Juneteenth Celebration at the Farmers Market

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A wide variety of titles are offered up at the West Broad Farmers Market.

The early morning ride to the West Broad Farmers Market Juneteenth celebration wasn’t bad. Traffic was light, and the temperature hovered around seventy degrees. As volunteers, farmers, artists, bakers and others prepared, Travis, the Community Agriculture Director, set me up with a tent next to the MEU Radio booth. According to the organization’s website, “MEU (Music, Education, Uplift) Radio – Athens is here to entertain, inform and motivate the youth of Athens, GA. Our goal is to help free them from the stranglehold of poverty by pouring messages into the community that will ignite the light to a path of positive and prosperous living.”

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Hip hop artists L.G. and BlackNerdNinja pump up the crowd.

While curious readers from all walks of life stopped to share stories and choose books, the Athens Anti-Discrimination Movement’s Mokah-Jasmine Johnson performed a few songs of empowerment. Next came Athens’ own hip hop artists L.G. and BlackNerdNinja, followed by local poet Synergistic Sierra, who  shared a few poems with musical accompaniment.

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Montu Miller, Mokah-Jasmine Johnson and others support local artists.

Twenty-eight books were given away, and community connections were formed. From social justice activists working to end poverty, to locavores promoting sustainable farming practices (and now literacy), the West Broad Farmers Market is a good fit for the Bibliobike, which will return on most Saturdays throughout the summer.

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Tillandsia sprouts like a child’s imagination.

Explore Joshua L. Jones’ photos of the the celebration for the Athens Banner-Herald here.

West Broad Farmers Market

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On a sweltering day last summer at Broad Acres, a woman told me the West Broad Farmers Market would be perfect for the Bibliobike. So I took her advice and pedaled there two Saturdays ago to get a feel for the route and turnout. After buying some tasty beets and kohlrabi from R&R Secret Farms, I met a kind member of the Athens Land Trust team named Travis, the Community Agriculture Director. Brief introductions and a few emails led to today’s test ride with the rig, the first of the year…

Farmers Market Route

I tightened up some bolts, pumped up the tires, hitched the rig to the bike, then headed south along Chase Street. Cruising down Hancock was fun, but crossing West Broad was unavoidable (and a bit stressful). Once the light turned green, I decided to ride along a short stretch of sidewalk to avoid cars racing past at 40+ miles per hour. The return trip uphill worried me most, but it wasn’t bad. The Plaza looked like less of an incline compared to Hancock or Glenhaven, so I inched my way back up to Chase. The route wasn’t as difficult as last summer’s trips to Garnet Ridge, so the West Broad Farmers Market will be the first Bibliobike stop of 2019.

The market will celebrate Juneteenth on Saturday, June 15th. Juneteenth is an annual holiday when people around the country celebrate the end of slavery in the United States, so why not celebrate by empowering kids with literature? Starting June 15th, the Bibliobike will join sustainability and community-oriented folks at the market on Saturdays from 9:00-1:00.

More delivery locations are in the works, so stay tuned and spread the word!

 

Connecting

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Robert Beck’s craftsmanship stands strong during another summer’s heat.

Bibliobike deliveries inevitably cross paths with other folks working to improve the community. Read on to meet two.

Like The Salvation Army, the Summer Food Service Program in the Garnet Ridge neighborhood was cut short due to low numbers. The day it ended, Tracey Massey stepped in to continue delivering lunches to the kids who arrive religiously around noon each day. Tracey is the adult and child nutrition coordinator for the Food Bank of Northeast Georgia. Each weekday morning she drives to the Food Bank and puts together nutritious sack lunches, then delivers them to the kids in Garnet Ridge. Since she has taken over, the menu varies a bit compared to food distributed at the beginning of summer. Tracey says she follows the US Department of Agriculture’s MyPlate guidelines when selecting items. The kids get excited about what’s in the sack, and Tracey says, “Each time is like opening a stocking.” I’ll see her and the kids again tomorrow.

On a humid Friday at Broad Acres (rain on Thursday), a man with a camera approaches the rig while I pack up. With a smile, he says he’s been meaning to catch me during one of the deliveries. Danny Davenport introduces himself as the Athens Housing Authority property manager for Rocksprings and Broad Acres. We talk at length about how to engage young residents in community building at home and school. He tells me that he’s interested in growing fruits and vegetables. A handful of well-intended blueberry bushes he planted were “ripped up,” so I recommend asking residents what they would like to plant, and invite them to take part in the process. (It’s all about agency.) Danny tells me about a new partnership with the Athens-Clarke County Community Tree Council, which will plant more trees in the neighborhood. He snaps a photo and hands me his card. Trees, fruits, vegetables and literacy? I think to myself as I pedal past. We’ll stay in touch.

