All posts by brianagarrett2020

Then and now: The legacy of Bantu education in South Africa

By Briana Garrett
Medill Reports

For most of the twentieth century, South Africa functioned under the system of apartheid, a system that segregated South African peoples in every aspect of life, privileging whiteness above all. Through a series of laws, apartheid created deep economic disparities,  immense political disenfranchisement and social divides with rippling effects across generations.

Under apartheid, Bantu education was law permitting the use of race to dictate the quality of the curriculum and resources. Segregation was cemented in the education system and modern public education still grapples with rectifying its past. In an audio piece that explores the past and present of public education in South Africa, South African leaders in education lend their voices to narrate the future thereof.

Photo at top: Students gather after classes at City Deep Adult Learning Center (Briana Garrett/MEDILL)

Environmental racism and the fight against it

By Briana Garrett
Medill Reports

Environmental justice and food justice may seem mutually exclusive. But the two go hand in hand.

In Cook County, one in seven people are food insecure. That means nearly 750,000 children and adults in the county go hungry during parts of the year and often lack access to nutritious foods, according to the Hunger in America reports for the City of Chicago. In Chicago, the reports show that the most food insecure areas are concentrated in predominantly black and Latino neighborhoods where environmental problems add to hazards of hunger.

While access to food is a human right, these rights are often violated and linked to a  long legacy of segregationist practices in the Chicago. “Environmental racism” is a term used to describe issues of environmental inequity that marginalizes certain groups of people.

Chicago is seeing a renaissance of farming in the urban sector, and many areas plagued with food insecurity offer a home for urban farms that grow and harvest local produce, transforming vacant lots into lush gardens.

There are also new technologies that create resource-efficient ways to grow food, and many of people involved view their work as a necessary site for activism.

Listen to this podcast for an exploration of the racism involving food access and how it ties into environmentalism.

Photo at top: Food insecurity and lack of access to food are concentrated in black and Latino neighborhoods in Chicago, according to the Hunger in America reports. (Feeding America)

Upcycling meets charity at Mount Sinai Resale Shop

By Briana Garrett
Medill Reports

After the hip hop song “Thrift Shop” hit the mainstream, the idea of thrifting and upcycling became edgy and avant garde, marking a shift in the paradigm surrounding eco-fashion and the demographic at local thrift stores.

Mount Sinai Resale Shop, 2902 N. Clark St., has a large stock of vintage furniture, clothes and linens and their items have seen new life because of their younger customer demographic. As 100% of Mount Sinai Resale Shop’s earnings benefit Mount Sinai Hospital, employees and volunteers say they are ecstatic about how their work also does the planet some good.

“It’s a fun job and you get to turn around and do projects for a hospital that helps people regardless of ability to have access to healthcare,” said Melissa Masek, president of the Mount Sinai Women’s Board and a resale shop volunteer. Continue reading

Windy City Harvest takes elitism out of urban farming and fresh produce

By Briana Garrett
Medill Reports

The modern farmer is changing fast, with the terrain for food production and urban farming at the center of this transition.

Urban farming can mean produce gardens in backyards, rooftops and assigned city land plots as well as farming systems such as aquaponics, an agricultural approach where fish wastes nourish plants growing in water that  it recycled once plants soak up the nutrients and purify the water.

Transporting food contributes to the fossil fuels emissions associated with global warming while producing more locally-grown food  can mitigate this issue. Under Chicago Botanic Garden, Windy City Harvest offers urban agriculture education and jobs-training initiatives to help build up local food systems, foster healthier communities, and make the economy greener. At Windy City Harvest, volunteers and staff are at the forefront of this mission. Continue reading

Star Farm Chicago makes urban agriculture accessible, inclusive and healing

By Briana Garrett
Medill Reports

farm, garden, organic
One of three of the neighborhood Star Farm gardens in Back of the Yards. (Briana Garrett/MEDILL)

Back of the Yards-based urban garden Star Farm Chicago grows produce for the surrounding multicultural community and organizers pride themselves on defying the traditional mold of food and health.

“We wanted to tap into the hidden strength of the community,” said Star Farm Chicago founder Stephanie Dunn. Continue reading

Inspiration Corp. tackles food insecurity: ‘We need to give a damn’

By Briana Garrett
Medill Reports

Take a two-minute walk around the corner from the Wilson Red Line station to find Inspiration Corp., a non-profit organization waging war on food insecurity and hunger in Chicago as it has since 1989.

In Cook Country, one in seven people are food insecure, meaning that they are vulnerable to hunger and their access to fresh, affordable food is limited. Inspiration Corp. finds this reality unacceptable and fights it with a variety of programs.

“It’s stupid! Why is anyone food insecure? There’s more than enough resources to go around,” said Inspiration Corp. Chief Development Officer Evan Johnson. “It’s a question of will, not capacity.” Continue reading

KAM Isaiah Israel Congregation Honors MLK with 11th Food Justice and Sustainability Weekend

By Briana Garrett
Medill Reports

The Hyde Park temple KAM Isaiah Israel has hosted the MLK Food Justice and Sustainability weekend to honor the achievements of the late Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., for the last 11 years. The event focuses on environmental and food security issues and brings together environmentalists, food experts, scientists and activists.

Volunteers and experts work together to facilitate discussions surrounding environmental health. During the Saturday night session, experts and participants devise ways to solve some of the environmental issues presented at the local level. The Sunday session of the MLK weekend is packed with workshops that span topics from soil, to water and urban farming, to waste and pollution in the city.

Many in the audience include concerned community members from the temple’s congregation, from elsewhere in the city, and from the  Chicago regional area. More than 150 people joined this year’s program, surpassing the participation of previous years. The MLK Food Justice and Sustainability weekend founder Robert Nevel said he  hopes that this weekend will give citizens, politicians, and investors the tools to advocate for the environment. Continue reading