Conscious Alliance

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Conscious Alliance is a national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization in Boulder, Colorado. The organization was founded in 2002. The nonprofit organization is committed to supporting communities in crisis through hunger relief and youth empowerment.

Conscious Alliance operates through ongoing, grassroots food collection and hunger awareness programs throughout the United States, primarily by organizing food drives at concerts and music events.[1] Donations to Conscious Alliance benefit America’s local food pantries and economically isolated Native American Reservations. Over the years, Conscious Alliance has hosted hundreds of food drives at music festivals including Bonnaroo, Power to the Peaceful, and Wakarusa, and at concerts by artists such as The String Cheese Incident, STS9, Jack Johnson, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Dave Matthews, Phil Lesh, Bassnectar, and many others.

History[edit]

2002-2004[edit]

Conscious Alliance is a Boulder, Colorado based national 501(c)(3) non-profit organization committed to distributing much-needed food to communities across the United States, and providing long-term solutions to hunger by focusing on empowerment programs for youth in impoverished regions of the country. The organizations operates through ongoing, grassroots food collection and hunger awareness programs, primarily by organizing food drives at concerts and music events. The donations we collect benefit local food pantries nationwide and economically isolated Native American Reservations.[2]

The organization began in 2002 as one college student’s vision and drive to help others. It all started when Justin Baker, founder of Conscious Alliance, mobilized a group of friends and fellow students to come together as food drive volunteers. Baker’s vision led him to host campus-wide food drives with the hopes of not only collecting and distributing food to impoverished Native American Reservations in the Western United States, but also to raise awareness about the extreme economic poverty that still exists on many reservations today.[3]

Conscious Alliance soon discovered that it had the capability to appeal to a much larger audience than the CU Boulder campus. Music events were just the source needed to capture a greater audience in one place at one time. Hosting food drives at concerts and music festivals proved to be an enormous success as generous attendees donated thousands of pounds of food at venues across the country.[4]

The organization uses art as the incentive to inspire people to donate food and funds to the cause. Participants in their ‘Art That Feeds’ Food Drives receive an event-specific poster for making a suggested donation of non-perishable food items, or a recommended monetary donation. All of the collected food donations are locally distributed to Feeding America Food Bank affiliates in the region where the Food Drive takes place. The money Conscious Alliance raises is used to purchase and deliver food in large (bulk) quantities to Native American Reservations across the United States.[5]

Since the organization's inception in 2002, Conscious Alliance has hosted hundreds of ‘Art That Feeds’ Food Drives at music festivals including Bonnaroo, Power to the Peaceful, and Wakarusa, and at concerts by artists such as The String Cheese Incident, STS9, Jack Johnson, Michael Franti & Spearhead, Phish, Dave Matthews, and many others. Through these collaborations, and partnerships with companies like Whole Foods Market and Justin’s Nut Butter, Conscious Alliance has been able to collect and distribute enough food to provide over 1.5 million meals to people in need nationwide.[6]

2005-Present[edit]

In 2005, Conscious Alliance successfully built a much needed food storage and distribution facility on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, one of the poorest communities in the country. The unit is used to store and distribute emergency food supplies to more than 100 families at the end of each month when bills are due and emergency food is critical in making it to the next month. Conscious Alliance has maintained a full facility over the past few years that it has kept permanently stocked at all times through the generosity of the organization's supporters.[7]

While striving to meet immediate needs through emergency hunger relief efforts, Conscious Alliance simultaneously focuses on creating sustainable solutions to poverty on reservations by creating opportunities for the younger generation in these communities to thrive. Several projects are directed toward Native American youth as a way for the younger generation to develop and uphold a strong relationship to their community and culture. These youth-oriented programs are intended to cultivate a collective movement to inspire confidence, creativity, hope, and ambition in both native and non-native youth.[8]

Today, Conscious Alliance is stronger than ever and looking toward the future. Over the years the organization has evolved into a dedicated and open-hearted alliance of supporters that includes all ages and demographics. Conscious Alliance is not just the staff and volunteers seen at the Food Drives, but includes every musician, artist, industry supporter, corporate sponsor, and individual who donates food, funds, and time to the cause. These people allow the organization to continue its mission of providing the basic necessities of life to those in need.[9]

Projects[edit]

'Art That Feeds' Food Drive[edit]

Conscious Alliance uses art as the incentive to inspire people to donate to our cause. Concertgoers who participate in the organization's ‘Art That Feeds’ Food Drives receive a limited edition concert poster for making the suggested donation of 20 or more non-perishable food items, or a recommended monetary donation. The artist, who retains creative control over the image, donates the art that Conscious Alliance uses for the poster, while the organization covers all printing costs. All of the collected food donations are locally distributed to Feeding America Food Bank affiliates in the town or city in which the event takes place. Since the organization's inception in 2002, Conscious Alliance has collected and distributed over 1.5 million pounds of food to communities in need across the United States. The money raised is used to purchase and deliver food in large bulk quantities to Native American Reservations across the United States.[10]

