Undoing Racism Workshop

At the beginning of August, I had the opportunity to attend a workshop called “Undoing Racism” with TxCC/LaCC Program Director Jody Karr and American Youthworks CEO Parc Smith in New Orleans. In addition, there were representatives from Los Angeles Conservation Corps, Montana Conservation Corps, Mile High Youth Corps, Green City Force, Civic Works, and The Corps Network. There were around 25 people there, including three facilitators from the People’s Institute. As one of only two corps members in attendance, I imagine my perspectives, interpretations, and take-aways are quite different than those of the non-profit executives and CEOs.

I tried to go in without expectations to leave my mind free to absorb as much as I could. What I gained was an overwhelming amount of information and concepts about systems of oppression, institutionalized racism, cultural norms, and power distribution, to name a few. Over the two and a half days we were there, I experienced a range of emotions. I arrived excited to learn about such a relevant problem in our country; this excitement quickly turned into anxiety, as we moved through the history of racism and the scope of how it affects people in the United States today. This progression seemed to be expected by the facilitators, who have done these workshops many times, and they helped us transition into a feeling of determination. I feel determined to keep listening, to keep paying attention, to understand as much as I can, and to help be part of the movement to undo racism. By the end of the workshop, this determination became empowerment. I feel more educated about the topic, my role in the problems we currently face, and how I can encourage and enable others.

These two and a half days felt very much like a journey, one which we traveled with a small but engaging group of people. There was always time for discussion, for understanding, and for sharing of experience and emotion. The environment was open and inclusive; the voices were authentic, expressive, and educational. I was surprised at how comfortable it was to discuss such a substantial and difficult topic, and this has everything to do with the people who were there. It was inspiring to be welcomed into a group that was so passionate in their contributions, so captivating in their stories, and so forward-thinking in their attitudes.

While this particular workshop was developed for people in the non-profit sector, the things we discussed are extremely applicable to every aspect of our lives today. TxCC is very motivated to gain more diverse representation in staff and corps members, so it was important to them to send a group of people who have different roles in the organization. As an AmeriCorps member, the ways I think about how prevalent prejudice and underrepresentation are quite different than those of our CEO. I don’t believe, however, that this means I should be any less resolved to work towards a more inclusive work environment and be part of the movement of change.

While there is no one solution and the changes we want to see will take time, the more people we can engage with and include in the conversation the better. Thank you to American Youthworks and TxCC for sending me to New Orleans, and thank you to The Corps Network and their Moving Forward Initiative for the funding that made this happen. It was an absolute honor to be able to attend this workshop; I can easily say without exaggeration that I will carry these lessons with me for the rest of my life.

Marinda Hanson – Field Crew Leader

Building a bridge at Tyler State Park

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My initial blog attempt chronicling our days building bridges in Tyler State Park seemed dull and somewhat frustrating. I was belaboring griphoist techniques (there’s really only one), moving lumber, and drilling holes in metal. If that’s all we did, why was I remembering it as days of awesome?

As I reflected on how to convey the most genuine hitch experience, I realized our days are filled with much more than mechanical motions. Yes, we spend inordinate amounts of times moving steel beams not very far and drilling holes for days. Yet, there are also so many intangible aspects that are an equal part of the day as a whole.

The easy familiarity of the morning, where poops are monitored and celebrated. The in depth conversations that fill the space in the hours of griphositing. Learning to navigate each other’s personalities to stay friendly, efficient, and productive.

The act of creating bridges that will hopefully be sustainable for many years is in itself rewarding. However, beyond the physical structure of the bridge, I also see a monument to the time creating it. Each of our individual struggles and triumphs fused into that one cohesive unit. This combined with the work we’re performing are what make each hitch a full and valuable experience.

Chronicles of hitch 2:

Day 1 We travel to Tyler State Park. Tait leaves me a veggie wrap seat surprise, and I give him the best get well fist bump explosion I’ve ever imparted.

Day 2 Griphoist steel beams 4 lyfe. During the griphoist and coil partnership, have epic conversation with Cassandra that shifts my perspective on life. Aka every conversation I’ve ever had with Cassandra.

Day 3 Same as day 2. Harvey documents the gloriousness of echoing my name across the forest. Sounds in memoriam.

Day 4 Slept poorly, all I remember is relating a honklarioso poo joke from my hammock. James is the only one who laughs. Appreciated, it was so good it deserved a chuckle, even pity style.

Day 5 More sleep deprivation. Remember only over bright grocery store for snack reload. In an attempt to narrow down visual sensory overload, deliriously peered through a funnel hanging nearby. Every time I telescoped Tyler his eyebrows were making jokes. Chortled me right back to a good mood.

Day 6 Drilled until rained out. Then stared at a painting with symphony accompaniment at the Tyler Museum of Art. Artinnerpeace, but the salsa wasn’t that good.

