Episode 1: Past + Present = Future

16Dec14

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Each year, Milk Not Jails sets ambitious goals—pledging to challenge the economic and political systems that are part of our daily lives.  We do this by empowering those most directly impacted by these systems with the tools needed to transform them. We are building political power with strange allies and in unusual places. This work takes time, especially since we are committed to working with communities to unravel the prison system and agricultural institutions. But we also see the impact intimately everyday as we build and test these new relationships. This month, we bring you three stories about our exciting work in different corners of New York State. Please make a donation today, so we can continue this necessary work.

Episode 1: Past + Present = Future

Se'onna brings the harvest from the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger garden to the people.

Se’onna brings the harvest from the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger garden to the people.

It’s uncanny how frequently our lives comes full circle, and how the different people and places we meet can grow into new possibilities. Perhaps these are some of the benefits of being part of a community, benefits that you can only earn with time.

Saquana began working at Milk Not Jails last winter as a Sales Associate. Part of her job includes taking orders from clients and preparing the invoices and schedules for Stephen, our driver, to make deliveries.  She was pleased to recognize the names of some of our clients, like Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, when she first joined Milk Not Jails.

“Oh I know them. I used to go there right after my baby father got deported and I was in the shelter.” While Saquana’s terrain is typically found inside the Milk Not Jails office, one day this Spring, Stephen need some help with deliveries and she was happy to join him on his route. When they stopped to make a delivery at the Bed Stuy Campaign Against Hunger, she stepped down from the truck to  give an  invoice to the Pantry Coordinator.  The two women  locked eyes and paused.

“I remember you,” said Ms. Dawson. Some people might have pretended they had no recollection of that hard time in their lives, but Saquana has no problem talking about the past. She’s been the victim of so many failed social service and criminal justice programs that there’s no shame in it.

“Oh yeah, I used to come here all the time with my daughter, Se’onna back in like 2004.” The two women proceeded to catch up on everything that had happened since that time while they loaded the milk into the pantry’s refrigerators.

“Oh gosh, Se’onna’s fifteen now? You know, we just finished accepting applications for our summer internship program, but I can extend the deadline if she’s interested.” Se’onna submitted an application and became a member of the Green Team this past summer. She became part of the compost team, which actually takes all of the rotten scraps of the food from the pantry and turns it into nitrogen-rich soil. Each week the Green Team travels to Rockaway to help another one of the pantry’s urban farms stake tomatoes and harvest greens. Her paid summer internship turned into a permanent position this fall. She can stay on through high school and, if she stays through graduation, she’ll be eligible for a college scholarship.

Who will Se’onna, Saquana and the rest of us at Milk Not Jails reconnect with next year?



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