During Fall 2022, we soft-launched our youth program! In December 2022, we completed a three-month contract for the Y of Central Maryland and the Baltimore City Public School System. We provided workshops, cooking demonstrations and farm-based field trips for elementary, middle and high school students. We taught them about farming, food & the Black Freedom Struggle! We held our closing celebration at Forest Park High School in west Baltimore. At the event, we provided participating youth and their families with #BlackChurchPower bags full of nutrient-rich produce from local Black women farmers.
In many ways, this youth development and mentoring work builds on what our Founder has been committed to for years. In April 2012, Dr. Heber founded Orita’s Cross Freedom School – an African-centered youth program for Baltimore area youth. The program would operate on days when public school was closed. Youth from the Baltimore metro area would be invited to a full day of workshops, fun and food at Pleasant Hope Baptist Church where Dr. Heber then served as pastor. The entire program was oriented around African history and Black culture. The program was very popular and received national acclaim. In early 2022, the program was put on hiatus as Dr. Heber was transitioning out of his role as pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church.
Now that that transition is complete, Orita’s Cross Freedom School is set to return, but in a new way. Beginning in 2023, Orita’s Cross (pronounced O-ree-tah) will relaunch under the banner and as a branch of The Black Church Food Security Network. Themes of freedom, faith, food and farming dominated so much of what Orita’s Cross has been about from the beginning that it feels like the perfect fit to bring it under the fold of our national network.
We will be resuming regular programming with Orita’s Cross beginning in Spring 2023. Stay tuned for more information on how to get the children in your life connected to this transformative program! Check out this video about Orita’s Cross: