Martin Luther King Jr. day has become one of the most activated and volunteered days, and continues to motivate the community. Even after so many years, MLK has inspired most Americans to do better and unite for a better future.
On Monday, January 20th, 2020, CommunityGrows again had the opportunity to work and partner with the African American Arts & Culture Complex. This year, we gave back to our community by having our volunteers pick up trash and weeds from our AAACC garden. They also trimmed the trees and after the clean up, we had a chance to plant lettuce, green onions, purple flowers and more.
Lastly, we walked to Buchannan Mall Garden to clean it up and plant more lettuce, onions, and plants in those garden plots as well.
Thank you to our volunteers for giving back yesterday, we appreciate you as always. Hope to see you again next year!
On September 17th, 2019, CommunityGrows had the honor of working with some of Hall Capital staff, to work on garden maintenance and beautification projects in the Buchanan Mall Garden. These group workdays are a huge help to our staff because it can be difficult to work on large garden projects between teaching classes, curriculum building, and day-to-day work tasks.
We divided into three groups to be more productive and get more projects done. One team worked in the African American Arts and Culture Complex (AAACC) garden- they were in charge of cleaning up the garden for the new plants, pruning and deadheading the plants growing there, and cleaning up the beds and sidewalks. The second team created garden journals for the students – they folded and stapled over 100 new journals! Last but not least, team compost- they walked to Rosa Parks Elementary School to go sifted and flipped both of the compost bins. The new sifted compost was then used to plant new plants in the Buchanan Mall Garden.
At the end of the day, we walked to Rosa Parks to end the workday appreciating our team members and hard workers from Hall Capital.
Once again, thank you Hall Capital and every member of CommunityGrows that came out! Hope to everyone there again next time!
This MLK Day, CommunityGrows joined the African-American Arts and Culture Complex (AAACC) to honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the 2019 Day of Service. The event began at the AAACC with opening remarks from co-Executive Directors Melonie and Melorra Green, speakers Mayor Breed and District 5 Supervisor Vallie Brown, a spoken word performance by Arvaughn Williams, and AAACC’s very own Bushmama Africa, who called on “the ancestors to create a cover of protection on us and reverence for our ancestors” (AAACC website). The morning set the tone for the rest of the day as volunteers split off into groups to work on service projects in the neighborhood. Our BEETS led two volunteer groups on the Mall and at the AAACC.
This year, over 40 volunteers came out to work on maintenance and beautification projects at Buchanan Mall, the Fillmore mini-park, and the AAACC parking lot and garden plots. Volunteers also were involved with a letter writing campaign to political prisoners and some joined artist Kristine Mays on a community art project (see her art installation, Brutally Soft, at AAACC Jan 17-March 24). Everyone did an amazing job and we are so grateful to all of the volunteers.
Following the volunteer portion of the day was a (well deserved) community lunch. For the afternoon portion of the day, the AAACC had two film screenings for volunteers to learn more about political prisoners Mumia Abu-Jamal and Assata Shakur. Thank you to the presenters who started and facilitated the discussion.
A huge shout-out to Pearci and the staff at AAACC for hosting this event, and thank you to all the volunteers who took time to come out and work with us. We appreciate your support and commitment to community.
Make it a day on, not a day off.This was the rallying phrase as thousands of people across the U.S. turned out on Monday, January 15th, to celebrate and honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s life and legacy. The day of service began nearly 25 years ago, after Congress passed the King Holiday and Service Act of 1994. The day is meant to honor the dedicated and passionate service that Dr. King gave to both his community and to the nation as a whole.
Corporation for National and Community Services. Leading the Day of Service efforts, the CNCS writes that the initiative “empowers individuals, strengthens communities, bridges barriers, creates solutions to social problems, and moves us closer to Dr. King’s vision of a “Beloved Community.”
