Witnessing Change, Effecting Change
Posted by: Ivy
On Thursday, February 2nd, a community meeting was held at the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Pittsburgh, located in the neighborhood of Friendship. The turnout was impressive, and the familiarity, welcoming atmosphere, and warmth that permeated every aspect of the room was remarkable. Tales of aspiration and dreams for the community were recounted, with successes and setbacks recounted equally, but all with a spirit of optimism and cooperation. It was inspiring to be present for such an ongoing.
Kristin Hughes gave a presentation of Latham St. Commons at this meeting, and as such, Francis Carter and the students of the stakeholder group from the Designing for Community course were present. The community reaction to Kristin’s presentation was positive and optimistic, and seeing the reactions of people who will be impacted by this project is invaluable to our design process by the dimension it adds to our perspectives. The individual reactions of these students to the meeting (And other experiences in the surrounding area) will be recounted below. Moving forward, with more community engagement, to not only those of the Friendship community, but to the communities of Garfield and Bloomfield as well, we hope to be able to create a complex and nuanced vision of the connections and relationships that make up these vibrant communities, gaining perspective from individuals and organizations alike.
As I reflect on what I've learned about food and community over the past few weeks, I realize that education has the potential to be very impactful to change daily diets for better wellness. I've learned about nutrition-caused diseases which are the leading killers of Americans, and real foods and the health benefits associated with them. I've noticed that real foods are not mainstream in American food culture and that most foods are mass manufactured and heavily processed and include chemicals and artificial elements. I recognize that this food culture is definitely in need of a transition towards more local, natural, healthy, and moderate consumption. This transition could take place through community-based skill sharing and education and support. The question is, how do you start building community around food?
I think some ideas to help build community is to create a safe space where people can dabble and expirament with food. This could be experimenting with a garden, bottling baby food, cooking, making, and selling food. If the community could show support for pleople in these experimental phases, then perhaps the experiments will excel.
Our group decided to grasp the opportunity of participating in the community meeting this past Thursday where Latham Commons was presented. It was great to see the enthusiasm and support given by those in attendance.
Particularly they loved the idea of a common kitchen where food preparation training can occur. Maybe this can become a community gathering space where seniors can meet and learn proper diet skills? What if it becomes a cooking workshop or after school Home Ec space?
Before the meeting I spent some time at a a local tea bar (Bantha). It was super small and intimate, the perfect setting for learning more about the area. It is a very welcoming space, and a unique experience. Along with their unique teas, the bar also sells food prepared at other restaurants in the area. In a sense, they are a hub for local goodies. What if our space can provide a hub for the experts in these local businesses to hold workshops.
We should try to make deeper connections with the businesses, see where links can be made between them and start to create a loop back to Latham Commons that will act as the communal space for all.
The community meeting on Thursday was my first exposure to the people who initiated changes to the Latham St. Commons area. I was surprised by the number of people who gathered at the meeting as well as the extent to which the community participants communicated with each other to construct a positive communal experience. The meeting was another chance for me to witness the stakeholders of our community and how each stakeholder interacts with one another. I realized that volunteering and self-sacrifice plays a essential role in such community activities. Everyone that joined the meeting on Thursday were investing personal time to develop the community into a safer and healthier space.
I noticed, however, that the meeting did not expand upon issues like education in the community. There are numerous schools, hospitals, daycare centers, etc... that could be used as learning centers for children and young adults regarding food safety. I felt that it is difficult to construct a community immune from the evolving nature of food in today's agricultural industry without the proper bedrock education.
Change is a difficult abstract to contemplate. It can happen so gradually one might doubt they had ever witnessed it or with such violent rapidity it may render the world nigh unrecognizable. To witness change occurring with such distinct character, and in such a democratic and cooperative manner as I witnessed in attending this community meeting was inspiring. Every individual present in the room had taken time from their schedule to commit towards the benign development and progress of their community. To see people, each with their own ambitions and desires, applauding the actions of others, and offering time and resources to realize these causes recalled the adages of change as the mutual and simultaneous transformation of self as the path towards a better future.
As it pertains back to Latham St. Commons, it brings to mind that this space could become innumerable in its effects upon others, a space that could effect change, both personal and social. In the education and development of healthier eating habits, personal change becomes possible-change that may scale, as it ripples outwards, gathering in momentum, becoming social change. Simultaneous, in a space that effects such transformation and impact upon the lives of citizens beyond their home and work loves, we see the development of a Third Space , a space of innumerable potential where interactions become unbound to dualistic assumptions and restrictions that fetter empathy and communication, particularly across social divisions. Moving forward, engaging more community members at an individual scale and a greater engagement of local organizations to begin to weave a complex braid of social interactions into our role in Latham St. Commons can flow, and one day realize Latham St. Commons into the Green Braid .
Oldenburg, Ray. The Great Good Place: CafeÌs, Coffee Shops, Community Centers, Beauty Parlors, General Stores, Bars, Hangouts, and How They Get You Through the Day. New York: Paragon House, 1989. Print.
Tanzer, Kim, and Rafael Longoria. The Green Braid: Towards an Architecture of Ecology, Economy, and Equity. London: Routledge, 2007. Print.