Melvin Parson, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, never planned to be a farmer. In fact, he’d never even had the faintest interest in gardening until fate struck a few years ago. “This wonderful lady named Verna,” Parson remembers, “who got around in a motorized wheel chair, passed away in 2013. And she was a prolific gardener, and she had a raised vegetable bed. I’d lived in the neighborhood for four years and never thought about growing a vegetable. It didn’t cross my mind. But in the spring of 2014, her vegetable bed landed in my lap. I’m like ‘what the hell am I supposed to do with this?’ So I just kind of rolled with it. And I remember being out there cleaning out her vegetable bed that spring, and I could feel Verna’s spirit come over me. And I’m like ‘Verna, look, you know I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m gonna do the best I can in honor of you.’”
By the time Kevinee Gilmore was in college, it seemed like she really was beating all the odds. In the foster care system since she was 13, the oldest of five, she’d never expected to succeed in school, not to mention graduate from Cleveland State with a Bachelors degree in social work.
Ever since she was a teenager, ioby Action Strategist Rhiannon Chester has dedicated much of her energy to working for better public education, immigrant rights, affirmative action, economic justice, and LGBT youth in her native Detroit. After years of supporting others’ projects, Rhiannon led her first ioby campaign this past spring. Read about what she did, how it went, and the things she learned when the tables were turned!
Linda Wallen has always been an artist. A longtime Pittsburgh resident, she spent her early career painting portraits of “the rich and famous,” and then “retired into” teaching French and Spanish (through art) to elementary school students. But it was in the 1990s that her interest in public art really took off, after a trip to Barcelona.
Right after Labor Day, ioby welcomed aboard the newest member of our staff: Chris Jones, Memphis Action Strategist! Chris will be working with Ellen Roberds to help residents of Memphis make the changes they want to see in their city, block by block.
In my position at ioby, I’m fortunate to see firsthand some of the work being done around the country to make our neighborhoods stronger, more equitable, and more kind. Seeing it often makes me feel optimistic about Americans’ ability to lead our own communities in the change we want to see. But sometimes we’re served a jarring reminder of just how deeply rooted the problems are that we face as Americans. And sometimes the ugliness can seem too much to bear.
What do you do when your city repossess over 1,000 streetlights in your underserved neighborhood, literally putting the lights out on you? Build your own. Only better, and greener. Bring in, that is, community-owned solar power.
ioby works every day with all types of community groups and leaders. These range from loosely-affiliated groups of neighbors working together for the first time on a specific and discrete project, to established 501c3 nonprofit organizations with paid program staff and multiple sources of operating revenue. (Here’s how crowdfunding can help established nonprofits.)
ioby is always looking for the next city where we can support more projects and St. Louis is at the top of this year’s list. St. Louisans have a lot of pride about their grassroots work being done to propel their city into an equitable future.
Reverend Leah Lewis, J.D., grew up in one of the first African American families on her block in pre-white-flight Cleveland Heights, Ohio — but lived her first decade blissfully unaware of the racism that had shaped and was shaping her country. Her family welcomed in friends from all over the world, and her neighbors, a lovely elderly couple of European decent, adored her.