*culture is not optional (*cino)/The Huss Project is looking for four compassionate, creative, hard-working people to join us full-time for 10 weeks this summer as Americorps VISTA Summer Associates! Applicants should be 18 years of age or older, with a passion for serving our Three Rivers community through urban farming, event planning, and youth engagement. The term runs from June 1 – August 9, with a living stipend of $2,395.40 and choice at the end of the term of an education award of $1,311 or a cash stipend of $345. Housing is not available for Summer Associates. Applications are being accepted until May 1 or until all four positions or filled, so apply today through the AmeriCorps web site!
We are now accepting applications for three full-time AmeriCorps VISTA positions. We’re looking for folks who will help us take our work to the next level in the areas of food systems, education, and economic development through the Huss Project, World Fare, and other partners in Three Rivers.
Experience with activities like social research, community development, event planning, education, program development, volunteer coordination, permaculture design, food systems, non-profits … these are the types of things we’re looking for in people who will thrive collaborating at a high level with a grassroots org in a funky, small, Midwest city. We’re looking for people with solid enough experience to function as peer collaborators in creative design toward significant community outcomes, in a spirit of curiosity, joy, and accountability. Here are four words that are floating around for us at the moment as we search:
Visit our listing on the AmeriCorps site to submit your application. Applications are open until April 1, but we’re looking to fill these positions as soon as possible to allow our VISTAs to plan for a May 11 start date. The compensation package includes:
- A living allowance (just over $12,000/year)
- An educational award (or end-of-service stipend)
- Health insurance
- Reduced-cost housing ($250/mo. including utilities)
- Other benefits
Thank you for your help in spreading the word and please let us know if you have any questions! We’re really looking forward to this next phase of our community’s work in Three Rivers.
Last year, *cino co-founder Kirstin Vander Giessen-Reitsma was one of the featured speakers at the annual MLK event hosted by the Three Rivers Area Faith Community called Solidarity in Diversity: Celebrating the Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. Here is the text from her speech:
In the 1940s, Rosanell Eaton traveled by mule wagon to the Franklin County courthouse to register to vote. Before she could get her registration paperwork, three white men made her stand with her back against the wall and recite the preamble to the constitution. Rosanell was up to the challenge, reciting the preamble perfectly—how many of us can do that?—and she became one of the first black voters in North Carolina. This type of—shall we say—“screening” was not uncommon at that time, as a way of discouraging black voters from going to the polls. We’ve come so far since those days, haven’t we?
Well, fast-forward 70 years to 2013, when Rosanell—at 92 years old—became one of the lead plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the state of North Carolina. Turns out lawmakers were up to their same old shenanigans, coming up with new rules that were primarily discouraging young people, older people, and people of color of all ages from going to the polls (as in, people who tend to vote for the “other” party). “We have been this way before,” said Rosanell at a rally for voting rights, “but now we have been turned back, and it’s a shame and a disgrace, and absolutely disgusting.” But she would not be discouraged this time either. At 92 years of age, she led the crowd in a chant: get FED UP, and FIRED UP—FED UP, FIRED UP.
It’s a good thing this kind of stuff only happens down south anymore, right?
Well, let’s look at Three Rivers. We live in a city divided into four distinct neighborhoods, or “wards.” The ward with the most racial diversity has half the median income and half the median home value compared to the ward that is the most white. That’s a statistical fact. Another statistical fact: In the 2016-2017 school year, the high school dropout rate for white students in Three Rivers was less than 5%, but for Hispanic students it was 11% and for African American students, it was nearly 17%—so 5% for white students, more than double for Hispanic students, and more than triple for African American students. Why is this? Each situation is unique of course, but here’s one story I heard just the other day from a parent: a child finally dropped out of our local school system last spring after being bullied relentlessly for the color of his brown skin—called the N-word, told that Mexicans belong on the floor cleaning up after the other kids. He tried to speak up for himself, but his voice fell on deaf ears. Some of us in this room are shocked that this is happening in our local schools, and others of us are not surprised. I want to speak specifically to those who feel shocked for a minute.
