ACE Blog

New community gardens built this spring

May 27, 2014

In the past five weeks, REEP youth, members, volunteers and neighbors have built 41 raised beds, and installed rain barrels at three of our gardens, along with compost collection. Today, more than 110 families have a Grow or Die garden, and with your help, we’ll continue increasing access to healthy, affordable food in Roxbury and Dorchester.

Of the 4,000 seedlings REEP youth organizers grew in The Food Project's greenhouse this year, we’ve already distributed 1,000 to Grow or Die gardeners, with more on the way. If you haven’t volunteered with Grow or Die yet, there’s still time! Email REEP Coordinator Olmis Sanchez or call (617) 442-3343 x245 if you want to help at future builds.

Also, much of the compost we use for raised beds comes from City Soil, a small business in Mattapan. They were recently served an eviction notice by the Department of Conversation and Recreation, threatening both their work and the local food justice movement. Over the past two weeks, we took part in a mini-campaign to #SaveCitySoil by calling, emailing, and tweeting state officials. The eviction has now been stayed, and we're waiting on a permanent solution. Thanks to all of our members who have been helping with this effort!

Open Letter to Secretary of Transportation - Opportuni(T) Delayed is Opporuni(T) Denied

May 8, 2014

Richard A. Davey
Secretary and Chief Executive Officer
Massachusetts Department of Transportation
10 Park Plaza
Boston, MA 02116

Dear Secretary Davey,

On behalf of the 20 organizations that are part of the Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition (YAC), we are writing to request a Youth Pass pilot for 2,500 youth starting this fall.

We moved + open house

April 17, 2014

Join us at our Open House on April 23!

ACE has moved! We are now located at 2201 Washington Street, Suite 302, in Roxbury, one block down from our old office. Thank you to everyone who helped us throughout the moving process!

Come check out our new space on Wednesday, April 23, during our Open House. Join us from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. to tour the new office, get breaking campaign updates, and enjoy food with members and supporters.

Our office entrance is at the back of the building, accessible through the rear parking lot on Ruggles Street. In the foyer at the entrance, please use the buzzer to call ACE (dial 302). Once inside, take the elevator to the third floor and you will see us across the hall.

If you are bicycling, please bring your bike upstairs to store inside our office.

NOTE: We are sharing the building with the Department of Transitional Assistance, whose security workers staff the lobby entrance. You do not have to go through any security procedures—simply state you are with ACE and head to the elevator. See you soon!

Win for student mobility fuels Youth Pass campaign!

April 17, 2014

Youth Power March, 2014

The Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition (YAC), led by REEP and our partners, won a crucial victory for transit justice last month when the MBTA announced that beginning in July 2014, the price of the seven-day Student Pass, which includes weekends, will drop to the same price as the five-day Student Pass. For nearly a year, YAC has pushed the MBTA to remove the weekend barrier imposed on students. As a result, roughly 21,000 middle and high school students will switch over to the unrestricted pass when returning to school this fall.

A recent survey by Charlestown High School students working with REEP found that over 70 percent of students there currently miss out on basic opportunities such as school events, time with friends, jobs, arts and culture, and sports on the weekends, due to unaffordable fares. This victory is a major improvement for thousands of students in Boston and surrounding communities who use a Student Pass.

This change is part of an MBTA budget that includes a five percent fare increase on all modes of transportation. The sole exception is paratransit fares on THE RIDE, which was recently lowered from $4 to $3, thanks to the sustained, powerful organizing by Massachusetts Senior Action Coalition (MSAC).

Winning weekends for the Student Pass brings us one step closer to YAC’s goal of a $10 monthly Youth Pass available to all Boston youth ages 12 to 21. In the coming weeks, we will continue to push the MBTA to implement a Youth Pass pilot program this year.

Youth kick off our growing season

April 17, 2014

Installing rain barrels at Ellington Street Garden

Our youth-led food justice campaign, Grow or Die, is heating up again this spring to build more gardens, renovate existing ones and distribute thousands of seedlings.

On Saturday, Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project (REEP) members and residents gathered at our first lot takeover in 2011, the Ellington Street Neighborhood Garden. We spent the day clearing brush, expanding the garden to accommodate four new families, and installing rain barrels and composting bins.

On April 22 and May 10, REEP members and resident gardeners will renovate two more gardens, adding fresh soil, double-high beds for seniors, and rainwater collection and compost systems. On April 24, we will build a new guerilla garden in Dorchester. We need volunteers! Please contact Olmis at (617) 442-3343 x234 if you can help on any of these days.

You're invited to the Energy Efficiency Summit!

April 16, 2014

ACE barnraising in Dorchester

Come hear from residents, organizers, utility companies and municipal leaders on the ways the Green Justice Coalition (GJC) is improving energy efficiency in Massachusetts and building community resilience to climate change.

The Energy Efficiency Summit celebrates our successes in making home weatherization more accessible to working class residents and communities of color and provides an opportunity to strengthen our work for equity in state programs.

The GJC, an alliance of unions, community organizations and environmental groups, was established in 2008 to create green jobs and implement energy efficiency upgrades in the Commonwealth. As a founding member, we helped achieve victories like increased funding for pre-weatherization work—which addresses barriers facing working class residents, as well as reduced upfront costs through the Efficient Neighborhoods+ Initiative.