Blood and the Kindness of Strangers

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Warning: Disc brake rotors are sharp.

In addition to learning about the human condition when I meet people during visits around the community, I also discover things about bikes. Sometimes the hard way.

Last Monday’s delivery to The Salvation Army was a bloody one. Delayed a bit due to rain, the regular crew was already there waiting for dinner outside the cafeteria when I rolled up. Just after I unscrewed the pins near the rear hub and unhooked the bike from the trailer (one of the first logistical tasks), I noticed that a kid squeezing and sucking the last drops from a juice box was getting fruit punch all over the cart, books and somehow, me. Or so I thought.

Turns out I managed to slice the tip of my ring finger on a disc break rotor and smear blood on just about everything I touched. I held a washcloth against it to stem the flow and the concerned kids quickly took up organizing books on the shelves. Five minutes later, a kind Tolkien fan named Jenny emerged from the building wielding Band-Aids, which she wrapped around my finger with great care.

The rest of the evening went well. I chatted at length with a number of folks, including a homeless man named Will, who, like me, has fond and not-so-fond memories of South Georgia and North Florida. Nine people walked away with books, and I made it back before the darkening sky opened up. Tonight I’ll return to the Salvation Army with requests for Judy Blume, The Hobbit, and a copy of David Pelzer’s A Child Called “It,” a harrowing story about abuseI’ll also be mindful of the disc rotors.

The Salvation Army

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The day I met Tracy, the site manager for Summer Food Service distribution at The Salvation Army, the program was shuttered due to low turnout. I happened to catch Tracy and three other women walking out of the cafeteria on that last day (June fifth), so I delivered the usual elevator pitch. She explained why lunches would no longer be served, then invited me to bring books around dinnertime.

“On any given night, between six to eight families stay here. We serve dinner from five to six, and people start showing up around four.”

“I’ll see you next Monday.”

Drenched in sweat, I pulled into the parking lot behind the cafeteria a little before four. A woman poked her head out of the door and gave me a curious look. I introduced myself, explained the strange rig, then set everything up.

Initially, mostly men walked up and situated themselves on the concrete benches. Most knew each other, and a few asked about the Bibliobike. Many mentioned how much they looked forward to showering after dinner.

During the next hour, moms, dads and kids joined us as the group swelled to around forty. I gave away thirteen books in all – many to adults planning to pass them along to young family members. A man with a long grey braid named Mike chose a book about dinosaurs for a nephew which sparked a conversation about places to find fossils in Georgia. Another man selected two books for a grandson in Chicago. Some moms sent their children over on their own to select books. Others chatted while helping their kids choose. From illness to prison stints, snippets of conversations throughout the evening revealed a range of struggles rooted in poverty.

 

Garnet Ridge

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Garnet Ridge’s Awesome Clubhouse is a collaboration between UGA and the Northeast Georgia Foodbank.

One of last summer’s Bibliobike stops was on a concrete slab at the corner of Amethyst and Elkview situated in a Latino community of fifty or so duplexes. A former student and long time resident named Carlos said, “You should set up at La Escuelita.” This summer I will.

A collaboration between UGA and the Northeast Georgia Foodbank converted the duplex into a small after school center for residents of the Garnet Ridge community in 2014. When I visited the building last summer, I must have missed the hour-long window when lunches are served because it was vacant. This summer’s timing is much better.

I call the number on the Summer Food Service Program flyer for “more information.” A kind woman gives me specific delivery times and site manager names for locations around town. Garnet Ridge deliveries are scheduled from noon to one, so I drive over (rather than tow the cart in case nobody’s there) and meet Latasha. After my Bibliobike spiel, she says, “You’ll help us, and we’ll help you.” She says turnout has been low, and if the number of kids on a given day continues to drop below twelve, the site will be shut down. Hopefully free books will incentivize more kids to come out when the Bibliobike returns.

For more information about the history of The Awesome Clubhouse @ La Escuelita, click here.

Park Place

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If it wasn’t July in Georgia, the granite boulders scattered around this shaded spot at Park Place Apartments would be ideal places for folks to sit and read. Temperature and humidity likely contributed to last Thursday’s low turnout. (I passed the time with Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation, a little summertime science fiction.) Only three kids walked away with books, but I connected with a couple families.

A neighbor told the first visitor that I teach third grade at Chase Street. Her son happens to be a rising third grader who’s been living in another state. She said he’ll visit Athens next week, so I gave her my contact information, as well as our principal’s, so she can arrange a tour. I look forward to meeting him when I return next week. A familiar face at a new school eases some of the stress for a new student.

The first young reader to browse last Thursday will also be a third grader at Chase next year. His dad chose a bilingual (Spanish and English) phrase book, and his son selected one on rocks and minerals so he can preview some third grade science content. They asked if I’d be back next week, so hopefully they’ll spread the word.