Kalamazoo, MI- A diverse mixture of community advocates, allies, survivors, and organizations gathered to fellowship, collaborate, network and listen to projects that connect a need for change in the community of Kalamazoo.
Since 2015, UDF, which is comprised of a collective of community members wanting to create a face-to-face crowd funding opportunity for community projects. This process occurs over a meal while exchanging information about shared problems, common obstacles and ways to overcome them. Including money generated from this evenings FEAST, UDF organizers have raised more than $4000.00 to support social justice projects demonstrating direct democracy and accountability. Urban Democracy Feast defines social justice as equal access to all the resources and services.
Justyce Calvert, her younger sister, Jaide, and “Glam mother”, Gwendolyn Hooker started JABS. JABS stands for Justice Against Bullying at School. Justyce, a victim, and survivor of bullying shared that JABS was started because she did not have anywhere to go to talk about bullying when it happened to her.
Hooker shared at the opening of their presentation, “Children that are bullied are compounded and affected in a negative way. They are traumatized from the types of things that happen to them. If they are being beaten up, mistreated, being called names, they (students) internalize that stuff and it comes out in negative ways.” According to a study that was released in 2016, Michigan ranks #1 as the worst state in the country for bullying. WalletHub.com conducted a national analysis using 17 metrics, ranking states on data using three key dimensions: 1) Bullying Prevalence, 2) Bullying Impact & Treatment and 3) Anti-Bullying Laws. The National Education Association estimates that 160,000 children miss school every day to fear of some form of bullying or intimidation by other students.
Every 7 minutes, a child in the U.S. is bullied. Only four in 100 adults will intervene while 11 percent of the child’s peers might do the same. As for the other 85 percent, absolutely nothing will happen.
La Amistad Horticulture Training Program, an introduction to sustainable agriculture, market gardening, and horticulture for young people of color ages 17-21 in the Kalamazoo area.
The farm located just six miles north of downtown Kalamazoo. The farm grows veggies, herbs, and flowers on 10 acres of land as well as a children’s nature education program. Their principles, “we are recreating a model for thriving, inspiring and resilient community homesteading”. The program involves hosting youth ages 17-21 for 8 hours a week for 9 weeks. The training includes classroom activities as well as hands training related to horticulture and homesteading.
Jordon, a Graduate Student at Western Michigan University, conducting a research project on infant mortality disparities across the state. ” In Kalamazoo, if you have a black baby, it’s four times likely to die before it’s first birthday as if you have a white baby”. Researchers have asked the questions, ” What do black moms do wrong? What’s wrong with black people in general? What kind of DNA do they have that makes them die? Nothing to do with genetics, practices or medical conditions. Black children are more likely to die from the effects of stress.
Over $1000.00 was raised at the FEAST. JABS received 35% ($368.20) of the votes. La Amistad Farms received 21% ($220.92) and Infant Morality in Kalamazoo received 44% ($462.11) of the votes.
The goal of the organizers is to generate funds that kick start projects that might otherwise not get funded, or help them make a qualitative leap in their work. These three groups will report back at the next Urban Democracy Feast, what the funds were used for, a practice of direct democracy.
The next FEAST is scheduled for November 18, 2017. For more information about the FEAST or how to apply, visit www.urbandemocracfeast.org.