Taking Part in the Celebration. On Monday, CommunityGrows joined the African American Arts and Culture Complex, Citizen Film, and 3.9 Art Collective for our own day of service. The morning started with breakfast and an amazing performance by Brandon Hughes titled, “Imagine King Was Here.” Following his performance, Acting Mayor London Breed gave a moving speech about the importance of taking ownership of and building up our communities. After some final remarks from the AAACC Co-Executive Directors Melonie and Melorra Green, volunteers divided into three groups to complete projects to beautify the community.
Community Projects. One group joined the 3.9 Art Collective to create art for seniors, one group joined Citizen Film to clean up and plant in the Buchanan Mall, and one group joined CommunityGrows to weed and lay stones in the AAACC garden. The day ended with a barbeque and social hour in the parking lot.
Thank You. We at CommunityGrows want to thank all the volunteers who showed up and continue to support our programs and organization! We also want to give a shout-out to Broadmoor Landscape Supply for donating the rocks for our garden and to the AAACC, Citizen Film, and 3.9 Art Collective for a successful event!
Thanks again to everyone who volunteered to serve the community!
Martin Luther King, Jr., from: Nobel Foundation (http://nobelprize.org/) [Public domain]. Wikimedia Commons.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017 was an amazing night to celebrate 23 years of CommunityGrows and Barbara Wenger’s upcoming retirement as founder and Executive Director.
The African American Arts and Culture Complex (AAACC) was abuzz with activity from early morning, setting up the Hall of Culture and firming up last minute details. Barbara Fujimoto, former Advisory Board member, donated the beautiful flowers and huge pumpkins for our decorations (thank you Barb!). By 4pm a few of our BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens), Eluis, Jennifer, Vihn, and Michelle, arrived with Advisory Board members Jaromy Schmidt, Liz Holt, Catheline Leung, Maricel Guinto, Jessica Jauw, and Christina Mathis to volunteer with setup and our silent auction. Staff and VISTA employees Karen Lally and Laura Witzig also did a lot of behind the scenes work.
Sophie Constantinou, Partner/Director of Citizen Film, arrived to set up the sound and video work with Kevin Myrick, Director of Synergy Moon and sound director for the AAACC. Name tags were laid out……and delicious food from La Mediterranee arrived. the spread included hummus, organic green salad, falafel, spinach and feta phyllo, rice pilaf, chicken pomegranate, and grilled veggies with tofu. Jaromy Schmidt, our Advisory Board co-chair and Starbucks District Manager, brought delicious cake pops and homemade cupcakes with the help of Liz Holm, also an Advisory Board member and Dual Store Manager at Starbucks.
Over the past few weeks Barbara had been dreaming about all the people that were invited to the party—friends she’d made over the past 23 years. These were friends from her past, from former employees to friends from the neighborhood. There were friends from Hayes Valley, John Muir and Rosa Parks Elementary Schools, the San Francisco Zen Center, youth organizations, partners, City dignitaries and employees, the Tides Center (CommunityGrows’ fiscal sponsor), consultants, funders, and supporters of CommunityGrows. So many of these people showed up to celebrate with her. It was truly a celebration of life!
Barbara thanked the AAACC staff and their two new Executive Directors, twins Melora and Melonie Green, for hosting the evening.
The night was about reconnecting, cultivating and supporting the future of CommunityGrows. Along the walls of the Hall of Culture event space, photos of over 150 of our BEETS teen program participants reflected ten years of the program, as well as highlighting some of the 1,300 youth we serve each year. Here are some guests from the evening…
Will Newsom was our Master of Ceremonies, introducing everyone and keeping the program moving along. Speakers came to offer their praise and stories about Barbara, including President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, London Breed; Director of Public Works, Mohammed Nuru; Director of the Human Rights Commission, Sheryl Davis; and General Manager of the San Francisco Recreation and Park Department, Phil Ginsberg. It was an honor to have them there.
One of the highlights of the evening was the music by Con Brio lead man, Ziek McCarter.
Ziek came to us in 2011 as one of our BEETS. He was a very shy and introspective guy. Soon after being a BEET, we hired him onto our staff to be a Garden Educator at Rosa Parks Elementary. Music being his passion, he soon broke out with Con Brio, which is now one of the premier rock, pop, and soul bands in San Francisco and the world. They go on tours through Europe, Australia, and Japan (where they are number 8 on the pop charts)! We have deep love for him and were so happy that he and his bandmate came out to play for us that night.
