Volunteers celebrate Earth Day by cleaning up Cafe Sankofa cooperative

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Sankofa Cooperative cafe is not a traditional cafe. Although it sells items like smoothies and coffee, its primary focus is holistic health and wellness. Arlaina Harris, CSC Board Chair and Syracuse University alumnus, brings health and wellness education and resources to the Southside community of Syracuse.

“Health and wellness is our bread and butter, it’s our mission,” Harris said. “We try to be a wellness cooperative by addressing food insecurity and providing accessible and culturally competent care.”

The co-op’s latest initiative was a community cleanup to celebrate Earth Day. The event took place on Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the café garden. Volunteers cleaned up trash and prepared the garden for planting. By 11:45 a.m., the volunteers had picked up 10 bin bags of waste.

“Collectively, individuals come together, and that’s how impact happens,” Harris said. “Overall, we need to move from intention to impact and make sure we are doing our part to make everyone feel safe and welcome and give everyone access to the same opportunities and services. Everyone deserves this. »

Among the volunteers were sisters Johnelle and Jhonna Burgos. Johnelle, who is 7, said she wanted to pick up litter to help the animals.

“I don’t want nature to be dirty because it will kill animals and I don’t want them to die,” she said.

Johnelle said she wants to live on clean land and often thinks about ways to secure a green future. She said that when she grows up, she plans to help the environment in bigger ways, like going to the beach to clean up and pick up litter all over the world.

Jhonna is also passionate about reducing waste and helping animals. She said she wishes people weren’t littering in the first place.

“They should put the trash in the bin because I have to clean it up if they don’t clean it themselves,” Jhonna said.

SUNY-ESF grad Tracy Hogarth said she wanted to celebrate Earth Day with a cleanup. As CSC’s Program Chair, she came up with the idea and shared it with the community via Instagram.

Hogarth said she wanted to help the citizens of Syracuse grow their own food and become more in tune with the land. Cleaning up the garden will allow community members to have access to fresh, locally grown food. The area around the Sankofa cafe is a food desert, and to combat this problem, it is creating health and wellness activities with the help of the organization’s board of directors to combat access unreliable to fresh produce, she said.

Her goal, she said, is to educate the Southside about the food options available to them and let the community know that growing their own food is a sustainable and cheaper way to access produce.

10-year-old Everett Fonger attended the cleanup to help his community. He recycles at home and cleans up his local park with family friends. Fonger’s interest in helping the environment is reinforced by his fourth-year science class.

“In school, I learn how humans affect the ecosystem,” he said. Asked about climate change, Everett said “unless we do something about it, it’s going to be very bad.”

His mother, Nicole Fonger, is an assistant professor at SU and an active member of the community. Since moving to Syracuse, she has been involved with Café Sankofa and other community organizations.

“I believe in community gardens, community organizations, community centers, being there to support communities, building relationships with people,” she said.

Nicole also said it was important to have her children with her at community events so she could show leadership and set an example. She enjoys being part of a community that shares her values, and the beautification of the surrounding areas has given her a sense of pride since arriving in Syracuse, she said.

“It’s important to be proud of where you live, and the more connected we become to Syracuse, the more people we meet who are truly invested in the community and love being a part of it,” she said. .

Virginia S. Braud