Re:Own - Local Entrepeneur Spotlight: Adriana Rondón Rivero

 Photo credit:  Brandon N. Sanchez  

Photo credit: Brandon N. Sanchez 

“¡Mi mente y mi corazón muy fuertes. Mi mente y mi corazón muy felices," is a mantra Adriana Rondón teaches kids at Munroe Elementary school through her YogArtandMovement program. 

My mind and my heart are strong. My mind and my heart are happy.

It seems like a mantra we should all be practicing these days. Which is why Adriana has dedicated her life's work to telling stories with her body, and teaching healing through expression. 

Adriana is a visual artist, journalist and yoga and movement instructor from Caracas, Venezuela. Her work is about the healing journey and it is related to the people. Locally, she partners with elementary schools (Munroe Elementary), classes at the Southwest Improvement Council, and Westwood Unidos, where she hosts a variety of classes at La Casita, such as "Amor Propio y Autoestima para Mujeres (Loving yourself and self esteem for women). Adriana notes that so many Latinas in the community work so hard, often times stressful, physically taxing work that causes stress, anxiety, and trouble sleeping. Combined with economic, social and political stressors, Adriana uses yoga as a form of cultural healing. 

"We are all immigrants, and this is a space where we can find ourselves, express our worries, our sadness, our nostalgia." 

 Photo Credit:  Goyo Mijares

Photo Credit: Goyo Mijares

In addition to her Yoga practice and community healing and empowerment work, Adriana also teaches the wildly popular El Camino De La Arepa class as a way to share the rich flavor and culture of Venezuela with the community. The project sets out to create community through
the love for Venezuelan food and traditions, while raising awareness and funds for Venezuela, a country that is in a deep economic and political crisis not well known here in the U.S.

Adriana's commitment to creating safe spaces for learning, healing, and reflection upon oneself and ones culture, makes her approach unique and it's something we admire tremendously. Which is why we are thrilled to announce that Adriana will be teaching both El Camino de la Arepa, and a special Mother / Child Yoga class at our First Annual Garden Bazaar! Adriana's arepas will also be for sale at the bazaar. Both classes will be free and open to the public. 

Schedule: 

El Camino de la Arepa at noon on Saturday, May 12 at La Cocina @RISE Westwood (3738 Morrison Rd.). To RSVP, email hello@revision.coop with El Camino de la Arepa in the subject line. In the body of the email include how many people you would like to RSVP. 

Mother / Child Yoga Class at 11:00am on Sunday, May 13 at La Casita @RISE Westwood (3790 Morrison Rd.) . Please RSVP thru La Casita's scheduling system, here

About: 

“El Camino de la Arepa” is Adriana Rondón-Rivero's beloved excuse to share the rich flavor of the Venezuelan arepa in other lands outside of Venezuela. “El Camino de la Arepa” is a short class, a live cooking demonstration of how to make Venezuelan arepas and other traditional Venezuelan food. “El Camino de la Arepa” (the Arepa´s path) is what happens when millions of Venezuelans
settle across the world or return to the land of their grandparents. We bring arepas with us.
What is a Venezuelan Arepa? [uh-rey- puh; Spanish ah-re- pah]. Arepa is a type of corn based flat “bread”, that we make from scratch, it is formed into a patty that is grilled, baked, split open and stuffed with a variety of ingredients.

Special Mother's Day Yoga Class for Mother's & Children with Adriana Rondón VivirYoga Project

To celebrate Mother's Day all mothers and children are invited to a special mother / child yoga class that will be a joyful practice, focusing on poses that open the heart, bring calm and happiness and deepen the bond between mothers and children

Yoga is not a religion. It Is a practice that helps to heal the body and a mind by bringing joy and wellness.

Come to celebrate our roles as mothers and children and to have fun with 45 minute yoga class that will honor motherhood and the special bond between mothers and children, through a variety of poses and sequences, incorporating partner poses and other mother-children activities.

This is a Yoga class for every one! Not Yoga knowledge is needed. All fitness/flexibility levels are welcome. My overall intention will be one of celebration and enjoyment.