Youth win weekends for Student Pass holders!

March 27, 2014

This fall, Student Passes will be valid on the weekends!

This week, our Youth Affordabili(T) Coalition (YAC) won a major victory when the MBTA announced that come fall, schools and Student Pass holders will now be able to purchase a seven-day pass for the price of a five-day pass.

Removing the weekend restriction on Student Monthly Passes has been a central demand of YAC over the past year. About 21,000 middle and high school students in the Boston Public Schools (BPS) and the MBTA service area use the five-day pass and are forced to pay fares for weekend travel.

Young people brought this demand to lift the weekend restriction to the General Manager and her staff repeatedly over the past year. This month, YAC members testified on the need to protect students from the fare hike at the MassDOT Board meeting and held a spirited march for a Youth Pass through downtown Boston.

These changes were unveiled as part of the MBTA’s proposed fare hike plan for July 1. In 2013, work by YAC and our partners for affordable public transit helped put an end to dramatic, double-digit hikes by introducing a fare increase cap of no more than five percent every two years.

While most fares will jump about five percent this year, the recent $1 rollback on The Ride will remain untouched, thanks to the sustained, powerful organizing by Massachusetts Senior Action Coalition (MSAC). Students are not exempt from the fare hike, as the five-day Student Pass will cost a dollar more, from $25 to $26—but crucially, the price of the seven-day pass falls from $28 to $26, making the more inclusive pass the common sense choice for student mobility.

This tremendous youth-led victory will give 25,000 students in the 2014 to 2015 academic year weekend access to trains and buses for school events, jobs, medical appointments, family obligations, sports, arts, cultural activities and more.

“I won’t have to miss work on Saturdays,” said YAC leader Kenisha Allen. “This might be a minor change for the MBTA, but it’s a big step for our opportunities.”

Congratulations to the youth of REEP, Boston-area Youth Organizing Project (BYOP), Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC)/Youth On Board, Bikes Not Bombs, Chelsea Collaborative ECO, Chinese Youth Initiative (CYI) of Chinese Progressive Association (CPA), Dorchester Bay Youth Force, Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion (IBA), Youth Justice Power Union (YJPU) and more for this far-reaching milestone!

We also want to send a huge shout out and thank you to our partners in the Public Transit-Public Good Campaign, and our deep appreciations to Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and BPS Superintendent John McDonough for supporting this effort.

One step within a much larger campaign:

Luis testifying before the MassDOT board earlier this month

Our Roxbury Environmental Empowerment Project (REEP) and partners have been fighting for a Youth Pass since 2007 through the Youth Way on the MBTA campaign and YAC, a coalition run by REEP.

The Youth Pass would have no day or time restrictions, cost $10 per month and be available to all young people between the ages of 12 to 21. This pass is our solution to the youth rider affordability crisis in which one-third of Boston youth regularly miss out on opportunities because of unaffordable fares.

“It’s nice to see the T do something after seven years,” said Luis Navarro, a YAC leader since 2012. “Just recently they were saying this isn’t possible. We’re hoping the shift means Secretary of Transportation Richard Davey will finally step up and address the fact that youth in general can’t afford to ride.”

We are calling on the MBTA to continue opening transportation access by supporting the implementation of the Youth Pass, starting with a pilot in 2014. In recent weeks, YAC has collected thousands of petition signatures in support of this effort, testified at the MassDOT Board of Directors meeting and staged a “die-in” to represent the opportunities lost while we wait for the MBTA to act. Please sign and share the petition!

Public transportation is crucial to providing opportunities for leadership and empowerment in youth

Volunteer at ACE this spring!

March 21, 2014

Got any spare time? We could use your help in the following ways:

ACE is moving office locations!

Help us move: As of April 1, ACE’s new office will be at 2201 Washington Street, Suite 302 in Roxbury, just a block down from our current space at 2181 Washington Street. We need volunteers to help us pack up and move into our new space. Drop by the (old) office on Thursday, March 27 and Friday, March 28 to help us make this transition. Please email Lee or call (617) 442-3343 x229 to volunteer. Stay tuned for our Open House next month!

Join the Jammin’ Committee: Jammin’ for Justice is coming up on Thursday, May 29, and the Committee helps with all aspects of the event, from menu planning to recruiting hosts and sponsors. Please email John or call (617) 442-3343 x231 to get involved with our biggest celebration of the year.

Update: EJ at the Supreme Judicial Court!

March 21, 2014

Residents, MEJAN professionals, and supporters at the Supreme Judicial Court

Earlier this month, ACE members, residents and clients attended the Supreme Judicial Court proceedings to hear our case addressing the impact of the Massachusetts Environmental Justice Policy on a proposed fossil fuel power plant in Brockton.

Attorneys Lisa Goodheart and Phelps Turner of Sugarman, Rogers, Barshak & Cohen, P.C., joined by ACE Co-Counsel, represented residents from Brockton and West Bridgewater. Both Lisa and Phelps are volunteers from our Massachusetts Environmental Justice Assistance Network (MEJAN).

Together, we are continuing to build on the work started by residents seven years ago. Our position on the EJ Policy was amplified by several supporting "friend of the court" briefs, which were filed by the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights and Economic Justice, the Hands Across the River Coalition and the Conservation Law Foundation.