Oxy in New Orleans
Solidarity, Not Charity

First Day at Work

Yesterday was our first day at work. My crew and I went to Our School Blair Grocery (OSBG) and moved compost from one lot to the other. The school is in the Lower Ninth Ward, a parish (or county) in New Orleans that was the most effected by the surge of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. It’s a school and community where kids (who don’t have a school to go to anymore because after Katrina, the 2 high schools and 5 elementary/middle schools that the L9 had are now gone, leaving only 1 charter school in the entire parish) work towards achieving community building and empowerment through environmental justice. While shoveling the earthy-smelling compost with my crew members and college-bound students (a part of the “New York 2 New Orleans” non-profit organization founded and organized by students in NYC), I know the teaching-method is a good medium to build community and empowerment. How? By the end of the day we felt so good about ourselves because we accomplished getting nearly a third of the 10-feet-tall compost pile from one lot to the other. Personally, I never thought I could do all of that back-breaking physical work. Sure, the soreness and calluses are slowly forming on my hands, but it feels great, or for the use of a better word, empowering knowing I did something I never thought I’d be doing. If this made me feel this way, I could only imagine the possible feelings of accomplishment it could make the youths of the community feel as well. The youth would feel so empowered that they would also feel hopeful about there being more to life than the poverty that unfortunately still surrounds their community. They could use this to build-up themselves, their neighborhood, and their city. It makes me envision all the possibilities and accomplishments the kids can achieve just by being here in solidarity and showing them support, that there are people who truly care about them and their future. Who knew a little compost shoveling could bring about all of these feelings and possibilities…

-Fatima Avellan

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