Talking to Jeaninne Kayembe, the Co-Executive Director and Co-Founder of Urban Creators was one of those conversations where as soon as it was over I couldn’t wait to share what I had learned with everyone I talked to. Since that call, I’ve told co-workers, friends, other Sprucer’s and even the cashier at the grocery store about Urban Creators. And everyone’s reaction is the same — that’s so cool.
Urban Creators was founded in 2010 by a group of young people who upon returning from service work in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina looked around and realized there was work to be done in their own neighborhood. “We came back and realized where we lived didn’t look all that different from what we had seen in New Orleans,” Jeaninne explained, “so, we brought together members of our community to brainstorm creative ways to make a positive change.”
Through their work, they’ve been able to provide the community with what Jeaninne referred to as a “safe space and urban oasis” in the form of an urban farm and creative space. The farm itself supports the community in two ways, first in providing good, whole foods in a neighborhood that’s considered a food desert, and second, it gives the young people in the community the opportunity for meaningful employment. “One of our main goals is to employ as many young people in our neighborhood as possible.” Jeaninne explained, and this model has paid off, “in the three-block radius surrounding the farm, the Part 1 violent crime rate among 18 – 24-year-olds has dropped 40% since we’ve started.”
Beyond the farm, the “Creators” part of their name is also a main focus. Kayembe shared, “We strive to create opportunities for our community to become affluent in the arts. We bring in artists from Philadelphia and around the country for shows in our space.” But shows like this are just one of many things Urban Creators is bringing to the neighborhood. Each year Urban Creators host a community event that brings local musicians, artists, and other creatives together for their annual HoodStock Community and Arts Festival. The event also offers something super unique to them — a graffiti invitational. Jeaninne explained, “We want to ensure young, marginalized people have a platform for whatever their passion is — this event gives graffiti artists a safe place to pursue their passion.” They also offer First Friday Art Gallerys at the farm and a variety of other events throughout the year.
But if you’re looking for other ways to get involved, they offer Second Saturday volunteer days, where anyone is welcome to come help, opportunities for corporate giving days, and through a brand new partnership with Airbnb experiences, you can now participate in their Art in Urban Farming experience where you’ll take have the opportunity to take a tour of the farm, check out the graffiti art and murals, get your hands dirty (literally) helping with daily farm maintence projects and even learn tips for growing vegetables in an urban setting.
I think what makes Urban Creators so special is that it’s essentially an effort to improve the community — by the people who live there. When I asked Jeaninne what’s next she shared, “Like the farm our group is a living, breathing organism. We’ll continue to grow and change based on the needs of our community.” and I for one, can’t wait to see what they do next.