Summer Without Mark
I think most of us who live in a four-season setting treasure the summer months. Perhaps summer’s special place hearkens back to our formative years when the season meant no school. It’s certainly a time for outdoor activities and enjoying the natural world, all things that make us think about (and miss) Mark. Knowing we won’t be celebrating summer this year (and every year, hereafter) without him makes the summer of 2017 an especially difficult one as parents of Mark.
In a perfect world framed by the best intentions, updating donors and friends would be a priority. A newsletter, or a pithy email full of exciting projects supported by those generous and kind people who have contributed to the fund we began in honor of Mark and the things he cared about is something I intended to have done by now.
Of course, we haven’t been living in anything close to a perfect world since January 21 when he was killed.
As we enter August and what are known as “the dog days of August” in our northern reaches of New England, I’ve been stressing out about finally getting something newsworthy out to everyone. The writing or reporting out isn’t the issue, and there are certainly some really cool things that we’ve been able to jump into fairly quickly, while engaging with organizations and projects that are doing work that mattered to Mark. No, the issue is finding a format that doesn’t require a background in layout and design, a skill I often leveraged through Mark—he was very talented when it came to coming up with ideas, a logo, or even helping me develop and put together a book I was working on. Just another aspect of Mark’s talent and skill set that I’m learning to live without, along with all the other Mark things that are no longer available to us.
I won’t belabor the point other than to say that I’m a writer and I got stuck trying to find a newsletter format and a design template that allowed me to use my writing skills rather than fumbling, trying to find the perfect design and style. I think TinyLetter is what I was looking for. We’ll try it out for a bit and see how it feels.
For those of you who mainly want to know what we’ve been up to in terms of Mark’s fund, let’s jump right in. For others that know us and continue to be interested in how we’re coping with life without Mark, I’ve been writing regularly on my blog about the process of grief and things about Mark that I think might interest others. Like our trip to California this spring, journeying westward in Mark’s memory, finding some needed space and trying to bring some closure to a few things, including commemorating his first cross-country walk.
We finally met Ally Trull the director for Recycle-A-Bike back in April. A friend of Mark’s told us a bit about them. Their mission of “educating, empowering, and building community by connecting people and bicycles” seemed like a great fit for what we’re looking to do with the Mark Baumer Sustainability Fund, which includes playing a role in smart/sustainable transportation policy. Finding a way to connect people with bikes is a key component of that.
Meeting Ally, experiencing her enthusiasm, while observing high school students busy at work in their shop in Providence’s Olneyville Square was a highlight of that particular daylong trip down to the city and back to Maine. We’ve actually made many of these since January.
In speaking with Ally, we were excited to find out about their Pedal Power youth programs that were being planned in July. Pedal Power brings bikes and pedal-powered adventures to groups of young people ages 8-18, teaching them about smart cycling techniques and getting them hooked on the joy of cycling as recreation, transportation, and a means of sustainability.
The Mark Baumer Sustainability Fund helped support Recycle-A-Bike’s 7-week Pedal Power program, partnering with the Boys & Girls Club of Providence, providing free bike helmets to 13 program participants as they took part in this once-a-week intensive safe cycling program that helps graduates know how to bike and ride safely. Additionally, the fund helped 44 total students in both summer programs get new bike helmets contingent upon completing their program.
“Many thanks to the Mark Baumer Sustainability Fund for honoring the beautiful life of Mark Baumer and supporting Recycle-A-Bike in its work to empower, educate and build community by connecting people and bikes.”
We were happy to help!!
Mark’s friend Richard Hodges launched RetreeUS as a way to engage youth and provide local schools with educational opportunities that empower students and their families to grow their own orchards and gardens.
Richard is a local farmer, and Mark actually bought a farm share from Richard for his parents back in 2015 that we thoroughly enjoyed. It was also great reconnecting with Richard at the time.
After Mark’s death, we decided to reach out to Richard and see about planting a few trees in Maine in Mark’s memory.
Back in May, Richard visited Pownal Elementary School, just down the road from where we used to live in Durham. He worked with students in planting four pear trees and three apple trees in honor of Mark.
Local food and supporting the farmers that grow that food were priorities to Mark. His support of the farmers’ market in Pawtucket where he visited nearly every Saturday (and we got to go with him several times) is something that we’ll always remember about him.
Summer Camp, Activist Style
Mark was a renaissance man for sure—award-winning poet, prolific content creator—he even had an earlier career as a talented baseball player. But I think first and foremost, he’d grown into an effective activist, with a commitment to Earth and the natural world framing how he lived his life.
He was attempting a cross-country walk (his second trek across the country) focused on raising awareness of climate change, while also raising funds for The FANG Collective, an activist group he was a member of. He was acting in that role of an activist, when he was hit and killed by a driver operating an SUV, on Day 101 of his walk. This occurred in Crestview, Florida, along Highway 90. His all-too-short life ended, at the age of 33.
Mark was deeply concerned about the effects of climate change and where the planet was headed if we didn’t find a way to change how we are living. Additionally, he was working towards creating a more just society. His protests involved the opposition to the power plant in Burrillville and he participated in the March to Burrillville with FANG, as well as protesting the manufacture of cluster bombs by Textron, Inc., a protest where he was arrested. He even managed to get himself banned from RISD’s property for daring to shout out to the governor of Rhode Island, Gina Raimondo, asking about her decision on the power plant.
When we learned about a week-long summer camp in Worcester, focused on direct action work and the tangible skills required to do that work effectively, we thought it might be a nice way to honor Mark’s own commitment to activism by creating three $100 scholarship in his name and memory for their August session.
It is my opinion that we are living during a time when simply complaining about issues, or sitting on the sidelines while the country we were born into is systematically dismantled and scrapped by those in power is no longer enough (if remaining compliant ever was). The Institute for Advance Troublemaking is a partner with FANG in direct action work, and there are members of FANG participating in the camp. That’s why we decided to contribute funds to allow others to attend and receive hands-on training, like Mark received, allowing him to be effective during past efforts.
The Mark Baumer Sustainability Fund was created as a way of keeping Mark’s memory, work, and spirit alive. It will be focused on supporting causes and organizations that cultivate traits that were part of Mark’s philosophy of life—love, kindness, and working towards building a better and more equitable world for all people.
If you haven’t made a donation, please consider doing so. Your contributions help keep Mark’s memory alive in the world, and his work front and center.
If you have questions or concerns about the fund, suggestions about grassroots organizations and groups focused on sustainability, or would simply like to reach out to us, please drop me a note via email, at email@example.com.
If you’d like to receive an update in your inbox three or four times a year, then please drop your email into the sign-up slot and we’ll add you to our subscriber base.