life from the perspective of a social justice, public health advocate in the Bronx

Inspiration from Morris Heights

May 28, 2012
Leave It Better had been teaching youth about environmental stewardship and growing food in PS 306 / MS 331 in the Bronx when one of the teachers suggested they do something with the vacant lot across the street.  Dominique and Graham decided to transform the lot into an official NYC Department of Parks & Recreation GreenThumb garden. It's incredible to see the work they've done to build community and involve residents - especially youth - in growing food and transforming the formerly rat-infested vacant lot into a beautiful open space where food is grown, community is built, and youth leaders are created.  Aside from community garden and youth development, they've partnered with BronxWorks to bring a new farmers market to the neighborhood. 

Leave It Better has also formed a partnership with King of Glory Tabernacle Church, one of the churches that is part of Bronx Health REACH's Faith-Based Outreach Initiative. Through the incredible leadership of Addie Banks and Pamela Lindsay, the church's Groundswell Project has conducted a "Herb and Spice Your Life" workshop to teach participants how to cook healthy using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor food.  With guidance from Bronx Health REACH, the church's pastor Hyacinth Stevens has also recently started preparing healthy snacks for the children in its afterschool program, and implemented a pilot "How to Stay Fly" (God's Health Squad for Teens) curriculum with their youth. The teen curriculum includes an Adopt a Bodega component after the nutrition lessons, which I'm excited to be involved in soon.  They might choose to build upon the work started by the youth at MS 331 in adopting the 19 W. Tremont bodega across from the school (which is down the street from King of Glory Tabernacle), or they may choose to adopt a different bodega. 
After working on my house's backyard garden today, I took a trip to the Leave It Better Kids’ Garden. I wanted to speak to Evelyn, a champion parent advocate in the community, as she had expressed interest in the Adopt a Bodega initiative. I am so glad to see Evelyn's interest in the Adopt a Bodega project because adopt a bodega projects in this community have so much potential, especially since Evelyn and others from the community, such as the parent coordinator at PS 306, know that Senator Gustavo Rivera honored Bakil, the owner of the 19 W. Tremont bodega, for his efforts to stock healthier foods.  Even though Bakil is currently in Yemen visiting his family, I know Evelyn and the other community residents can come together and get the store (and other stores!) to stock healthier foods.  It will be good for everyone.  True community transformation.

It was also so inspiring today to speak with Annie Rogers at the Leave It Better Kids’ Garden.  Annie is a perfect example to me a of a long-time community member who knows what the community needs and does what she can to make that happen.  There are many active, concerned citizens out there like Evelyn and Annie who do everything in their power to bring change to the community. It’s activists like this who inspire me and make me want more than ever to make sure they have the information they need to make their efforts as productive as possible. 

One of the ways in which I feel I can best contribute to efforts like those in the Morris Heights community is through helping make resources and information available to people so they can then use that information to create change in their communities.  We must tell the inspirational stories of people working to change their communities, and just step in to provide additional information when needed.  Foremost, we must recognize the sleeping giant of hidden power held in residents of underserved communities.  People have a passion to see change made, they just might not always have the know-how to see their visions come to fruition.  And that’s why by loving a community and pouring our time and energy into understanding their perspectives, and where we can best help meet their needs, is so important.  The passion for the change comes from inside. There may be a spark which can be lit by providing information, technical expertise, and success stories from others' experiences that are not ordinarily readily available in these communities, but the match that will get lit is already sitting inside of each and every person. 

Bronx Helpers Cooking Garden Club's Global Youth Service Day

May 28, 2012


I first heard about the New Settlement Apartments – Bronx Helpers Cooking Garden Club through Alyssa Ruiz, who is always raving about the group and how they did such a good job with their Adopt a Bodega project.  This is the group that created the Bodega Down Bronx video a couple of years ago.  I was so glad to have the opportunity to hear them present at the GreenThumb Grow Together conference this year and was so inspired by the youths’ motivation to work towards food justice. ...

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Backyard garden

May 28, 2012
Amber and I borrowed Doug’s van today to go to Home Depot and get gardening supplies.  We got 7 pieces of wood to make 3 garden beds, and had the store lumber staff cut the pieces.  We got four 2x8x12’s, two 2x8x14’s and a 4x4.  We also got 3” screws and brushes for oiling the untreated wood. Home Depot didn’t have linseed oil though, unfortunately.  Dominique from Leave It Better gave us some gardening tips from her classes at NYBG, which included information about how to bu...
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Bike tour of the South Bronx waterfront

May 28, 2012

Yesterday I joined a bike caravan on a trip with South Bronx Unite and Friends of Brook Park to see the points of access (and lack thereof) to the South Bronx waterfront, culminating in an excursion to Randall’s island for some canoeing.  We started off at Brook Park on 141st St & Brook Ave, where about 30 of us gathered with our bikes.  Brook Park recently got a grant from the NYC Council, which allowed them to purchase some bikes for the community’s use – so exciting! 


We set off go...

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Wisdom on health & self-care, from St. Teresa of Avila

May 21, 2012
I returned from a much-needed vacation today with my family, celebrating my brother's college graduation in California. And several hours later (on a Sunday, may I add) found myself going to my office to gather some materials needed for an Adopt a Bodega workshop at a school tomorrow morning. On the train ride back I opened up a book I've picked up on and off over the past several months - Meditations with Teresa of Avila.  The chapter I was up to is called "Care of the Body" and discusses ho...
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Life..with purpose

February 20, 2012
I spent this past weekend at a CYFM College & Young Adult retreat, and had some time to reflect on what it is in life that gives me fulfillment.  Here's my list, in no particular order. I think, as long as my life has some semblance of these activities in it at all times, I will always feel like I am living the life I was created for. 

Empowering communities to recognize and solve their own problems 
Changing policies that perpetuate food injustices
Teaching people, especially youth, to value th...

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The Missional Life

February 7, 2012
The Missional Life: "Leveraging your personal narrative (identity, gifts, resources, education, budget, etc) to bear witness to a greater story you believe is ultimately true." - Pastor Guy Wasko, Trinity Grace Church - East Village
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Dorothy Day quote

January 29, 2012
I read a quote on my friend's webpage last night as I was checking out her new album being released.  "We have all known the long loneliness and we have learned that the only solution is love and that love comes with community." - Dorothy Day.  
And then I read it out loud to my housemate, and she pointed up above where she was sitting to the framed quote hanging on the wall.  It was the same quote.  Funny I never noticed it before, or took the time to let its message penetrate my conscience. ...

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2012 events

January 29, 2012
Check out some of these upcoming events in NYC!  Many details are still in development but, save the dates! 

March 1 - FRESH screening and discussion at COLORS Restaurant

Film at 7pm, music at 9pm 
417 Lafayette St 
Facebook event page: 
March 8 - International Women's Day event with Oxfam Action Corps NYC 
7pm (doors open at 6:30pm) 
St. Francis College 
180 Remsen Street, Brooklyn Heights, NY 11201
RSVP at 

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Banner description

January 29, 2012
You may wonder about the photo I've chosen as the banner to this site.  It's a photo from Freedom Farm in Otisville, NY, taken during a visit in 2011. 
I found out about Freedom Farm though a Mennonite member of the NYC Community of Communities who has become a friend of the house.  One of the reasons Ann and Edgar founded this farm was as an outgrowth of YMPJ, as a "Christian-based youth education organization striving for peace and justice by teaching alternatives to violence, sustainable ag...

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