Community Pollinators Speaker Series

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2/25/21

On November 20, the Minneapolis College Sustainability Committee in partnership with the Urban Farm Collective launched its first event in a speaker series entitled “Community Pollinators.” Developed in the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic death, the speaker series aims to promote healing and justice in the College community through a lens of sustainability, and amplify the voices of community members and activists whose work is centered at the intersections of racial and environmental justice. The title of the series is meant to highlight the essential work of those who “pollinate” the community by providing life sustaining community development. 

The first guest in the speaker series was social and environmental activist Hindolo Pokawa, founder and executive director of the Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy (SLFND). Pokawa, an alum of Minneapolis College, was born in Sierra Leone and came to the U.S. on a student visa over 20 years ago. While working as a taxicab driver after obtaining an undergraduate and master’s degree in Minnesota, Pokawa craved a way of serving a larger purpose. 

Pokawa returned to Sierra Leone approximately five years ago, and started the first private preschool in the country. This school became the seed that eventually sprouted into the Sierra Leone Foundation for New Democracy, an educational Institution based on an Ubuntu philosophy of interdependence. According to Pokawa it means, “your survival depends on me and my survival depends on you.” 

There are three pillars to the Institution: 

  • prioritizing early childhood development
  • increasing food sovereignty through a permaculture lab where children and adults “(re)-learn” regenerative farming practices of their ancestors
  • providing training and employment for community members through social enterprise cooperatives. 

These cooperatives allow for a more regenerative and sustainable local economy that is in direct opposition to the exploitative colonization of Sierra Leone. SLFND does not use any fossil fuels on site, instead using sustainable energy sources such as solar pumps and new sand filtration technology. These sustainable practices extend beyond the way the foundation interacts with the environment into human relationships as well. All teachers for the organization are locals, strengthening relationships in the community and limiting mass migration from rural to urban areas, which depletes the local economy. 

Regenerating the environment while regenerating human bonds is at the core of Pokawa’s mission with SLFND. “If one understands that nature does not live for itself. If we can try to mimic it then we can understand that we can care for the earth, we can care for people and we will be able to care for the future,” says Pokawa. “Once we are able to understand how nature behaves, then I think we’ll be able to challenge and deal with some of those other social inequalities that exist in our communities."

Next Community Pollinators Session (in partnership with the 3-Legged Frog Environmental Club)
March 5 from 1 to 2 p.m.

The second guest in this series is a former faculty member of Minneapolis College, Sam Grant. Grant is the executive director of MN350, a Minnesota-based climate justice organization that seeks to unite Minnesotans as part of a global movement to end the pollution damaging our climate, speed the transition to clean energy,and create a just and healthy future for all.

For more, visit the Community Pollinators Speaker Series webpage.
 

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