Clase especial del Día de la Madre Yoga para madres e hijos con Adriana Rondón VivirYoga Project

Para celebrar el Día de la Madre, todas las mamás y niñas y niños están invitados a una clase especial de Yoga, una práctica alegre, enfocada en poses que abren el corazón, traen calma y felicidad y profundizan el vínculo entre madres y sus hijos.

Yoga no es una religión. Es una práctica que ayuda a sanar el cuerpo y la mente al brindar alegría y bienestar.

Vengan celebrar nuestros roles como madres e hijos y diviértanse con una clase de Yoga de 45 minutos que honrará la maternidad y el vínculo especial entre mamá e hijos, a través de una variedad de poses y secuencias que incorporarán poses para realizar en pareja y otras actividades.

¡Esta es una clase de Yoga para todos! No es necesario ningún conocimiento en Yoga. Todos los niveles de flexibilidad son bienvenidos. Mi intención general será la celebración y el disfrute.

 

Looking for a Fabulous Volunteer Opportunity?

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We have just the thing for you! May 12th and 13th from 10am-3pm, Re:Vision is hosting our 1st annual Mother's Day Garden Bazaar. This event will be filled with laughter, community, family, food, garden supplies, and mimosas! We would love if you could be a part of it. 

We are looking volunteers who can help set up and take down the event, as well as help during the event. If you are interested, please fill out the survey link below to gauge your availability and interest areas within the event. Someone will follow up with you later this month to discuss further details. Thank you for your interest, Re:Vision wouldn't be possible without our wonderful community and volunteers! 

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfBY9UwMaBUMFrJXgGBbOapPJjPsSag8Nbs0BSc9eJt-WqmEw/viewform?usp=sf_link

The Season of Creation

 Photo Credit: Jess Elysse Kornacki,  Art of Her

Photo Credit: Jess Elysse Kornacki, Art of Her

One only needs to take a look at the volatile weather lately to tell that Spring is a time of conflict for the Earth. It is letting go of the frosty winter weather, the ground is thawing, and some of our favorite flowers are beginning to fight their way to the surface. The particularly tough ones have already started to bloom. Nothing says Spring in Colorado more than beautiful vibrant tulips covered by a fresh layer of snow. 

So it only seems fitting, Santiago Jaramillo is ready to unveil his latest mural along Morrison Road. The theme of the piece is the duality of struggle, the push and pull between life and death, sun and moon, order and chaos; the combined 2 energies that make 1. In this case, one vibrant mural that represents one very vibrant community straddling two worlds.

Westwood is a community on the brink. In last week’s blog, we talked about the specifics behind why. This week, we want to talk about how art is being used as a way to combat gentrification, and create a place for the community that is currently here. 

Santiago grew up in Westwood and he’s seen the neighborhood change. Growing up it was a very working class neighborhood, but then the Summer of Violence hit (1993) and Westwood changed dramatically. The working class left and the neighborhood became rundown and neglected. A few years later, Mexicans started moving in and Santi says, “they brought new life and it very much had that working class energy again.” Around that same time, Santi was struggling with drugs, and as a new young father, he wanted to clean up. Enter Cauhtemok, and artist who quickly became his mentor and teacher. He taught Santiago about the indigenous roots of the Mexican culture. Santiago says learning about what his culture is truly rooted in helped him find his way. Since then, Santiago has changed the face of Morrison Rd., with beautiful, vibrant murals celebrating the Mexican and Indigenous cultures of the neighborhood.

Santiago’s latest mural is vibrant, and incredibly detailed, so we sat down with him to chat about the symbolism behind it. Here is what he had to say: 

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About the border: 

The 3 levels of the pyramids represent Ometeotl, or, duality. The two energies build on each other like levels in the pyramid to create one (the final level of the pyramid)

Around the 4 corners:

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You’ll notice the 4 elements represented here; air, sun, water & Earth. 

Along the bottom:

The footsteps represent Via Verde, a community engagement driven project designed to introduce green infrastructure practices into Westwood, and improve health and community. It also represents the community retracing its footsteps back to its ancestral roots. 

