by Biani, Tufts Civic Semester Participant
Greeting friends and family, we had our first organization visit in Tucson, Arizona and I will start by saying that it was truly inspiring!
On October 29th, we set off bright and early at 6 am for our long awaited visit with our first organization in Arizona called Flowers and Bullets (F&B)! Flowers and Bullets is a community-based organization in Barrio Centro/Julia Keen that focuses on counteracting the effects of systemic economic and environmental racism by creating healthy alternatives for the neighborhood, such as art, rain water harvesting, and farming.
The organization was started by Tito Romero and Jacob Robles after the Mexican American Studies department at a local high school in Tucson was shutdown for promoting “ethnic chauvanism” and “discrimination towards Americans of European descent.” After being exposed to youth organizing around the U.S, Jacob and Tito decided to create Flowers and Bullets, which started off as a T-shirt line. The name ‘Flowers and Bullets’ represents a push back against society as well as their upbringing in the community as it was both influenced by art, but also a struggle. A year later, the organization began to grow when Dora Martinez joined as they were able to incorporate gardening and farming into their work.
The farm space that they work out now (Midtown Farm) is an old elementary school that was shutdown by the city. This was heartbreaking for the community as the school was the heart of the neighborhood filled with celebrations, art and laughter. F&B is trying to fill that gap by bringing the community into the work that they do, through their BSA (Barrio Supported Agriculture) program, rainwater harvesting, and organizing neighborhood fiestas. Something great that they do in their BSA program is prioritizing locals, elders, and pregnant women for who gets to be selected to receive their fresh goods. They are also very involved in painting murals around the community because they understand the importance of creating a welcoming space, especially for people of color and so they try to incorporate black and brown faces into their art to represent the people in the community. Beyond growing fruits and vegetables, Midtown Farm also raises chickens and goats. Fun fact, the chicken coupe at the farm was actually built by high school students as a project. Flowers and Bullets truly prioritizes incorporating education into the work that they do and using things like farming and cooking as opportunities for learning. The organization has realized that there is a disconnect between consumers and the food industry, and are trying to bridge that gap through their farm, which I think is very admirable.
We were lucky enough to spend the day with them. We started off the morning learning about the organization and taking a tour of the farm, where we got to hang out and pet the goats. Next, we started working on the farm and did a bunch of different jobs like raking, plucking green beans, and cutting corn stems. After that we took a lunch break and played with the goats some more (this time we got to feed them!). In the afternoon we began canvassing in groups of two or three and spread flyers that had to do with a Barrio Fiesta happening soon. We ended the day reflecting and sharing gratitude about the time we had spent with Tito, Jacob, Brandon, and Silvia and our overall thoughts on the neighborhood. Listening to the work that they do and the positive impact that they are having on Barrio Centro is motivating and inspiring because despite being such a small group, they are making great progress and creating a safe space for community members to turn to. The work that they are doing has encouraged me to stay motivated while community organizing and understand there are different ways to support a neighborhood and you do not only have to specialize in one area.
Thank you Flowers and Bullets for sharing your community with us, and we will be sure to take everything we have learned from you on community organizing back to Tufts!
Originally posted here.