Annual Holiday Meal Delivery[edit]

This Thanksgiving Season Conscious Alliance will be hosting its 9th Annual Holiday Meal Delivery, taking place November 15–18, 2012. The goal is to distribute over 10,000 meals to local families in need in the Greater Denver area, as well as households on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation in Montana, which are among the poorest communities in the United States.[11]

Many people are unaware of the conditions on these reservations. The unemployment rate is consistently over 80% on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, primarily due to the extreme economic isolation of the reservation. Food insecurity is rampant. The climate is extreme in this region of the country, with regular winter blizzards and temperatures annually falling to -20 °F or lower. In the winter, people make a very real choice between buying food and buying fuel to heat their homes.[12]

Conscious Alliance strives to alleviate the immediate need for the basic necessities of life, while simultaneously teaming up with community leaders to create possibilities for the future. As the organization provides food to the reservations, it is working with these leaders to inspire members of the community, with particular focus on positive youth outreach programs to empower the next generation.[13]

'Art That Feeds' Youth Workshops[edit]

Conscious Alliance is initiating a series of art workshops for native and non-native youth, beginning in the Boulder/Denver area. The youth spend a day working with a very special artist, who is part of the Conscious Alliance community and has previously donated their artwork to the ‘Art That Feeds’ program. Each workshop will be directed by a different artist, who will work with the youth to inspire their creativity through the power of guidance and collaboration.[14]

The youth will spend a day exploring their imagination and producing their own unique artwork under the guidance of these artists. They will also collaborate with their fellow youth in the program. This youth movement will use art as a vehicle that can be used to engage the younger generation in activities that will increase their self-esteem and inspire the use of their talents and aspirations.[15]

Many of the youth involved in the workshops experience high levels of adolescent risk factors, including extreme economic deprivation. These art workshops are designed to have a tremendous impact on the youth and reduce the effects of these risk factors. Not only can such programs enhance young peoples’ attitudes about themselves and their futures, but the programs also provide opportunities for youth to learn new skills and encourages them to engage in the arts. With the help of our supporters, we will cultivate a collective movement to inspire confidence, creativity, hope, and ambition for the youth of native and non-native communities.[16]

Sustainable Housing Initiative[edit]

Conscious Alliance is proud to support a new sustainable housing project on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation by partnering with the University of Colorado and the Native American Sustainable Housing Initiative (NASHI), a nonprofit design-build program seeking to improve housing conditions on tribal lands through research, education, and outreach activities. CU Environmental Design students are currently teaming up with students from Oglala Lakota College (OLC) on Pine Ridge who are studying Construction Technology to offer this project called ‘Designing for People and Place: Sustainable & Affordable Housing for the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.[17]

Many of the houses on the reservation are substandard, lacking electricity and working sewage systems, plagued with mold, and too small to house extended families. Together students from CU and OLC are designing and building energy-efficient homes that are affordable and meet the cultural needs of those on the reservation.[18]

The project will address the need for environmentally sound and economical housing, and increase the capacity, knowledge, and resources of OLC students to build sustainable and energy efficient homes that are suitable for their community members on Pine Ridge. The project will also give Lakota students at OLC the chance to acquire the necessary skills to foster future economic development opportunities in sustainable housing development and construction.[19]

Ft. Robinson Run[edit]

Every January, Conscious Alliance sponsors the Fort Robinson Outbreak Spiritual Run, a 400-mile journey from Fort Robinson, Nebraska to Busby, Montana. Coordinated by Phillip Whiteman Jr. and Lynette Two Bulls from their home in Lame Deer, Montana, the run was created to pay homage to those Northern Cheyenne ancestors that broke out of Fort Robinson on January 9, 1879. Most of them were killed at this time, but a few survived and made it to their homeland, the Powder River country in Southeastern Montana. Because of this sacrifice, they now have the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.[20]

The runners include 100 Northern Cheyenne youth from the reservation who range in age from 7 to young adults. Many of the participants are considered “at risk” youth and come from disadvantaged backgrounds. The runners make a commitment to undertake a five-day journey across 400 miles that commemorates their ancestry by replicating their epic journey from Nebraska to their homeland in Montana. They run day and night enduring January temperatures and physical hardships, much like their ancestors of 130 years ago. They learn valuable lessons of unity, responsibility to self and others, and how to overcome adversities. They encourage one another through winter weather, the sand-hills of Nebraska, the sacred Black Hills of South Dakota, and the plains and mountains of Montana. They gain a strong connection to the sacrifice of their ancestors. The run instills in them a sense of pride, greater self-esteem, a deeper respect for their identity and sincere appreciation for their homeland.[21]

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