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To the right: 

 Tonatiuh

Tonatiuh

The Aztec symbol of the sun, Tonatiuh, with the symbol of fire coming out of his hand. Tonatiuh was believed to be the leader of Tollan, heaven, each day fighting battles from sunrise to sunset and throughout his journey across the sky. 

To the left:

 Chalchihuitlicue

Chalchihuitlicue

Chalchihuitlicue, (She Who Wears a Green Skirt), Aztec symbol of rivers, lakes, streams, and other freshwaters, goddess of birth. Out of her hand, the symbol of water. 

Along both sides:

 Earth's protectors

Earth's protectors

Two Mayan warriors dropping seeds into the ground. They serve as Earth’s guardians, and perhaps also a small homage to Re:Vision’s mission of cultivating thriving, resilient communities by creating a community food system. 

In the Center: 

Both Chalchihuitlicue and Tonatiuh come together to create the beautiful image in the middle. This coming together is known as Atlachinolli. When fire and water together you get steam, breath of the Earth. In short; creation. Within the image you will see the tree of life, the primordial sea, the sun and a child. The cycle of creation. 

Analyzing the duality of the piece, and seeing the conflict of two sides strikes a chord in this ongoing conversation of gentrification. The piece, and other murals along Morrison Road have certainly given the community a significant facelift. But the content of the murals is what causes true transformation. In Santiago’s case, learning about his indigenous roots and the beauty of his culture, helped him turn around his life and find his calling. He hopes it will do the same for community members and passersby. It’s all about going back to our ancestor’s ideas, and making things sacred again, because we are all connected. The goal being that two sides can come together to find a solution to an issue while honoring each other’s unique backgrounds and needs. 

Santiago says, “…at some point conflict in nature causes creation.” Whether that is the conflict of Spring, or the current conflict Westwood is experiencing, Santiago Jaramillo is going to keep creating. 

To hear more about Santiago's work, and to learn about how he is using art in Westwood as a means to combat gentrification, join Re:Vision, Creative Exchange and Confluence-Denver for IdeaLab on April 17, made possible through the generous support of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation.

The Via Verde Mural was sponsored by The Trust for Public Land as part of the 2017 Westwood Chile Fest.  The guiding vision behind Santiago’s mural was inspired by the communities work with Cool Connected Westwood to address climate justice issues in Westwood such as lack of walkable and bikable streets, water quality, tree canopy, and quality parks and trail experiences.  This was one of seven new murals added to Morrison Road, with collaborative funding from Denver Urban Arts Fund, The Trust for Public Land and BuCu West.

 Creation

Creation

Re:Own - That "G" word...

Yes... we're talking about Gentrification...

 Photo by Jess Elysse Kornacki

Photo by Jess Elysse Kornacki

This week’s blog post is Part 1 of 2. Today, we give some context for Re:Vision’s Re:Own Program and what is currently happening in the neighborhood. By the end of this piece, you might feel a bit overwhelmed, but don’t worry. Next week’s post will be all about the positive work going on around Westwood to combat gentrification, and how you can get involved with a great event coming up on April 17

Re:Vision’s mission is a three-pronged approach in working with people in economically marginalized communities to cultivate community food systems, develop resident leaders and create an economy owned by the community. While Re:Farm and Re:Unite produce tangible impact in families and communities, we’d be missing the larger picture if we didn't intentionally focus on building community wealth - which is the purpose of Re:Own.  

By the end of 2018, our goal is to incubate at least 3 food-based businesses from the community, for the community. We’ve already helped incubate the Westwood Food Co-Op (WFC), and the next step in our success is to be a catalyst for the creation of products that will eventually be sold on the shelves at the WFC. So why does all this ultimately matter?

 Photo by Jess Elysse Kornacki

Photo by Jess Elysse Kornacki

Perhaps you’ve heard the word “gentrification” a lot lately? In short, gentrification is the process where low income communities are renovated to suit the tastes of the middle class, displacing those communities and erasing its culture. The conversations about gentrification in Denver reached new heights in November of 2017 when INK! Coffee placed a sign outside of their RiNo location declaring they were “happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014.” Suddenly, a term that seemed to have only been used in certain circles was being discussed everywhere. In response to that incident, hundreds of people gathered in the beginning of this year to discuss gentrification in Denver. Now it seems like you can’t turn on the news, or open a newspaper without hearing the word at least once. 

