Red Stick Farmer’s Market

DSC_0033 Buy Fresh Buy Local is the slogan. Sounds cliché, but Baton Rouge delivered the most unique farm to market experience yet.

The Red Stick Farmer’s market in Baton Rouge offered more than I had ever expected from the idea. This ideal market offers a weekend event for the entire family, while connecting community members. Consumers were offered various selections of locally produced vegetables, seafood, meat, honey, wine, books, and baked goods. There was even live music to enjoy while grocery shopping. Many of the vendors offered catering services as well.

DSC_0034The team ventured throughout the market tasting new foods. As I was sitting on a bench soaking in the environment and resting when a Francis Chauvin of Blue Ribbon Pies asked, “Would you like a shoe sole young man?”

“A shoe sole?” I asked.

“Yes, they’re thin slices of dough cover with cinnamon and sugar,” she responded.

They were delicious. She let the team try the treats for free.

The Red Stick definitely set a high bar for farmer’s markets everywhere. It has been my favorite one so far.

DSC_0070-Omar Navarro

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Baton Rouge and the Louisiana Democracy Project

1001447_546530882053016_556959833_n 1002091_546530888719682_202879575_n943721_10152880080220247_1298885727_nOn the first day of arriving in Baton Rouge the Ride For the Future Team was invited to attend a meeting called Pray for our Air. So we got on our bikes and headed over there. We pass the second largest oil refinery in the country to the north and sporadic patches of an Exxon-sponsored flower garden to the south. We were overwhelmed by the horrible stench of the plant.
Stephanie Anthony began the meeting with, “The first thing we should all do is pray for our air. God we pray that the politicians, lawmakers, and businessman allow our children to breathe clean air.” Stephanie Anthony of the Louisiana Democracy Project was hosting a meeting at Allen Chapel Baptist Church in the Scenic Blvd. neighborhood, a fence line community. The 2,400 acre ExxonMobil petrochemical complex had an underpublicized incident last week. Only one resident at the meeting had received a phone call from ExxonMobil following the accident. The company representative only stated that an incident had occurred and that it had already been resolved. No quantitative measures of exposure were mentioned to the resident. Last week’s incident is one of several that occurred in the past year. Ms. Anthony and several community members are outraged by the audacity of Exxon’s request for a new permit to increase the annual limit of chemicals released into the atmosphere. Exxon already releases 24 tons of sulfur dioxide a day, a dangerously high amount.
In response, the community has formed a petition to be presented at the Environmental Protection Agency conference on environmental justice in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Hopefully the petition would place Exxon on probation for new permits so that Scenic Blvd. residents have healthier air. The Ride for the Future team collaborated with the Louisiana Democracy Project and canvassed around the neighborhood surrounding Exxon to gain signatures and support for the petition.
A few days later we met with Stephanie Anthony again and helped to clean up a community garden at the Little Rising Sun Baptist church. We met with local children and showed them our crane project.
-Erik Rundquist
-Omar Navarro

Arriving in Baton Rouge: A list of Positives

936387_4754798842712_1893710202_nI am writing this the evening of June 4th, 2013. The following are the contributions to what I now reflect on as a great morning.

1. The sun was hidden by the big fluffy clouds. 50% chance of rain but it never did, instead our team was greeted continuously by the cool breeze, which flew past us and created the illusion that we were light and purposefully speeding across the roads towards our destination. I could feel myself getting stronger as my feet relentlessly peddle. I felt the same ache in the muscles of my legs but it didn’t stop me or slow me down this time, I only wanted to go faster.

2. I managed to take wonderful pictures of my team on the road. Although what hung above us most frequently were thick blankets of cloud, occasionally they would separate and let the sun rays fall onto Baton Rouge, which enhanced all the colors that we could see: our shirts a juicy bright orange, the sky blue with a radiating calmness and the trees a lush green.

