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JOSEPH: Tameka let's start with your Obodo collective tell me about that.
TAMEKA: The Obodo collective, we’re a local non-profit that's helping families combat multi-generational poverty. We focus on three main pillars: that's food insecurity, housing, and education. So, with our food security, we have the urban farm where we are increasing access to fresh and locally grown produce.
JOSEPH: Located at the corner of C Street and Monroe, in the heart of the Historic Westside, lies the garden. Let’s talk about the garden for a minute, what is the Obodo Collective’s intent with the garden?
TAMEKA: Our intent is to improve access to locally grown produce, quality produce that's here right in the heart of 89106. We're in the middle of a food desert we're in the middle of a food swamp, there's lots of fresh food options - not a lot of grocery store options. So, with our raised beds we want to make sure that we are growing nutritious produce for our community. Along with that, we'll also do gardening classes, and we'll have chef demos. I also want to do the multi generation links, so that grandparents, their children and their children can come and learn how to grow, how to harvest and how to prepare the things that are harvested from our garden.
JOSEPH: The community can take classes in the garden, there are lectures in the garden, you even show movies in the garden. If community members want to support the work that's going on and the initiatives that are happening at the garden itself, how can they do that?
TAMEKA: Well first and foremost you can volunteer at our garden, and I like to use the term urban farm, because our garden is more of an urban farm. Community gardens you usually can rent plots but what we really want is to have volunteers come in and help tend to what’s already there because that will go to the entire community. It's not just for one organization to cultivate theirs and only use it for them, it's for the entire community and so volunteers are more than welcome to join us. Everything from planting, harvesting, helping us with weeds, to different service projects. Like, we need picnic benches right now, we even need different murals and art, like it's one of those spaces that we want to be around for the community, so volunteering is one of the biggest things. Also, you can donate to our different projects, you can visit our website: https://www.obodocollective.org and you can donate there, every dollar helps - every dollar helps, my goodness.
JOSEPH: What are the challenges that you face with the garden in particular?
TAMEKA: Well of course this is Vegas, and the heat is extreme sometimes and we're new. It's a new project for us, so right now we're really in the research phases to see what things grow well, and in which areas do they grow well within the garden. There are some things that we are lacking, we don't have a shed to store our tools and our seeds. Some things walk away, you know we realized we're in the hood, but we also want that to be a place of beauty for that community. For the most part our next-door neighbors are helpful, like they provide security, they do volunteer work, they check on us, just like we check on them. That's what neighbors do, but there are things that we need, such as shade structures and funding has been a bit of a challenge but we're just taking them one project at a time.
JOSEPH: You are a 501c3?
TAMEKA: We are a 501C3 , all donations are tax deductible, and we make sure that you get all the paperwork you need to support us.
JOSEPH: Aside from volunteering, what if a family needs help, how do they reach out to the Obodo Collective?
TAMEKA: We also have a form on our website, it's called a Neighbor Intake form. Oftentimes, we get forms daily from individuals who need food, those who are looking for shelter or housing. Also, those who are looking for resources for their children -especially those going into childcare, because access to affordable childcare has been a challenge in our valley for decades. There have been some investments made in that and we have a grant through Children's Cabinet, this Cabinet where we connect families to those vital resources we help them through the application process, we help them to find and childcare that is affordable for them and we really empower them to be able to get their children into a quality early childhood center.
JOSEPH: What elected officials have helped you to this point or are assistingwith the project?
TAMEKA: We have had support from Councilman Cedric Creer of our project, letting us know different opportunities that the city has available, help getting power to our building, we also needed some visual improvement funding, he has been helpful with making sure we are aware of those opportunities and to apply for them. Also, Commissioner McCurdy has been very helpful as well. There are different outside agency grants that are available, but just making sure that we know about those opportunities to apply, and if I have questions, I'm able to reach out to these officials. They have been by our side and helped with tree planting with our Mayor of North Las Vegas Pamela Goins Brown, we've had Congressman Stephen Horsford at the garden, Shondra Armstrong has visited, and Daniel Monroe Moreno has always been a supporter. Along with Assemblywoman Erica Mosca who has been truly supportive.
JOSEPH: So, your focus with Odobo, one of the pillars is education and you are personally heavily invested in the Clark County School District. In fact, at one point you campaigned to represent District C on the School Board. Is there another run in your future?
TAMEKA: Yes, I do see a run in my future for the Clark County school board. Yes, I did run before, and wasn’t successful, but the knowledge that I gained and the relationships I was able to gain during that run, have been rewarding. Just because I didn't win the title, the work never stopped! I've been an advocate for education for years, I know what a quality education - especially early childhood education - can do for a child, and their family.
My children are products of Head Start, I began as a Head Start parent and through that program, I was able to be empowered, learn how to read budgets, learn how to make decisions on curriculums, have shared governance experience as a member of the board of directors, and I'm currently the chairperson of the board of directors for Head Start. I believe in quality education because I know how it transformed my life, and the lives of my children.
I now have a daughter that's in college, and one that's in a magnet program, I know that wouldn't have been our reality had I not had access to a quality program that focused on both generations. So that's something that I am hoping to bring to our community, and to the school board is a real laser focus on family and community engagement, it's not only on the school district to educate our children. It's really up to our families and our community to do their part, like it is a true partnership, and it needs to be increased.