Tucson leaders come together to grow stronger communities

Written by: Rosa Gonzalez, Education Director

I just got back from Tucson, Arizona, where Green For All and Tierra y Libertad Organization (TYLO) hosted a bilingual training course designed to amplify the power of the city’s community organizers.  Our goal with the training was to help the newly formed Southern Arizona Green For All Coalition advance its vision, which is to link sustainable economic development with participation and power-building in communities most affected by poverty and pollution. I came away deeply inspired by the thirty volunteers I met who are working to create a brighter, more sustainable future for Tucson. 

Tackling issues like global warming, food inequality, and racism can feel incredibly daunting—until you meet a group of inspired, energetic volunteers of all ages who are ready to build a movement and create a truly inclusive green economy.

The training’s thirty participants included folks working on issues as diverse as migrant justice and school reform. But over the course of the week, one issue emerged as a key opportunity in Tucson: Expanding access to fresh, healthy, local food.

Tucson is a city where one of the primary industries is the production of missiles. But our partners there have a different vision for the city. They are growing community gardens that will not only expand access to healthy food—but will build new leaders and create cohesion within their neighborhoods.

Coming out of four days of relationship-building, collective critical analysis, and action-planning, these volunteers committed to working together to see their vision through. They will organize community assemblies using the skills they gained in the training to facilitate the kind of deep dialogue and leadership development needed to expand the movement for sustainable community development within Tucson’s most vulnerable communities.

The meeting was a reminder of the kind of positive action that results from participatory democracy. By honoring the power of wisdom within circles, we remember to respect multiple perspectives. We remember that everyone has something to offer, and we remember the strength in unity. These kind of participatory spaces are designed to foster critical dialogue as well as concrete planning—and they help leaders of all ages thrive. At our Tucson training, young leaders played an especially critical role in setting the group’s collective agenda and generating solutions.

We closed the training with a ceremony in which all of the participants expressed their commitment to work together to promote healthy communities in Tucson. We can’t wait to see their vision unfold and to lift up Southern Arizona as an example and an ally for all the other communities we have the privilege of working with.

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