3. A happy accident. We stopped at Home Depot on our way to Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church, halting our bikes in the parking lot. A few people asked us questions, their curiosities about what a group of sweaty young adults were doing in a Home Depot parking lead to their momentary stop beside us. I never tire of the shocked reaction, the unrestrained gasp of “What?” when we tell people that we are biking to Houston. There are others that give us advice on biking on the freeways, telling us to be careful. The most memorable being “There are three kinds of drivers: Those that don’t know how to drive, those that don’t care how they drive, and those that don’t care that they don’t know how to drive.” The brief connection with these people as we tell them our purpose and the formation of a rapport as they give us their sincere opinion make up the special moments of this trip. One individual who stopped by made me feel truly lucky. As the team’s media coordinator, I’ve found the prospect of outreach quite daunting. When Othello Carter, an independent photographer of New Orleans walked up to us, with a camera slung over his shoulder, he shooed away those doubts I had, that perhaps our story wasn’t that great or significant, by asking about what we were doing and wanting to capture us with his camera.
Othello Carter is a talented photographer, you can check out his amazing work at http://www.othellocarter.com

All these things culminated into a great arrival in Baton Rouge.  I am looking forward to our stay in the capital.

-Daphne Chang

Green Light New Orleans

DSC_0124It was our first time riding with our bike trailers attached; Green Light New Orleans was our destination. Upon arrival we had that awkward scrambling moment that is slowly weaning itself from habit, who knew that something as simple as assigning a spokes person for the day could be so helpful. In this case I was the rider who was ready to greet our community partner, take notes, and answer questions.DSC_0122We met with the founder of Green Light New Orleans, and in a nutshell this is how I understand the organization. Andreas Hoffman is a musician who, in 2006, decided to make a tangible, positive change in his community to offset the pollution of his touring band. He started small, asking for donations and changing a few incandescent bulbs for CFL energy efficient ones. Andres explained to us, on the front porch of his brightly colored duplex office that it’s about so much more than just helping people save money or leaving behind less of a footprint. For GLNO it’s about the human connection. If it wasn’t clear, let me inform you now, the actual installation of light bulbs at GLNO is carried out through volunteers. The light bulb seekers contact GLNO, set up an appointment, and then wait patiently for a set of complete strangers to drive up (or in our case ride up on bikes) come into their house and literally screw in their new bulbs. Its creates a whole new dynamic of social change, I personally can’t thing of anything more “grassroots” than meeting people where they’re at, being invited into their homes, and from there sharing stories.

Our Ride for the Future team split up into two groups and set out on our delivery route. My group had five houses to hit within Orleans Parish. The streets signs quickly became more and more familiar and the six hours we spent riding further induced my sense of place here in New Orleans. My team only successfully made installations in two of the houses. It was hard for me to accept this idea of going into people’s bathrooms and bedrooms, standing on ladders and dining room chairs, and literally changing their light bulbs; the whole experience of GLNO was very humbling.

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Andres left us with the statement: “We do what we do and believe in it.” I invite you, wherever you are, to reread that statement and apply it to the rest of your day. What can you do today, that you’ll be proud of tomorrow?

– Dena Yanowski

Week One

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAArriving in New Orleans to kick off the Ride for the Future marked the beginning of an empowering adventure. Since initial contact the organization emphasizes the input of each individuals opinion for continued growth in the climate change and fossil fuel accountability movement. Local community partners have continued to give our team the opportunity to donate service that could contribute to positive change.
Reverend Deana of the First Unitarian Universalist Church of New Orleans welcomed our group with open arms and southern hospitality and hosted us at the Center for Ethical Living and Social Justice Renewal. The center has helped volunteers contribute to the rebirth of New Orleans in concrete ways since Hurricane Katrina. Since we’ve been here our team has worked with Bayou Rebirth and the Columbus Street Children’s Center.
Bayou Rebirth is an organization that promotes wetland restoration and awareness. Our team worked to dig the beginnings of a city rain garden, which is designed to collect and infiltrate runoff from rain events before it can enter a storm drain.
The Columbus Street Children’s Center food bank delivered food to hundreds of families. The team was able to help out during a typical day’s operation, which seemed somewhat chaotic to inexperienced volunteers. As the day flew by I noticed there was an order to the chaos, stemming from a simple notion to feed people.
The ride for the future team has been offered these incredible experiences and it has only been the first week. This summer holds many more opportunities for us. I hope to paint a story that becomes a base for justice.

