In additional to local farmers we have purchased food from community-based urban gardeners. A major goal of CCFI, in addition to providing quality food, is to provide economic opportunity for residents.
This past year KI also moved our Urban Ag Science Lab, composting and our aquaponics operation to a lot in the Northwest Neighborhood where members of our leadership live. This site also provides land to support Tysha Ahmad a Northwest neighbor who is a farmer participating in Purdue’s Urban Farm Incubator. One of the lessons learned from working with the farm incubator is the importance of access to healthy land for food production.
We’re entering 6th year of collaboration with Duos Kitchen, where we pick up their food waste each week. Additionally they hosted one of our youth as an intern to learn about the culinary profession.
One of our goals for 2017 is to support food production on five additional lots in the Northwest Neighborhood to demonstrate the viability of food production on vacant lots in a decentralized food system.
Another one of our visions is to grow the initiative to be able to employ a project coordinator for CCFI and our other urban farm initiatives. We’ve also partnered with Purdue Extension to offer nutrition classes starting in January 2017.
Over the years, KI has created a safe place for a diverse community (race, class, gender, activist, neighbors, academics, etc.) to gather and have discussions on sensitive and controversial subjects. In 2016 these included environmental justice, police/community relations, education, mass transit and gentrification.
One of our long-term partners in this is IUPUI Urban Education Studies Doctoral Program. Each month we have held a book study discussion with them and community covering titles such as: The Next American Revolution by Grace Lee Boggs, An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins and Collective Courage by Jessica Gordon Nembhard.
These discussions have served as community centered spaces for self and collective education. In addition to the book discussions, this collaboration has led to several community conversations about public education; the role of community in education; and race, class and gender in schools.
Last but not least was our 8-month series, Gentrify: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly, held in partnership with Spirit & Place Festival. With more than 400 participants city-wide, this series provided a variety of voices: community activists, city officials, development professionals and residents a space to dig in deeper on the complex issue of gentrification and its impact on community.
Each month, we Skyped in one or more speakers from around the country to provide a national context to the discussion and share efforts happening in other cities. These included Dr. David Stovall professor of Africana Studies at the University of Chicago Illinois, Alexis Stephens with PolicyLink and Mildred Beltre and Oasa DuVerney of the Brooklyn Hi-Art Machine.
Visit gentrify.kheprw.org for the full list of discussions, speakers, resources and local news articles about the series.
One of the outcomes has been more public discourse around the city on gentrification. Additionally, a group of residents who participated in the series plans to continue meeting monthly to discuss, plan and implement strategies to support a people-centered approach to economic development. KI will assist them to develop a ground up approach to development as as an alternative to top-down.
Starting in Jan 2017 we are launching a second series with Spirit & Place with an emphasis on Equity. Please join us as we continue to provide safe space for important and critical conversations. Learn more about the new series at equity.kheprw.org.
Youth Leadership Development
As always Kheprw Institute’s fundamental focus is on developing strong youth leadership. This is accomplished through the lens of critical thinking, peer-to-peer mentorship and intergenerational teamwork. It is our view that true sustainability comes from youth leaders who are engaged in addressing community issues.
A close examination of our programs will show how this particular approach is threaded through all aspects of our work. In 2016, our gentrification and transit critical conversations were examples of youth leading, facilitating and speaking publicly about research they had done.
In our food initiatives, they continue to lead and support our composting collaboration with Duos Kitchen (where we pick up food waste each week) and maintain and develop our aquaponics and urban farm. They developed, led and taught our eSTEAM camps, conducting sessions on robotics, video game programming and urban agriculture.
Our youth leadership development is accomplished through three programs: youth interns, young adults and Urban 4-H Club participants.
Youth interns range in age from middle-school to college. They lead, teach and develop curriculum for our eSTEAM Summer camps and operate KI’s Makerspace. They also participate in KI’s enterprises: KI NuMedia, KI’s Urban Farm and Express Yourself Rain Barrels.
Young adults range in age roughly from 20 to 30 years old. Their leadership skills are being developed by being leaders and managers of many of our programs and enterprises including: Community Controlled Food Initiative, KI NuMedia and Express Yourself Rain Barrels.
Finally KI hosts a Purdue Extension Urban 4-H Club. This program provides a space for non-intern students to engage with community, skill building opportunities and our youth leadership team. They range from elementary to high school age and attend after-school, weekend and summer programs focused on coding, robotics, 3D printing, videography and urban agriculture.
In addition, all of our programs have an inter-generational component where senior citizens (age 50-82) serve in a hands-on support role with young people in all of these activities.
Looking Forward to 2017
While Kheprw Institute was involved in many important projects and collaborations not mentioned above, we feel that these three projects best demonstrate the capacity of community to come together, discuss challenges and take action with people as the primary resource.
We look forward to your continued support and welcome the opportunity to collaborate with you on these projects and/or your own community initiatives.
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