Those of us who feel surprised that children are dropping out of our schools because of racial bullying: we have work to do. We took a step in the right direction by showing up here on this frigid evening to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. But if we are surprised that racism still exists in very real ways our city, in our schools, in our businesses, in our well-intentioned hearts—Rosanell might say if we are not FED UP—then we are not paying attention. And Dr. King has some hard words for us. His “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” is quite famous, but how many of us have actually read it? It’s a loving-yet-direct challenge, written to people who look like me—people who say we sympathize with the cause of oppressed people, but don’t take meaningful action. King writes,
I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen’s Counciler or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to “order” than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, “I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action”; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advised the Negro to wait until a “more convenient season.” Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.
Dear fellow white people: we have work to do. Racism is not just about specific, individual acts of meanness, but about the ways our systems—our schools, our government policies, our immigration system, our economic opportunities—work better for people of a certain racial identity than for others. Racism is not just about the tasteless immigrant joke someone told in the break room last week or a white middle schooler calling someone the N-word, but about the everyday, on-the-ground impacts of centuries of strategic abuse of power.
Does that sound overwhelming to you? It probably does, so I’m going to suggest two starting points, especially for my fellow white people. First, we need to learn how to become more comfortable talking about race, including and especially our own whiteness. Can you talk for a full minute about your experience of being white? Time yourself. Give it a try. And here’s why this is important. Robin DiAngelo is a white woman who has been conducting anti-racism trainings for years. She published a book that I would highly recommend, called White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism. She also wrote an article for The Guardian called “White people assume niceness is the answer to racial inequality. It’s not.” And here’s what she had to say about what happens when white people are racially unaware:
If I cannot tell you what it means to be white, I cannot understand what it means not to be white. I will be unable to bear witness to, much less affirm, an alternate racial experience. I will lack the critical thinking and skills to navigate racial tensions in constructive ways. This creates a culture in which white people assume that niceness is the answer to racial inequality and people of color are required to maintain white comfort in order to survive.
Let me be clear: It’s not “racist” to acknowledge that I am white and that I receive certain unearned privileges by being white. In fact, white people acknowledging our racial privilege is the first step to dismantling racism. Being “colorblind” is not a solution to racism. It’s a convenient form of avoidance that excuses us from having uncomfortable conversations and allows the system of racism to live on and do harm. If we respond to a conversation about race by saying we “don’t see color” or we “don’t want to get too political” or we “have black friends” so we can’t possibly be racist: we have work to do. If this describes you and you feel defensive or stumped about what that “work” is, let’s talk. I’m committed to be a conversation partner for my fellow white people because I truly believe a better understanding of our own racial identity is essential for moving beyond mere diversity toward a more truly equitable society on all levels—including right here in our own beloved community. Diversity is merely the presence of a variety of people around the table; equity is making sure everyone around that table has access to the same menu of options. And “niceness” is not going to fix the systemic educational and economic inequality in our Three Rivers community.
Now, with regard to educating ourselves about race and racism: lest you think I’m just talking about some kind of personal white enlightenment that doesn’t have any social impact, I want to emphasize that growing in our own knowledge and self-awareness inevitably has ripple effects. I don’t follow many blogs, but I do follow the writings of a white woman in our area who is the adoptive mother of a black son. She recently shared a story about visiting a national park with her multi-cultural family. Noticing the shifting streams of tourists, her son remarked, “First there were a lot of Asians, and now there are just regular people.” He quickly caught and corrected himself: “That’s not what I meant. I meant ‘white people.’” And here’s his mom’s reflection afterwards—she writes:
Not so long ago, this moment could have slipped by me unnoticed.
I might have said, “Don’t say that.”
I might have said, “That’s not nice.”
I might have said, “That’s rude.”
But, it would have been a missed opportunity, and the only lesson I’d have instilled was that noticing our differences was wrong.
Instead, I was able to respond with, “You know how we talk about the belief that white people are ‘normal’ and everyone else is not? And how we can start to think that ourselves because of all of those messages we get? Calling white people ‘regular’ is part of that.”
…[My son] is learning about systemic racism and bias, and how to identify it within himself, because I am learning about systemic racism and bias and how to identify it within MYself. We are incapable of instilling lessons in our children if the lessons don’t yet exist within ourselves. If we truly desire for our children to bring the change we wish to see, we have to first commit to doing the work personally. We can’t afford to keep missing moments.