– Omar Navarro

Unity

by May Armstrong

We stay at a new church almost every day. Every time that we pull into each new driveway my first thought is “Finally! Now time to get some food and rest, but this place was very different.
We arrived in Beaumont on June 20th. That day changed my life forever. As we pulled up to what I thought would be just another church, before my typical thought process kicked in, I read the sign labeling Unity Church. The sign read “Unity, a positive path towards spiritual learning.” I was shocked. “Thats different…” I thought. I was immediately interested and wanted to hear more about this place called Unity Church. I had never been so intrigued by a church before! Now, don’t get me wrong. I have LOVED every place that we have stayed, as well as their religious views. I find hope and inspiration in their beliefs, but its just that they are not my beliefs. I wasn’t sure what I believe. I still don’t, but this place got me so much closer.
We met several intriguing characters in Beaumont. Shannon (President of the board of Trustees for the church) taught me about Unity Church and what it stood for. First thing he said was that he doesn’t particularly like calling it a “church” because the word makes it sound exclusive. He said that he would rather call it a “house of worship” to express that all are included in its worship and activities. It is Christian based, but is inclusive to all denominations. They are very accepting. They even accept open gays with open arms! The more that I heard about it, the more interested that I became. Shannon admitted that he didn’t feel comfortable explaining all of Unity Church’s beliefs, so he opened me up to their literature room where I found myself indulging in my curiosity at any chance that I could, when we weren’t doing role work, work for stay, or volunteering.
The next day the team used our strategy “divide and conquer” to do both work for stay with Unity Church, and to work at a soup kitchen. I went to the soup kitchen with half of the team. The entire ride there we encountered a lot of confusion… The piece of paper with the name of the place and the address on it read “Some Other Place” and then an address that we followed. “Some Other Place? Is that the name of it? Or is that a joke? Did he just not know the name?” When we arrived we found that, no joke, the facility was in fact called Some Other Place. A funny man with a joyous laugh told us about the facility and explained its origin, “this place isn’t just a where we feed the homeless. We feed everybody. We’ve seen people come in here with suits, but we don’t turn them down. Anyone who wants a meal, we give it to them. The origin of the name for the place came from people who would go for churches for help. The churches would help the needy all that they could, but when they ran out of food or shelter they would tell the person ‘we can’t help you here. You will have to go to some other place’ so then the person would go to the next church and they would again say ‘we can’t help you here. You will have to go to some other place’ and so on and so on. When we founded the soup kitchen we wondered what to call it. But then we thought ‘well, if all the churches are sending the needy to Some Other Place, then we will call it Some Other Place!’ But food isn’t all that we do. We also give people clothes, and much more.” He went on to explain that they give people clothes four times a year (with the seasons). They also help with health care. This wonderful place gives people anything they need! They even have a center for homeless people to spend their time during the day when they cannot go anywhere else. I Love Beaumont! I carried a smile on my face with every bit of work that we did that day. I was honored to be working for such a progressive and selfless institution.
The following day we again used “divide and conquer” but this time I was on the work for stay team. At other churches that we have stayed at, our work for stay has consisted of cleaning up paint, moving boxes, moving costumes, helping with vacation bible school, and cleaning the facilities. At Unity Church, we were making a labyrinth!!! What could be more exciting!

First we dug out the diameter of the labyrinth several inches deep. Then we put the template in the dug out area and put bricks along the yellow lines. Finally we covered the black area in pebbles and Presto! Completed Labyrinth!

Some members of the team working on the Labyrinth along side some members of the church.

Finished!

I fell in love with this church more and more every day. Although we didn’t really get to spend a ton of time in Beaumont (we never spend much time anywhere) I learned so much and saw the most incredible things! Have you ever heard of a singing bowl!? We got to play with one that they use in their services. The Unity Church service was filled with spirit, singing, dancing, stories, and more. I had never felt so spiritually fulfilled as I did after that service. Afterwards, Michael helped me find a Unity Church in St. Petersburg that I, no doubt, plan on attending when I get back to school. I never thought that I would find a church that was right for me, but I think that I finally have.