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Urban Earth Day

An Urban Earth Day event April 22 will establish Kennedy-King College as a “green hub” for the South Side, part of the greening of Englewood and the “green village building” strategy of Blacks In Green.

Naomi Davis of BIG envisions the college offering training in green trades and, beyond that, establishing a “green business school” to help build sustainable communities that will heal violence and alienation.

An “eco-fest” starting at 11 a.m. will feature family activities promoting ecological awareness — recycling activities, healthy cooking demonstrations, and workshops on energy conservation, urban gardening and bicycling.

Douglas Farr and Orrin Williams will speak at a closing program at 5:30 p.m. Farr is a noted local green architect whose new book, “Sustainable Urbanism,” argues that environmentalist need to move beyond an enthusiasm for green buildings to build sustainable communities.

Williams is a long-time environmentalist who directs the Center for Urban Transformation, aimed at creating ecologically sustainable communities and economic development projects in communities of color. He also directs employment training for Growing Home’s Wood Street Urban Farm at 58th and Wood. He’ll discuss models for the greening of Englewood.

“It’s important that the people of Englewood and other people of color tune into environmental issues, particularly as related to the emerging green economy and green jobs,” Williams said.

Fresh food in corner stores

He’s been working with Teamwork Englewood, whose quality of life plan identified access to healthy food as a community priority. He talks about a range of strategies, from a new farmers market to establishing produce markets and installing produce kiosks in corner stores, and even re-establishing the hand-pushed produce carts once common in the city.

BIG promotes “environmental awareness from an Afrocentric perspective,” Davis said. She talks about reestablishing “the self-sustaining African-American communities that many of us grew up in” — with neighbor-owned businesses that circulate money back into the community — and of blacks’ “cultural legacy of stewardship of the land.”

“BIG reminds generations of that legacy in an age of climate change,” she said.

Beyond green collar jobs in conservation and renewable energy, she stresses green business creation to increase the community’s economic self-reliance.

Green village building involves creating places to gather and learn, local means of providing for daily needs and “ways of saving and lending within our boundaries,” she said. It means sustainable, affordable housing using tools like land trusts, and “dealing with our waste within our boundaries,” with recycling offering broad economic development potential. It creates pathways of opportunity for young people — and a sense of place and possibility to overcome the alienation that engenders violence.

After working on environmental issues for the better part of 20 years, Williams says “it’s really good to see it’s finally starting to get some traction in communities across the country. People are getting it.”

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Category: Englewood, environment, food, green jobs, jobs, urban agriculture

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