Little Village, Little Village Environmental Justice Organization, Chicago discussed on Reset with Jenn White

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Pritzker Trabert Foundation. It's a ten million dollar grant competition aimed at investing in the economic future of some Chicago. Neighborhoods the winner will be announced the spring. So we're checking in with each of the finalists to hear about their work and visions for their communities. Another one of those finalists is with us. Today it's called Economic Equity and opportunity via a little village community hub. It's led by Kim Wasserman executive director of Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and Bill Slicer CEO of the Delta Institute. Kim I gotta ask. How does it feel to be one of the finalists? I think it's been Anna's to be quite honest with you We've spent a lot of years as an organization as a community fighting for our rights and fighting for our environment and being told by the city that what we want is unattainable or is unreal and soda end up. Being finalised. Ten Million Dollar Prize is kind of awkward meeting. I'll just add. It's like how many rolls of duct tape. Can we buy ten million dollars because that's usually what we do and having this many Zeros to work with really allows us to think a completely different ways when you're thinking about community revitalization right and Kim and bill tell us briefly about your respective organizations Little Village Environmental Justice Organization and Delta Institute How do you currently serve the community? Sure we are celebrating our twenty fifth year as an organization within the little village community. A really fighting for environmental justice and fighting against environmental racism so some of our work includes Helping to shut down the two CO powerplants in Chicago having the redevelopment of the largest Brownfield into a park in the United States at the park but also very much fighting not just for environmental justice but economic justice in every type of justice. You can imagine for our neighborhood. Bill and Delta Institute was founded in one thousand nine hundred and we work across the Midwest to create thriving communities. And we do that. Through a variety of ways and partnerships like little village is one of those premier ways that we do that really getting on the ground with the communities and figuring out solutions that both improve the environment and the economy and can let's hear about the proposal. Give us a broad picture of what economic equity and opportunity via little village community hub. Absolutely so you know. The reality is for a very long time communities like ours on the southwest side have been sold out to the notion of Cheap labor jobs Right now we're battling target warehouse coming into our neighborhood and we're being told that we're ideal for the warehouse jobs for the truck driving jobs and really outside of that. There is no robust conversation around. Not just what is our neighborhood good at but we recognize the problems that we have and we know how to fix them. The reality is in our neighborhood. Sixty percent of our community has some experience in agriculture. And so we very much want to put our people to work in the work that they know. How did you that they feel Respected that they feel that they are appreciated and can do very well. So this hub really looks at three very prominent things. Our food system in little village our energy system in little village and culture. And how do those three things play into each other to not just advocate for our community and organizing but also to show a just transition? How do we transition away from these? Very extractive economies from these very extractive practices in our neighborhood. And how do we grow an economy that is inclusive to everybody? Those who were not born here those who don't have papers to be here those who don't speak English. How do we ensure that the city of Chicago in little village has a space for everybody? And not just those who can afford to live there so this project really not just understand the connection between environmental justice economic justice but really looks at the root of gentrification what happens when you beautify your neighborhood to the point that it's no longer accessible to your own people and so really what we want to talk about. Is We want to stay a space for low income communities of color like little village but we want to do so where people can grow and thrive and stay in the city. And you mentioned extractive practices. Can you explain what you mean by that? Extractive practices aren't just demolishing mother Earth for oil or fossil fuels. It's also the extract and extraction of Labor from our bodies particularly as Brown and black people in the city of Chicago. And how do we have a voice to an economy that actually lifts us up and it includes us as part of it in dozen? Just use US for sweat tears. Our lungs are health. I'm at the end of it. We walk away with no health insurance. We walk away without any protections and we walk away barely surviving on the economies of these jobs provide now the location for the community hub would be twenty three fifty eight. South whipple This is at the intersection of West Twenty Fourth Street. It's currently a former Chicago. Fire Department Engine House which. I find interesting Bill why choose this location? So this location was chosen after we looked at two hundred sixty four different sites throughout the entire neighborhood and mapped every single one with little village and the community and we looked at both the assets of the community and where things could be revitalizing redeveloped in in the way and the location of this site with the bones of this building made it a perfect Spot for being able to build this whole hub within this facility in part of this hub includes a commercial kitchen interesting absolutely one of the amazing things about little villages equally as I mentioned sixty percent of our neighborhood having a background in agriculture over sixty percent of street based food vendors in Chicago. Come from Little Village Lincoln Park or Morgan Park. Most likely one in six people is coming from little village. We want but the problem is. We don't have any commercial kitchens currently in our neighborhood right so we really want. That's a flagrancy right there right like how do we support communities on the Ground Street based Economy So this allows us the ability to have folks store. Their street