Which leads to my second suggestion for practical action moving forward, inspired by this mother and the difficult experiences her son faces in his school. In addition to growing our own knowledge, we need to talk to the kids in our lives about race and racism—not just on MLK Day or during Black History Month, but regularly. Talk with them about current events, even when those events are sad and hard and we’re not sure what to say. Read age-appropriate books together that explore stories of racism and stories of those who fight for racial justice.We have to get specific with our kids. Teaching them broadly about “fairness” and “kindness” is not enough. We need to strategize with them specifically on what to do when they witness someone using a racial slur against another person or telling a racist joke. And most importantly: they should see us as adults putting ourselves on the line to stand up for and stand with people who are being bullied or discriminated against. Some of us may not know where to start, but if we educate ourselves about race and start to pay attention, I don’t doubt we’ll find our way.
Friends, the work of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is not done, but he’s no longer here to do it. And Rosanell Eaton died just one month ago at the age of 97, so she’s no longer here either to get us FIRED UP. So you know what that means: it’s just us. That’s the bad news. But the good news is: it’s us! It’s all of us, in this thing together. Look around you—go ahead: look around! We showed up for each other tonight. We showed up to celebrate the progress we’ve made, and to recommit to one another for the work ahead. This is the beloved community in which your pain is my pain, your joy is my joy. As Dr. King famously wrote, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly.” That’s not just a nice saying; it’s a call to action.
Our city has the gift of diversity; now we need to continue to work together for equity. What does that look like for us? Arm in arm with you, my family in this fight, I can’t wait to find out.
 U.S. Census Data, 2010
*culture is not optional, in its role as a participating member of the Three Rivers Area Faith Community (TRAFC), is co-hosting a celebration of the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Monday, January 20. Join us at 5:00 at Three Rivers City Hall for a commemorative march from City Hall to First Presbyterian Church of Three Rivers (shuttles will be available if you’d like to park at the church first). We’ll then enjoy a potluck meal together at 5:30 before gathering to honor the work of Dr. King at 6:30.
This year’s celebration will feature Pastor Barbara Brown from Grant Chapel, local poets from the First Thursdays Open Mic at Lowry’s Books, the Brandenburg Concert, New Jerusalem praise band, DJ Mitchie Moore, and the Ambassadors for Christ Praise Dancers. A free will offering will support TRAFC’s annual Back to School Celebration at the Huss Future Festival, which supplies free school supplies and bags to area children.
Thank you to all of the participating TRAFC churches and organizations (see below) for making this event possible!
The City of Three Rivers is also hosting a Community Participation Event earlier in the day. Citizens can help guide decisions and strategies for the future of Three Rivers by participating in this interactive gathering to provide feedback and share your thoughts on topics including downtown development, recreation, housing, local aesthetics, and overall city growth.
The work of Dr. King is not finished and his words and actions still resonate strongly more than 50 years after his assassination. Our *cino staff has a tradition of re-reading “Letter from Birmingham City Jail” every year to remember the radical witness of Dr. King, but digging deeper into his speeches and writings is always challenging and rewarding. In his speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence (April 4, 1967),” Dr. King speaks as though he is speaking directly into our current situation:
I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a “thing-oriented” society to a “person-oriented” society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.
If you’re looking for a great collection of Dr. King’s work to dig into, we highly recommend A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr. And, of course, it is always worth hearing Dr. King’s own voice, which you can do by searching YouTube for various speeches and interviews. Here’s a great place to start:
- Ambassadors for Christ Church
- Bridges Community Church
- Center Park United Methodist Church
- *culture is not optional
- First Presbyterian Church of Three Rivers
- First United Methodist Church Three Rivers
- New Jerusalem Baptist Church
- St. John’s Lutheran Church
- Trinity Episcopal Church
May 11 – *culture is not optional finishes up remodeling of 208 with the help of Florence Church members and other volunteers.
May 25 – Ale and Annelie begin AmeriCorps VISTA training. *cino is working to partner with AmeriCorps over the next three years to better build capacity for the organization as a whole. A few weeks later, the summer associates join for ten weeks.
June 10 – Summer lunches begin. The Huss Project has partnered seven summers so far with the Three Rivers Public Schools through their lunch program, Meet Up and Eat Up.
June 13 – The Huss Project joins the Three Rivers Water Fest Parade for to promote our work. This event gave AmeriCorps VISTA members a feel of the neighborhood and chance to meet the neighbors.
June 14 – *cino convenes with Camp Tavor over dinner at the camp. This year, Camp Tavor counselors stayed on rotation at 208 each week night.
