We the People Opportunity Farm: June Newsletter

Fri, June 12, 2020 11:54 AM | Anonymous

We the People Opportunity Farm

June Newsletter


These past few months have been a little taxing on my soul. Being a Black man I have felt under siege on many fronts… COVID 19, civilian & police brutality and oppression. Although I haven’t been one of the POC who disproportionately contracted COVID 19, nor have I been hunted down and murdered while innocently jogging, nor have I had an officers knee on my neck, I still feel those moments deep within my soul. I feel my Black skin is the target and there have been many days in the last few months when I have had to call on/ reach out to my “folks” for reassurance. I have an incredible son and an adorable grandson who calls me “Poppi” and I’m driven by making sure no one's knee is on their neck and that they are able to BREATHE! 

Over the past week I have found myself trying to be still and hear the voices of my ancestors. What keeps coming up for me is the voice of Guthrie Arline Parson.This woman was my grandmother (RIP) and she was the closest person to resemble an Angel that I have met in my entire lifespan thus far. I had the honor and profound fortune of being raised by and prayed over and over and over by this woman. And to be honest, it is this woman I am most certain that is responsible for me being the person I am today. I reflect on one of the last times I saw her…she was in a hospital and she looked tired & fragile. I said, “Mama, I wish that I could give you some of my strength”. In response, with all the sincerity & love she had in her body she looked me in the eye and said, “Baby you keep your strength because you’re going to need it for yourself. I’ll be alright”. I had a praying grandmother; a grandmother filled with love and integrity; a grandmother who poured a whole lot of her into me and I believe that if there is a heaven up above I’m certain that she is up there advocating on my behalf. So, with all this said, I’m dedicating my June Newsletter for We The People Opportunity Farm to her, Guthrie Arline Parson.

This brings me to our Newsletter.

As an organization we recently sat down with each other and methodically crafted our Core Values & Definitions. These values will help in leading us as we do the important working of changing the soil in folks lives. Our values will also hold us accountable as we make decisions and take actions as an organization that impact us and our community. I want to take this opportunity to share our values and how we define them with you so that you can also hold us accountable in what we do:   

Radically Inclusive: Including everyone, especially accepting and accommodating people who have historically been excluded (due to their race, gender, sexuality, or ability). We honor different identities, ideas and experiences and invite everyone, especially those who have historically been excluded, into the pursuit of our mission.

Intentionally Collaborative: We cannot meet our mission without you. We invite you into our work. We value the power of collective thinking and impact, even when it is challenging.

Courageously Disruptive: In all that we do we will stretch ourselves and those we work alongside to challenge the Prison Industrial Complex.

Rooted in Justice: We work vigorously for freedom and justice for formerly incarcerated Black, Indigenous, Latinx, People of Color and, by extension, all incarcerated people.

Committed to Growth: We will steward all our resources with integrity, love, and respect for the earth. This in turn, fuels our belief that all living things when nurtured in good soil, given sun, and water will flourish.

Our formerly incarcerated paid internship program is off to a GREAT start! We are fortunate to have TWO dynamic interns, Malachai Muhammad and Abdurrahman (Abdu) Banta. Just as my grandmother left a legacy in my life, they are who I'm striving to leave a legacy for. Both have shared with us their delight regarding being in our program and they both feel valued & supported. In fact, just the other day, Abdu arrived at the farm earlier than scheduled because being out there brought him a sense of peace. 

We have lots of plans for our interns that include opportunities to be involved with staple organizations including Food Gatherers and Habitat For Humanity. They will also get a chance to meet and talk with the Mayor of Ypsilanti, Beth Bashert. And now that more restrictions have been lifted we are lining up field trips that will span all the way from urban farms to the State Capitol.

Farming operations, which are being led by our outstanding Farm Manager are moving along well and our spring planted crops will be ready to begin harvesting in only a few weeks. We are anxiously awaiting this moment because it is at that point we’ll begin distributing a large portion to our surrounding community at no cost! Our valuable community partner, Habitat for Humanity has offered to build us a Farm Stand for which we will use as our distribution point out near our farm. This pivot has been made fiscally possible because of the support our organization has received from United Way of Washtenaw County and from the Ann Arbor Area Community Foundation.

And yes, the remaining produce will still wind up in the kitchens and on the plates of some outstanding restaurants like Zingerman's Roadhouse, Zingerman's Deli, Detroit Street Filling Station, Maiz Mexican Cantina, The Lunch Room, Argus Farm Stop, Frita Batidos, The Ypsilanti Food Co-op and The People’s Food Co-op Ann Arbor.

“Changing soil”, “Building community”, “A seat at the table”, are all phrases which have driven and still to this day, continue to drive me. I and all those involved with We The People Opportunity Farm feel strongly about this work and we guarantee that there will be more to come; more “soil to change” in folks' lives years to come.

In July we will launch a campaign drive to support the essential work that We The People Opportunity Farm is doing in our efforts to address incarceration, equity, opportunity and food scarcity. So please give! Our formal campaign launch will begin July 1, but you can certainly give right now! https://www.wtpof.org/Contribute 

Our goal is to raise $125k. We realize this may seem like a lofty goal however, in comparison, it cost this amount to keep 3 folks locked up for 1 year on parking ticket violations! We ask that you give. Stretch yourself! Not only because our organization needs your support, but stretch yourself because our organization is worthy of it. This IS the time for change! We ARE making a difference in the lives of folks and the community and we WILL double our capacity to bring formerly incarcerated paid interns into our program in 2021, and we plan to double THAT in 2022! Join our soil & community changing movement!! We need you!

In Solidarity & Love,

Melvin Parson,

Executive Director, 

We The People Opportunity Farm

Find us online!

Website: wtpof.org

Twitter: WTPOF@changingsoil

Facebook: We the People Opportunity Farm

Instagram: W.T.P.O.F.

Instagram: W.T.P.O.F.

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Mailing Address:

3000 Green Street #131382
Ann Arbor, MI 48113

Farm Address:

1301 S Harris Road
Ypsilanti, MI 48198