Barbara introduced the staff and Advisory Board of CommunityGrows and our new Executive Director, Kelly ErnstFriedman, who has been with CommunityGrows for the past three years as Director of Programs and Deputy Director. Kelly has a decade of experience working with nonprofits increasing program performance and impact, grant writing, staff management. She has a PhD in Cultural Anthropology from American University in Washington DC. Since she’s been with us, she’s expanded programming evaluations, streamlined and strengthened our operations through better record keeping, financial reporting, and engagement with the Board. With the help of our Board members, she secured two AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers last year, increasing our staff capacity by 80 hours a week! We know Kelly will take CommunityGrows to even greater heights!
Barbara also thanked the Koshland Family who gifted us Koshland Park and the Community Learning Garden over 44 years ago. This park and garden continues to be our home-base site for John Muir Elementary School day classes, as well as after-school and summer programs. It is the site of the Western Addition Peace Wall, a seven-year project that honors the families and youth of this neighborhood. The Koshland Family has continued to support our presence in the park and garden and we owe them our deepest gratitude.
Another highlight of the evening, introduced by CommunityGrows Director of Programs, Melissa Tang, was a surprise video done by Citizen Film in honor of Barbara, thanks to Sophie Constantinou.
Many of Barb’s dearest staff and friends talked about the impact she made on the lives of so many people. It was a beautiful tribune which brought tears to our eyes. Here are more guests from the evening…
Finally, Barbara tried to answer one of the burning questions of the night. “What am I going to do when I retire?” Here is what she said: “While I’m happy to be leaving this organization with a young, smart and devoted crew, I want to be outdoors more, as well as pursue the visual arts. I envision walking in a forest as a park ranger or being an assessor of our national parks and old lodges throughout the United States. I also hope to be creating and studying art. If anyone has leads of a part-time job doing these things, let me know.”
An amazing crew of Advisory Board members and others stayed to clean up and put the Hall of Culture back to it original self.
It was a night to remember and one joyously celebrated. Thank you everyone! For more photos, most taken by our gracious photographer, Judith Keenan, see our Flickr Photostream here.
Speakers: London Breed (President, SF Board of Supes), Mohammed Nuru (Director, Dept of Public Works), Sheryl Davis (Director, SF Human Rights Commission), Phil Ginsberg (General Manager, SF Rec & Parks Dept)
Food: La Mediterranee and Starbucks
Silent Auction Donors — Thanks to the work of Bob Barnwell and our amazing Advisory Board: Last Minute Gear – gift certificate, Melissa and Mike Mulcahy and Stuart and Jim Michler – wine tasting weekend in Sonoma, Suppenkuche – dinner for two, Stacks – breakfast for two, SF Symphony – two tickets, SF Opera – two tickets, Yoga Tree – five-class pass, AASC – two season subscriptions, Legion of Honor/de Young – two VIP passes, Urban Putt – two games of mini-golf, Peggy Chipkin – one Feldenkrais lesson, Bluxome Street Winery – wine tasting at Ghirardelli Square, Rochioli – set of wines
Event Space: African American Arts & Culture Complex
Donors: Thanks to all attendees, and to those who donated but could not attend.