June 15 – Summer work days begin at The Huss Project. For six weeks, we worked with volunteers from the neighborhood in preparation for Huss Future Festival and several other projects including the renovation of the Imaginarium and the pavilion.
June 20 –The Huss Project has its first Farmer’s Market of the season. Snap peas, strawberries and smiles!
June 21 –Malachi Carter comes all the way from Indianapolis to teach a photography class for kids at summer lunches. We had 12 kids participate and learn grow their visual art skills through practicing photography.
July 2 – Camp Tavor kids come out to volunteer with us at The Huss Project Gardens for Tikkun Olam. We had over 20 volunteers from the camp help weed the garden and plant tree saplings.
July 15 – Aundrea Syrie and Great Dane teach a creative workshop for kids in the neighborhood so that they can develop their love for words. We had 5 kids participate and stretch their confidence in making art with words.
July 23 – Anna teaches summer lunch kids the magic of compost. We had 8 kids participate and gain knowledge about the cycles of food from the soil to our plates and back into dirt through compost.
July 25 –In thanks to all of those who participated in the Big Steps Campaign, *cino hosts a soiree at the renovated Imaginarium.
July 27 – HUSS FUTURE FESTIVAL 2019 ARRIVES. We raised over $7,000 dollars with the help of volunteers and community members. Over 1,000 people from the community came to the festival to make art, get free school supplies for kids, eat delicious food, listen to local musicians perform, and connect with over 15 community resource organizations in our
July 30 – Tikkun Olam round two!
August 8 – Our summer associates’ last day on the job.
August 9 – Storytelling night commences with our wonderful host, Emily, prompting us to wonder about inheritance and legacy.
August 24 – Longtime community members, Alek and Deborah celebrate their love at the Imaginarium. First wedding ever hosted at Huss!
– At Huss Future Festival, we raised over $7,000 dollars this summer in support of the Huss Project.
– We built the pavilion and the Imaginarum.
– Our partnership with AmeriCorps began in efforts to keep this organization sustainable and joy-filled.
– We produced and distributed 2,353 pounds of vegetables this summer to the local food bank and the Three Rivers Farmers Market.
– Summer lunches were a success as we served and enjoyed food with a total of 1,454 children.
-*cino’s 100 Friends of Huss Campaign, launched this summer, partnering with long-term, dedicated lovers of food, art and play.
– Over 74 volunteers dedicated a total of 1,104 hours to Saturday Work Day projects, Summer Lunches, special education events, The Huss Project Farm, the Imaginarium and The Huss Future Festival.
Many thanks to our volunteers for contributing the time, financial support, gifts and love. This summer was filled with so much business, and your presence made all of the difference.
*culture is not optional (*cino)/The Huss Project is looking for three compassionate, creative, hard-working people to join us full-time for 10 weeks this summer as Americorps VISTA Summer Associates! Applicants should be 18 years of age or older, with a passion for serving our Three Rivers community through urban farming, event planning, and youth engagement. The term runs from June 3 – August 11, with a living stipend of $2,361.10 and choice at the end of the term of an education award of $1,289.95 or a cash stipend of $346.80. Housing is not available for Summer Associates. Applications are being accepted until noon on May 13 or until all three positions or filled, so apply today through the AmeriCorps web site!
Each fall for the past three years, the core *cino community has taken a weekend retreat to examine the past year, look at the year ahead and create space for sharing. This year, we stayed in a retreat house at GilChrist Retreat Center, where I work. Based on last year’s debrief, we expanded our time frame from one night to two, which meant we got to wake up on Saturday morning to one of the most beautiful first snows I’ve ever seen.
As the snow continued to fall, we began with journaling and sharing about where we are personally–what our significant experiences have been in the past year and what our questions are for the coming year. The space we created led to an important conversation about how at least two of our six members gathered at the retreat would be departing their work with *cino within the next six months, which was a critical realization for moving into planning *cino work realistically and with a clear view of impending change. Adapting on the fly, our Sunday morning conversation was an exploration of personnel, roles and responsibilities, and what kinds of people we need to keep moving toward the vision we have for *cino and the Huss Project. We also talked about an article on the disease of being busy, which is something we all wrestle with in various ways, both individually and organizationally.
These times of intense conversation were punctuated by shared cooking and meals, games, rest and plenty of walks in the winter wonderland. At our debrief of this year’s retreat, several of us shared a sense of feeling lighter and more hopeful when we left the retreat than when we arrived, which is a good sign that we’re on the right track in some way, and that we’ll look forward to gathering again next fall for a time of reflection and renewal.