Gentrification happens in economically marginalized neighborhoods, which are often times communities of color. And Westwood is both. Westwood is 81% Latino, and has historically been one of the most neglected neighborhoods in Denver. Today,  it is one of the last ‘affordable’ areas in Denver, so it makes sense that gentrification and involuntary displacement are already exerting massive pressure on the families who live here. To add to the complexity of the issue, Denver voters recently passed a $937 million Bond Package, of which over $42 million is earmarked for improvements in Westwood and Southwest Denver. On the surface, that might sound like good news, but if you’ve been in Denver for awhile, you know this is typically how the process begins. Often times low income neighborhoods receive structural improvements, just in time for developers to come in. 

Does it seem like Westwood’s fate is already sealed? We don’t think so. We believe investing in the capacity of the community, and creating a locally owned, resilient economy is the key to combatting gentrification. Re:Vision does not want entrepreneurs from Westwood to open businesses outside of Westwood, nor do we want people to spend money on essentials like groceries outside of the neighborhood. Westwood is a vibrant neighborhood, with some of the best food and most beautiful murals you will find in all of Denver and we believe in their cultural and economic value. Which is why we are so excited to talk more about IdeaLab next week, where we will examine the place arts has in this conversation and how it can be used as yet another tool in this fight against gentrification.

Re:Unite - Our Thoughts on the Recent Budget Cuts for SNAP

 A Westwood Food Co-Op Member picking up groceries

A Westwood Food Co-Op Member picking up groceries

In a recent article published by 5280, we learned Colorado ranks 45th in the nation for SNAP enrollment. And even more upsetting, President Trump’s proposed budget cut would slash the program by $17 billion next year alone. The administration also has proposed the “USDA Foods Package,” what they call a Blue Apron type box that would provide SNAP recipients with shelf-stable items such as milk, ready to eat cereals, pasta, peanut butter, beans and canned fruit and vegetables (NOTE; canned fruit and vegetables). Doesn’t sound very Blue Apron-esque does it? Can you guess where we stand on this issue?

Over the last couple of years, our Promotora team has worked tirelessly, thanks to a grant from Kaiser Permanante, to educate our community about SNAP assistance. Westwood has the highest percentage of eligible people for the program, yet, the lowest enrollment. Recognizing, there were likely significant barriers for enrollment within our community, Kaiser Permanente provided our Promotoras with training on the system, with the hopes they would be able to find out why our community was not utilizing the benefits and begin to enroll more community members. 

First, a little context. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but was previously referred to as food stamps. In the 2008 Farm Bill, the name of the program was changed to place a greater emphasis on nutrition and take away the stigma associated with food stamps. Unfortunately, in many communities, including our own, that stigma is still there. The majority of our community members are first-generation immigrants from Mexico, and came here to provide for their families, so many of them see applying for the program as a failure on their part to do so. The second biggest barrier is misinformation, particularly fears around immigration services. Many of community members did not apply for the program because they had heard rumors that their names would be turned over to other agencies. That is simply not true, and something our Promotoras have to remind our community members of daily. Not helping the issue is that many of our community members who have applied in person for SNAP benefits have heard  horrible things like, “Why are you asking for help here? Go back to your country,” or, “Mexicans only come to rob our jobs and our food.” These are from the employees at the office. Can you imagine going to get your driver’s license and being judged by the employees based on the kind of car you drive?

 Matilde Garcia Rubio, SNAP Program Manager

Matilde Garcia Rubio, SNAP Program Manager

At Re:Vision, we believe access to healthy food is a right, not a privilege. We cultivate thriving, resilient communities by providing families with the tools and education they need to grow their own solutions. With that said, fresh organic produce is just one element to a healthy balanced diet. Between a garden and SNAP benefits, many of our Re:Farm program participants are able to provide their families with well-rounded nutritious meals. 

 "I am a member of the Westwood Food Co-Op because I want my community to have access to healthy food." - Yuridia Bahena Santana, Re:Own Program Manager and Member of the Westwood Food Co-Op.

"I am a member of the Westwood Food Co-Op because I want my community to have access to healthy food." - Yuridia Bahena Santana, Re:Own Program Manager and Member of the Westwood Food Co-Op.

One Re:Farm program participant would frequently supplement his family’s meals with food from a food bank. Once, our Promotora and SNAP Program Manager, Matilde Garcia Rubio, compared the nutritional information of a block of cheese he received from a local food bank and noticed the fat content was double that of a standard block of cheese. After more than a year of encouraging him to apply for the program, she used this example as a way to finally convince him he could not provide his family well balanced meals from food banks. So, he applied and now he says for the first time in 10 years, they are not worried about where their next meal will come from. 

Another woman who participates in our Re:Farm program had the courage to leave an abusive relationship. After doing some math, she realized that she could cover her rent, and use SNAP benefits to help feed her family. She feels that without that help, she would have had to return to her marriage just to make ends meet. 

But what about families who cannot have a garden? Food, especially healthy food and fresh, unprocessed produce, can get expensive, and when you are on a limited budget, often times those are the first items to go in favor of more shelf-stable items that stretch further. According to this New York Times blog  1,000 calories of fresh, nutritious foods can cost $18, vs $1.75 for processed foods. So it makes all the sense in the world that when families are having to stretch their food budgets, fresh, nutritious food is cut first. Studies have shown that SNAP recipients actually have better health indicators and lower risks for diet-related illnesses. So investing in SNAP is investing in our public health. That’s where the Westwood Food Co-Op comes in. A grocery store owned by the community, the Co-Op stocks affordable and healthy foods, accepts SNAP benefits and participates in the Double Up Food Bucks program. This program provides $20 for every $20 spent that can be used to purchase local and fresh produce. During the growing season, the Co-Op is almost bursting at the seems with produce from Re:Vision’s urban farm. It provides a community that otherwise has no access to healthy food with a variety of options.

As an organization, we provide the community with options to take control of their own health and become an active participant in growing their own sustainable change. We have worked for two years to help de-stigmatize SNAP benefits and de-mystify SNAP enrollment. Our Re:Farm program and the Westwood Food Co-Op also work together to provide supplements to create an overall healthy life, one that doesn’t come in a box, it is one that has to be cultivated, and earned, and our beautiful and vibrant community is doing that daily. 

 

    

Re:Farm - Meet Antonia Aguirre

Re:Vision’s Re:Farm program exists to cultivate a community food system in an area otherwise considered a food desert. Since 2009, we have cultivated more than 1,700 cumulative gardens. The majority of our participants stay in the program for 3-4 years, after which point they have learned enough skills to continue gardening on their own.

However, there are always some exceptions to the rules. One special family has been with Re:Farm since 2013, Antonia Aguirre (or Doña Antonia as she is referred to by the Promotoras) and her late husband Jose Pitones. They joined the program because they missed gardening as they did back home in Zacatecas. While they both had strong agricultural backgrounds, they were elderly and needed help establishing their garden, so they contacted Re:Vision. 

 Community Promotora Letty Manquera with Doña Antonia

Community Promotora Letty Manquera with Doña Antonia

Letty Manquera, their Promotora, remembers even in their first year, their garden was beautifully maintained. At first they started with a small and manageable space, but by 2017, their garden took up 1/3 of their back yard. 

Mr. Pitones handled the majority of the work in the garden. He always loved to work outside and the connection he felt to the earth and his home. When Jose was diagnosed with cancer in 2016, he had to step back a bit. But even after surgeries, or other treatments, the Promotoras would often find him working in the garden. In early 2017, Mr. Pitones fell ill and passed away. The entire Promotora team attended his funeral and continued to visit Doña Antonia on a regular basis even though it wasn’t growing season. When it came time to think about setting up her garden, Doña Antonia wanted to keep it going, as a way to keep herself busy and as a way to remember Jose.