Day 7 Digging tread in the pouring rain. Sitting under a leaf waterfall at lunch, Alex uncovers my meaning for life is searching for my meaning. Raindrop life epiphany.

Day 8 Playing frisbee xtreme water style in Tips: Battle of the Genders. Fay was watching the duck and wants to know if I was watching the duck too. I definitely was.

Day 9 The sills didn’t go as planned. As solace, I didn’t blow up the work site. Littlewinsareeverything. Thanks Supervisor Hank.

Day 10 Driver training videos. Stale green to fresh red. If I knew it was that easy I would have been a better driver a long time ago.

Synopsis: Hitch 2 is a roaring success.

Susan Belgrade – Trails Across Texas Crew Member

Youth Crews at Allen Park

Allen Park was a great experience for our whole crew. We began by clearing low hanging and creeping brush from a popular walking trail so that people could once again enjoy the natural beauty of Allen Park. We then pulled out and disposed of an old and rotted fence and began the process of adjusting the size of the whole to fit the new fence posts. Next we tamped in the new posts, sawed notches in the posts and railings, drilled holes through all of them, and finally bolted them into place. As a crew we were able to overcome the challenge of having some of the previous posts sunk in concrete. By working at Allen Park I was  able to learn new skills associated with fence building.

Sam Steele – Youth Crew Member

TAT goes to Tyler State Park!

As most do when departing Austin , we hit 35 north. The group full of excitement for the journey and curiosity for the work to be done. Encountering first our methods for choosing groceries amongst the group ,a  crucial endeavor which we navigated in a caring fashion.  That lead to all of are most glorious nutrient.

Day one we all learned how to use grip hoist as a unit it is slow moving, yet rewarding process which leaves one proud to have moved such a beam through the forest. By the end of the hitch those beams were level secure, and had tracks laid on top. Other beams were grip hoisted into place at 2 other bridge sites. We found each pair to operate grip hoist end up bonding over the time consuming process. Completing one bridge aside from railing at front of park. Getting oddly familiar with drill bits that enabled  us with many moments to ourselves of deep mediation. All of us curious to learn how we get cuts in post level for the I beams, which Tyler shared with us. Boyd a local ranger showed us around one morning and answered all of our questions about Tyler state park.

Harvey has numerous new names and a great frisbee throw, Susan had us rolling perpetually and is a fish , Cassandra is a hard worker and passionate. Fay was very caring and considerate, Tyler and Alex are very complimentary to each other , and share all the knowledge they can.

Laying down each night with the sun, rising each morning with the sun, as well and sharing food and spending all day together was bonding for all of us. As ancient as humans themselves.

All of us became familiarized with each bridge site and what work needed to be done at each. Which leads to a bit of anticipation to start up again on our next hitch 🙂

Tait – Trails Across Texas Crew Member

Youth Crews go to Big Thicket!

Big Thicket illustrates and embodies both the triumphs and passion, which precise conservation utilizes in order to maintain and facilitate a flourishing natural environment, such as The Thicket of Diversity. I myself was gifted the pleasure of serving with Texas Conservation Corps to contribute to these valiant efforts, and see first hand, the products such deliberate efforts can produce in a fertile ecosystem, through clearing the obstacles invasive species create, to allow organisms like the Pitcher Plant and the endemic species present only within Big Thicket, The Texas Trailing Phlox to gain a larger presence in its inherent habitat. I will eternally value the opportunities provided to me by both AmeriCorps and the National Park Service, it was my sincere delight to interact with both my fellow co-workers and the project managers to further the life of the land in my native state of Texas and absorb the knowledge and experience such arduous labor is able to bestow upon one who refuses to squander the precious fortunes the wild.

Ethan Payne – Youth Crew Member

Hidalgo Deployment Week 1

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Green Crew has spent their first week learning the process of mucking and gutting homes. In this photo we see Green Crew member, Makayla removing drywall that was damaged during the flooding. So far, they have worked with All Hands and Hearts to muck and gut five homes and performed mold suppression on four homes. Green Crew also showed initiative in stepping into leadership roles within the AmeriCorps Disaster Response Team (A-DRT) Incident Command structure for Rio Grande Valley response. Currently, every member holds a leadership position or specialty role.

 

Comal River

As Green Crew, this project, Comal River, was a lot “firsts” for us. It was our first project; our first time using saws, outside of orientation; our first time herbiciding. This project was our first defining point of our crew and figuring  each other out.
This job was cutting down Chinese tallow and the China berries that we could find. At the time, Marinda was our only team leader. Due to that and we had Matty B, Samantha, and Trent came out and showed us, newbs, how to work a saw and fell trees.
During that time, we had Annie and Colin came out to make sure we were behaving and following rules. We as a crew made a bet with Annie and Colin that if we pass with flying colors, they would do a dance for us.
Shawnee Sloat-Warren – Field Crew Member (Green Crew)