On Monday January 16, 2017 CommunityGrows joined the African American Arts and Culture Complex (AAACC) to honor Martin Luther King Jr with a presentation and workday in various sites in the Western Addition. Great volunteers joined us from all over the Bay Area, with an especially large contingent from Lick-Wilmerding High School in San Francisco. Volunteers met at the AAACC to sign in and enjoy a light breakfast. Then they were treated to a short presentation by John William Templeton, who spoke of the impact Dr. King had on the African American community in San Francisco. Mr. Templeton is well known for curating a brochure entitled The African American Freedom Trail, and authoring books such as Come to the Water: Sharing the Rich Black Experience in San Francisco, and Our Roots Run Deep: The Black Experience in California. He is founder of ReUNION: Education Arts Heritage, an instructional video network designed to provide culturally responsive curriculum to schools globally. Templeton also operates SF Soul Shuttle tours which highlight the African American history and culture of San Francisco. After the presentation, volunteers divided into groups to work at three sites: Buchanan Mall, the AAACC, and Koshland Garden. They were able to clean a large parking lot adjacent to the AAACC, collecting trash and renewing the native plant garden along the periphery. In Buchanan Mall, a five-block greenway on Buchanan Street, volunteers were able to collect trash and spruce up the garden. A few blocks away at Koshland Garden, CommunityGrows staff Melissa Tang and Paul Bergkamp sent teams of volunteers with our BEETS (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) to different areas of the garden to flip compost, lay wood chips, pick up trash, prune trees and vines, weed, mulch and harvest peas, broccoli and mustard greens. At lunch-time everyone met back at the AAACC to have a great lunch and receive thanks for the amazing work they did. Thank you everyone for a great day to uphold the values of giving back and volunteering for this important cause. A special thanks to Peter Merts for his beautiful photos! His photos can also be found on our CommunityGrows flickr photostream here.
On Monday, January 18, 2016 over 90 volunteers came out to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service. This event was sponsored by the African American Arts and Culture Center (AAACC) and CommunityGrows. Volunteers began arriving at 8:30 AM on a morning reprieved from the wonderful rain we’ve been having in the Bay Area. After a light breakfast of bagels and coffee, Mohammed Soriano Bilal, Director of the AAACC directed everyone to the buildings Burial Clay Theatre to hear an inspirational talk by John William Templeton. Mr. Templeton curated a African American Freedom Trail brochure which leads visitors to the various historic landmarks, such as the Third Baptist Church of San Francisco founded in 1852, that illustrate the remarkable contributions of African-Americans to the city. He is also the author of “Come to the Water: Sharing the Rich Black Experience in San Francisco,” “Our Roots Run Deep: The Black Experience in California” and other books. He is founder of ReUNION: Education Arts Heritage, an instructional video network designed to provide culturally responsive curriculum to schools globally. Templeton also operates SF Soul Shuttle tours which bring the African American history and culture of San Francisco, including where to dine, meet, shop and worship. He spoke about Martin Luther King coming to San Francisco and his importance for the African American community. Then over 90 volunteers, many from the San Francisco Teacher Residency Program, Playworks, Lick-Wilmerding and University High School divided into three groups and traveled to three garden sites to work. A group from Lick-Wilmerding under the leadership of CommunityGrows staff Kelly Ernst-Friedman and Melissa Tang, worked in the garden and parking lot of the AAACC picking up trash and mulching and gleaning the native plants. A large group from Playworks joined CommunityGrows staff Adrian Almquist, Crystal Jones, and BEET (Band of Environmentally Educated and Employable Teens) Jennifer Nazara to work in Koshland Garden.Another large group from University High School joined CommunityGrows staff Jay Jordan, Cha’Shay Woldridge and BEET Adrian Valencia to work at Rosa Parks Elementary School garden. At the end of the workday morning, groups convened by at the AAACC for a delicious lunch and BBQ. So much good work was done to make these gardens and spaces shine. All the volunteers were awesome. Thank you so much to everyone for this very successful day!For MANY more photos check out our CommunityGrows Flickr Photostream.
On Saturday, December 12, 2015, the African American Arts & Culture Complex held it’s 15th Winter Carnival. While Santa met youth inside the Complex with toy giveaways, and food, carnival and fun games prevailed in the parking lot. There were performances by Project Level, Village Dancers, Talent Allstars, PUSH Dance Company, Larkin Bukido Karate, Capoeira Angola,the UMCA Hayward Reconnect and others. Some of the most fun was outside with the pony rides, checking out the animal farm, riding the saucers, flying the twirly-whirl, doing the arcade, and playing in the snow. Great time was had by all. For more photos from the day, check out our CommunityGrows Flickr Photostream.