carts fixer. She cards create food products for the SRI cards it. The basement of the fire station also allows for massive indoor growing so folks are looking at mushroom and small Greens that they could potentially grow their Equally so the little village community has a very strong workforce development program around solar that our organization has been working on Regretting our third cohort of solar graduates. This coming year which we're very excited about. And so that would also be a space where folks can learn how to make train. Build around solar workforce development and then lastly The peace ties it all together which is culture right. How are the power all of these things part of our culture in little village and strengthening our culture within little villages? Well well let's talk a little bit about the culture of little village. You know. Break down the demographics for us. And and who this hub would serve absolutely so little village is primarily Mexican Mexican American immigrant community And the reality is is that we are losing social services on a regular basis. There isn't very many spaces not just for young people but particularly for preteens all the way through young adults Unfortunately most of our boys and girls clubs don't serve young people after the fifteen for instance and it's not by chance that we directly also have its connection to the violence in our neighborhood and that's because young people are not being put to work the reality is in Chicago. I believe at Young African Americans and not the between the age of eighteen and twenty four. I believe over sixty percent are unemployed. Currently right so all of these speak to who is in our neighborhood being one of the youngest populations in the city of Chicago. Think half of our population is under the age of twenty five right so it really speaks to. Who's located in our neighborhood? And where are these folks working? Or what is it that they're doing and the reality is they're not working I believe less than fifteen percent of our community works in the local industrial corridor. But it's one of the most vibrant and thriving ones in the city So this project really helps speak to. Who's missing who's on the on the on the phrase of society. And HOW DO WE CENTER THEM? As part of this work to ensure that they can grow in thrive in our communities and so this project speaks to exactly those folks who are usually marginalized and who folks say we can afford to lose those folks in the system as long as the majority of folks are okay and our work speaks to know that is not okay in fact. We're going to take those folks in center them and ensure that they have a space little village next to Pilsen is being gentrified on a day-to-day basis. And this is one of the only ways that we truly believe that we can fight for our community and we talked about how the food cart vendors plays such a big role in the neighborhood. And and you've got the street vendors association as one of your partners as well. How important was it to make sure to partner with that group? Absolutely I mean I think the reality is. We are community organizers by Heart in by trade as an organization and it's not to speak to what we bill and I know about food carts except to how to order a great Mongol right or like to order a bag of chips right. I don't think either one of US could speak to the reality of what that works. Look like what that work looks like and so for us to be able to share. The wealth of this project is exactly what we want to do. How to redistribute the wealth at this ten million could potentially bring to our community and empower those who need it. The most and I think partnership is where it's at it's the partnership between Delta instituted INVESCO. They got to this point after many many years And then how do we also bring in the rest of our community? That's part of that. So everybody from the vendors association to the Chicago Food Policy Action Council right all of our partners who have been leading a good fight a good fight on the ground not just food justice but also for solar and for culture as well across the city. Well let's talk about the Chicago Food Policy Action Council a bill. What would their role be so? They're really integral in this entire project. Because it's really helping change all the policies around Food and agriculture in the city in the way that policy is set up right now. Is Those folks. That are the food cart vendors. That are the small-scale farmers that WANNA compost really don't have access or the availability even do so so these very basic things that we need the city and the state aren't providing and the the the Action Council allows that to happen and and we've mentioned on building sustainable food network. How exactly will that work so this is really? Why little villages perfect for project like this? The great work that's been done on the ground for agriculture to actually even get off the ground with like an eight Acre site on old superfund with with over two tons of produce being produced every year. We have this ability to get bring food into the commercial kitchen through the food cart vendors and have those products come back out and then be added with additional products and services that are coming through that whole system at you that there is a very vibrant agriculture movement. In in little village you have not just folks growing food to bill's point at Little Village Park in the gardens. But we also have a very strong composting program. And so there's actual synergy between our food vendors our farmers and our composters all within the neighborhood working with each other so you mentioned the farmers what role will little village. Farmers play in this Omega had one of the largest absolutely we're very excited to announce that As of this year our organization signed a ten year lease with the Chicago Park District to actually have A couple of acres in the park for Urban Agriculture large-scale growing which were very excited about in that came from our farmers letting us know they need more land. That's the one thing that we don't have a lot of in little village and we had the second worst air quality in the entire state of Illinois so outdoor growing the reality. That is just isn't there and so really. Our communities advocating and fighting hard to figure out how to get access indoor to do large scale growing and the reality is this has been twenty. Five plus years of farmers.

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