Raquel Nunez (lvejo.org) is a youth organizer for Little Village Environmental Justice Organization.
My passion for environmental justice is ever growing. By the age of 19, I was working to organize around various social justice issues. Over the last eight years, I have created several bodies of artwork with a central focus on social change and youth rights. My goal as an adult ally of the youth at Little Village Environmental Justice Organization (LVEJO) is to continue to grow and sustain an environmental justice youth leadership program. We organize youth by creating a curriculum that we share with high schools and have an open-door policy for anyone who would like to become involved and learn more.
LVEJO is currently focused on creating a sustainable sense of awareness with the volunteers and organization members. There is also a focus on creating more parks and garden spaces in the community, and a clear air campaign that is working on the site remediation of a retired coal-fired power plant. LVEJO partnered with the Chicago Clean Power coalition for the clean air campaign. This partnership was the catalyst for closing the two coal-fired power plants in the Chicago area.
Our current day institutions are crumbling but this has happened throughout history. The key is empowering people and opening spaces where they can learn the skills they need to thrive. Education, communication and new ideas go hand-in-hand. If we could change the way that we deal with one another and speak with one another, a natural evolution will happen through community dialogue. Self-knowledge is a critical component and revolution is the natural result of any community gaining self-knowledge on an individual basis.
With the current crisis intensifying the number of people experiencing poverty and food insecurity, community gardens and open space help people weather economic storms, inspire self-reliance and enhance health through increased access to whole foods, good nutrition and physical exercise. They also provide a common space for intergenerational interaction and knowledge sharing.
It is important to increase funding for social services, open spaces and community gardens that build local food self-sufficiency and support fair access to fresh food. I believe, in order to improve community resiliency, we must strengthen local food and gardening knowledge through education in traditional foods, permaculture and sustainable agriculture techniques. It’s about providing our communities, youth and elders with business and leadership development training through gardening and food-based entrepreneurial opportunities.
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