Each Labor Day weekend for the past 22 years, citizens of Three Rivers have been coming together across all sorts of boundaries to enjoy Harmony Fest, a day of live music in the historic downtown district. For many years, World Fare, a fair trade store that *cino collaborates on, has been celebrating its anniversary during Harmony Fest. This year was no exception, with the store celebrating 12 years in business.
But this year, we entered a new collaborative venture by helping launch Harmony Fest’s first ever beer garden. For weeks leading up to the festival, *cino staff scavenged and hauled and strategized and painted to craft a beautiful environment that would encourage good conversation and responsible enjoyment of a great variety of Michigan microbrews. We wanted to create a fun space that would honor the incredible legacy of Harmony Fest in bringing community-building art to our great city. The result was a 5,600 square foot garden featuring locally grown mums, handmade picnic tables, reclaimed pallets and fair trade planters. Catch a glimpse by checking out our photos. Our participation in designing and building the environment and recruiting volunteers earned a portion of the proceeds for the Huss Project.
Congratulations to the Three Rivers Downtown Development Authority and the Harmony Fest committee on another great event, and thanks for letting us be a part of it!
In 2010, the seed of an idea began to sprout when Three Rivers citizen Julie Keefer asked a simple question: what would it look like to organize a summer fundraiser for the Huss Project, which is an effort to turn an old elementary school into a community center and residential space? In the years since, Keefer’s idea has blossomed into one of the area’s most lively community events, growing bigger and better each year. The sixth annual Huss Future Festival will take place on Saturday, July 18 at 1008 8th Street in Three Rivers.
“We are thrilled to be partnering for the second year in a row with the Three Rivers Area Faith Community to host the annual Back to School Celebration,” said Keefer, who has served as the Festival chairperson for six years running. All school-aged children who attend the celebration with a guardian will receive a backpack full of school supplies and the first 300 kids to register will also receive a slice of pizza from Hovey’s Pizza. The Back to School Celebration will run from 10:00 a.m.-2:00 p.m. alongside a Coin Carnival, with a variety of activities and crafts provided by local organizations.
Beyond the Coin Carnival and Back to School Celebration, the Festival will feature a wide variety of activities from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m. Local musicians will provide live music all day long, and a rummage sale with gently used items donated by the community will benefit the Huss Project. Those looking for something to eat and drink can enjoy the coffeehouse, bake sale and farmers market. The farmers market will offer prepared salads for lunch, with Ambassadors for Christ Church bringing their famous BBQ.
The Huss Project is currently raising funds to build an outdoor pavilion that will benefit ongoing summer programming at the site, including a community garden, summer lunches for kids and educational workshops. Tax-deductible contributions are welcome and can be sent to P.O. Box 1, Three Rivers, MI 49093. Three Rivers Area Faith Community also welcomes contributions toward the Back to School Celebration, which can be mailed to P.O. Box 273, Three Rivers, MI 49093.
As spring emerges here in Three Rivers, we are very excited to announce a few opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy each other’s company while we work the land together.
Coming up in May, join us any or all of three Saturdays to help get the community garden at the Huss Project rolling for the season. Produce from the garden goes to local families in need directly and through partner agencies. We also sell our veggies at the Three Rivers Farmers Market to help raise money to sustain the garden, and we’re thrilled that the farmers market will be participating in Double Up Food Bucks this coming season! Join us to help kick things off for 2015:
- May 2: Potato planting (2-5 p.m.)
- May 9: Garden clean-up (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
- May 16: Garden planting (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.)
Whether or not you can make it one of these dates, we would love to have your help on an ongoing basis throughout the growing season as we water and tend our plants, and harvest good food for our community. Please get in touch about helping out through our online citizen interest form.
In case you’re looking for a weekend opportunity, *cino is also partnering to host a weekend gardening retreat just west of Three Rivers at GilChrist Retreat Center. Part of the Contemplative Ecology series, the weekend will feature both time to work together and time to rest apart. Participants can enjoy free camping or discounted stays in GilChrist cabins in exchange for doing some work on the center’s 67 acres. Other features of the weekend will include a shared meal, campfires and silent and guided meditation times. It’s sure to be a wonderful, restful, reinvigorating weekend and we’d love to have you join us! There are more details here and on the Facebook page for the event.