The following is the transcript of an interview conducted by Public Allies Milwaukee with AmeriCorps member Ni’Sea Thurman-Wamubu, who is serving this year with Public Allies at the Victory Garden Initiative (VGI).
Public Allies Milwaukee: Congrats on your Seeds of Liberation Gallery opening. The gallery is an inspiring creative project! Tell us the why of it all—how does it sustainably build the capacity of the Victory Garden Initiative (VGI)?
Ni’Sea Thurman-Wamubu: VGI has reached out to the community for years and has been intentional about how to form community relations. But recently they wanted to build on established practices like community gardening to reach even more people. Reaching more people is important for VGI because it allows us to distribute our resources more equitably—in other words, more of the community ends us with access to community support and live- and fresh-food practices and knowledge. Now that we have the Seeds of Liberation Gallery, we have a new platform for people from the community to be appreciated and know they have a space for themselves in our Harambee Neighborhood community and organization.
Public Allies Milwaukee: Tell us about your inspiration for the Gallery.
Ni’Sea Thurman-Wamubu: Before the Gallery space went in, I was having conversations with and about local artists of all ages, and I saw community forming around these conversations. I wanted to build on this raw expression found within the community. Falling in love with the Gallery idea happened when I saw how strong the staff’s relationship with the community was—and when my host-site supervisor gave me the space to create a new project. I realized how much non-monetary wealth—values, motivation, and artistry—was in the community, and I wanted to provide a space where people who identified with the surrounding community could have a platform to share their work—and others in the community could experience that work. We specifically have highlighted Black youth in the community—namely, their sheer brilliance that not everyone has been able to see so clearly. The Gallery also helps youth in the neighborhood, a majority who are Black, experience liberation free from the confines of their financial position or external pressure of what society might tell them their worth is, as based on financial success.
Public Allies Milwaukee: What do you hope for your continued leadership after the Public Allies AmeriCorps year?
Ni’Sea Thurman-Wamubu: I hope to be as authentic as I can be by incorporating healing practices into the work I’m able to do with the community—both as it relates to my personal healing journal and as it relates to working with the Harambee Neighborhood. I’m also planning to complete a second year of AmeriCorps with Public Allies at VGI.