 Doña Antonia's garden in August of 2017

Doña Antonia's garden in August of 2017

While it is standard for each Re:Farm family to be assigned one Promotora, it has become a bit of a tradition that when it’s time to visit Doña Antonia, at least a few come along. And, while it’s also standard to visit only twice a month, sometimes our team members drop in, just to check on her when they are nearby. She’s known to put the whole team to work, harvesting for the week, or pulling weeds. But everyone gladly chips in, knowing she cannot manage it on her own and knowing often times she shares her weekly harvest with her many family members who visit during the week. Whether it’s 9am, or late in the afternoon, Doña always has a full spread of traditional food she just happened to have “around.” And always included in the meal; fresh cut cucumbers or tomatoes. 

While we seek to provide community members with the tools they need to grow their own solutions, Doña inspires our team each day. No matter what is going on in her life, she welcomes us into her home, with a smile on her face, conversation, and a home cooked meal. It's a reminder to our entire team that gardening is about so much more than growing food, it's about growing relationships and growing our community. 

We've got some news.

It is with great pleasure that the Re:Vison Board of Directors announces the realignment of our management team and the appointment of Joseph Teipel as our new Executive Director.

 Eric Kornacki

Eric Kornacki

We are equally pleased to inform you that outgoing Executive Director, Eric Kornacki will remain with Re:Vision

where he will step into an important role charged with expanding resources to enhance organizational capacity and evaluate and chronicle impact.

As you may know, Joseph has a deep understanding of and commitment to Re:Vision’s mission and the community we serve

He co-founded the organization along with Eric in 2007, served as the Director of Operations for the last five years, and has most recently been serving as Acting Director during Eric’s paternity leave. 

 Joseph Teipel

Joseph Teipel

Today, with 16 staff members and a budget over $1M, Re:Vision has transformed from an idea into a multi-faceted organization regarded by many as a model in the arenas of community leadership and food systems work.

Over this time, Joseph has proven to be a highly effective and capable leader and we believe he is uniquely positioned to lead our organization as we continue to grow and advance our mission in Southwest Denver.  He has shared that he is “both incredibly excited and simultaneously humbled to step into the Executive Director role,” and that he is ready to ‘bring it on’ working with a team of “truly inspirational individuals from whom he learns every day.” 

We want to assure you, and all of our community partners, that this has been a thoughtful process and we are confident this realignment will allow the organization to move forward with greater efficiency while maintaining the core values that have been at our foundation from day one.
We thank you in advance for your continued support and we are grateful for all that you have done in the past to support Re:Vision.

Sincerely,

Barry Teeters & Kerri Greenberg
Board President & Board Vice President

Property Update - Phase I

Re:Vision is incredibly excited to say that Phase I of the property development is just weeks away from breaking ground. Evan though the name Phase I implies not much has happened on the property yet, check out our last blog post about everything they've already accomplished. 

As many of you know the small building on the property has already been transformed by Westwood Unidos, Westwood Healthy Places, and Re:Vision, into La Casita - a community-driven education & fitness center. The space is a magnet for community members - offering classes of all sorts 6 days a week. For more information and a class schedule, click here

So, what Re:Vision is calling Phase I refers to a half million dollar investment from Denver's Office of Economic Development in the improvement of the outdoor space on the property, an urban farm & greenhouse, and sorely needed pedestrian and right-of-way improvements. At the heart of property will be a plaza - designed to be a gathering space for community members, pop-up events, or dance, music or art demonstrations. Surrounding the plaza will be demonstration gardens showcasing Colorado-appropriate plants, gardening techniques, as well as some more traditional herbs, trees and shrubs.

As you turn South you'll walk across a new parking lot which will be closed regularly for farmers markets, pop-up events, and community gatherings. On the other side, you'll walk along a sidewalk alongside the urban farm beds planted with several crops destined for community consumption until you get to a large (existing) concrete slab - even more space for community gatherings, but also home to a public restroom and farm stand, in addition to a 3,000 square foot greenhouse. 

Finally, you'll be able to stroll along the sidewalk on W. Custer Place and S. Meade Street without fear of the current 8' tall chain link fence falling down on you! The sidewalk will be wider, with a retaining wall and lower fence transforming this right-of-way from an eye sore and barrier to walking into a beautiful, inviting property frontage. 

Stay tuned for more updates!