I secured this summer internship at Concerned Citizens Organized Against Lead and Ms. Robin Brown by one day last summer deciding to be a vendor with my sister to sell various natural body products that I make. My sister introduced me to Ms. Robin and after telling her about the products that I make and why I make them we quickly bonded over the importance of sustainability and the power of having your own business. She told me about the silent issue of lead poisoning in Cleveland, her nonprofit organization, and the initiatives that she started. I met up with Ms. Robin again once I was home for winter break and this is when we started the conversation about me being an intern with her during the upcoming summer.
All community work is interconnected. Working primarily with Black women I can see the ways systematic governmental redlining is related to lead is related to environmental sustainability is related to mental health is related to job loss/opportunity is related to eating habits is related to incarceration is related to education is related to generational gaps is related to poverty is related to art is related to access. The people that I’ve met have shown me how in my own community no one has the backs of Black folks like Black folks. I’ve attended numerous meetings with other grassroots organizations, lead people at foundations, along with Council members. I have gone to celebratory events highlighting the work that seniors have done for generations in their communities, co-written and edited grant proposals and foundation information about CCOAL, completed research, helped to synthesize previously compiled research, provided valuable insight from the perspective of a millennial living in this community, helped to brainstorm future community events, shared my experiences of what sustainability means to me and the way I implement sustainable practices in my life, and witnessed the collaborative nature of community work. Some research that I have done includes what lead and lead poisoning is, how and why it is prevalent in Cleveland, Ohio, in what areas of Cleveland is lead poisoning most an issue, which demographics of Cleveland residents does it affect, and more.
One of the first things my supervisor taught me was the value of when meeting people to write down their name, contact information, and what organization they are affiliated with. By doing so it helps to sustain relationships post meeting them for the first time and allows me to readily have access to contact them to participate in a project or aid in any work that I may do in the future. To take detailed notes and record everything, if possible, to have a record of what was said at all meetings, who attended the meeting, etc. was another valuable lesson. Another valuable lesson was to always be willing and ready to talk about what is important to you. Quickly into my time with CCOAL I noticed the ways Ms. Robin Brown would introduce herself to random people in elevators with who see is and what she does and the ways that would spark either a longer conversation or an exchange of contact information. I have also seen the ways Ms. Brown and Ms. Tahia Herd would quickly capture the attention of Council members with conversation about updates on the progress of legislation or sharing some of their recent community work.
Sociologically I understand the implications of why and how the children living in the inner city of Cleveland have the highest lead poisoning rates and what systems are in place that allowed for this to happen. By being given this opportunity I can take much of what I have learned and use it as soon as I graduate from Skidmore as I have plans of becoming an elementary teacher in Cleveland. With the knowledge I’ve gained I can better advocate for my students and help their families as I now know some of the various signs and symptoms are of lead poisoned children and have direct relationships with resources that could be helpful for them.