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By Stephanie Diane Ford and Fergus Nolan
Adam Guerrero is a 38-year old former teacher, who was recently fired from Libertas Montessori School in Memphis. He operates a business, SmartMule LLC based at 3713 Townes Ave.
Guerrero is a U of M graduate who was separated from West Point after undergoing mandatory counseling.
Prior to Libertas, Adam Guerrero was an SCS high school teacher, but he was let go from Raleigh Egypt and from Pathways in Education charter school due to failure to meet professional requirements. Libertas is an ASD school and Adam Guerrero also ran the permaculture program there.
This story is difficult for us because Adam Guerrero is seen as a part of a loose social justice movement, and many activists see these disclosures as divisive. We normally fry bigger fish, but Guerrero gets support and cash from the community and his activities are very different to the narrative he projects.
In this post, we look at:
- Adam Guerrero’s nine, mostly blighted, lots in North Memphis, with emphasis on his Shasta and Clyde Ave. locations,
- How he raised funds for North Memphis Farmers Collective and Grow Memphis and appropriated funds and assets from those fundraising efforts.
- How he skirts tax and employment law for his, often young, employees, and how he maintains unsafe workplaces for these young workers.
- He has prominently featured Black people in his promotional material and fundraising, although his one remaining site overseer is a white supremacist.
- Rather than combating blight, the Adam Guerrero property empire has seen an increase in blight around some of his lots,
- his many former apprentices, interns and other unpaid help have not had a career benefit from their association with SmartMule.
We view SmartMule and Adam Guerrero as a concern, because his victims have included workers and neighborhoods in some of the most vulnerable communities in Memphis.
Adam Guerrero’s Property Empire
Adam owns these properties in his own name. Click the links for photographs , documents and detailed site descriptions.
- 2267 Shasta: Guerreo obtained this lot through a $1 deed transfer from Memphis Tilth, a community oriented non-profit land cooperative. This property is severely blighted, unsafe, has a suspected racist squatter, and uses child labor.
- 0 Decatur: This industrial-zoned lot hosts the St Jude composting operation, see below.
- 0 Shasta: An untended and unimproved blighted lot. Nearby City-mowed lots are neater and trash free.
- 0 Clyde: An unimproved garbage-strewn and uneven lot which encroaches on Lucille Price Park.
- 0 and 2250 Hunter: Gardened and well maintained by neighboring residents.
- 2296 Hunter: An untended and unimproved blighted lot attracting local blight.
- 1107 and 1113 Breedlove: An untended and unimproved blighted lot with garbage and dogs.
Guerrero was formerly a Garden Leader and board member of Grow Memphis, which is now Memphis Tilth. SmartMule LLC is a member of North Memphis Farmers Collective. His level of involvement has recently been much lower than the 2015 peak, due to disputes with members of these organizations.
His total investment of $811 for the nine plantation lots has produced an assessor’s valuation of $39,100. All of the lots, except for the 2550 Hunter lots, are untended, contain blight and some are also hazardous to workers, local residents and the environment. Guerrero also owns his Townes Ave residence, which is now often unoccupied since his recent move to Frayser.
Guerrero’s level of involvement significantly declined after the 2015 peak due to disputes with member farmers. All original members of the Collective no longer collaborate significantly with or have ended business associations with Adam, after SmartMule took over the Kickstarter and most of its proceeds.
Guerrero was taken to court in 2011 for bad odors from improperly maintained compost bins; standing water, which was acting as breeding grounds for mosquitoes; alleged rat infestation and other pest-related issues at his Townes Ave. home. He answered his neighbor’s and Code Enforcement’s case with a social media blitz, and by parading three young African American children in court.
Guerrero was found guilty of failure to cut grass and failure to remove personal property in Environmental court, fined and assessed costs, on 11/29/2017. Case # 17501410, Shelby Co.
The Shasta Plantation
The property at 2267 Shasta Ave consists of one plot owned by Adam Guerrero, another owned by the city, and several owned by Sylvester Sullivan, an African American neighbor, on which a broken-down travel trailer is parked. It backs onto Cypress Creek at the southern edge of the property. Prior to purchasing his lot, Guerrero erected a fence around the entire area, seizing his neighbor’s land. An altercation over land rights, during which police were called, (pdf) occurred during this time.
As can be seen from the photographs, the plantation at 2267 Shasta is strewn with garbage and overgrown weeds. The broken down travel trailer has no water or sanitary connections. We are unaware of how human sewage from the trailer’s resident and from on-site workers, and slurry from the animals on the site, are handled to keep the adjoining Cypress Creek safe from contamination. There are also workplace safety hazards in the form of piles of construction junk, including boards with protruding nails, fencing material with cut wire ends, chemicals and the unfenced Cypress Creek.
This photo from County Register records, shows Adam Guerrero’s lot outlined in blue, with the hoop house mostly on County-owned property to the south.
This hoop house was purchased with the help of a $20,000 grant from Rhodes College to Grow Memphis, now Memphis Tilth. A chicken house to the east is also on County land. The hoop house and other improvements transferred to Adam Guerrero with the property title.
Failure to remove property from County land is an offense.
Andy Panda, Shasta Plantation Overseer
The occupant of the trailer is Andrew Burkett, who uses the pseudonym Andy Panda. He regularly propagates anti Semitic and white supremacist propaganda.
These pictures show Andy Panda with child laborers at Shasta. The water is taken unpaid from a city supply on the street. (Photo credit Facebook)
Although Panda regularly oversees unpaid black children on the Shasta plantation, he uses racial slurs in his speech and social media postings.
These children are psychically and physically endangered at Plantation Shasta.
The Decatur Plantation and the St Jude Composting contract.
SmartMule signed a composting contract with St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in September 2016. The project involved building compost bins at Guerrero’s 0 Decatur property. Free and low wage labor from Black male youth was used for clearing the Decatur property and compost bin construction.
These photographs show young workers building compost bins with Adam Guerrero, and a tree-clearing crew at Decatur. (Photo credit: Facebook)
This purported North Memphis Farmers’ Collective Mailchimp post has some editorial about this project but also some authentic-looking contract documentation showing the amount SmartMule charges for this work, and the income deriving to Guerrero’s SmartMule LLC. The child in the bin-building picture is not equipped with protective equipment or gloves in a hazardous work environment. The tree clearing crew are not equipped with hi-vis vests or safety equipment. We assume they are not covered by workman’s comp as required for even small construction firms.
At Decatur: Bin with broken end; bin with broken side and shredded paper; broken glass hazard; bin with exposed nails. (Photos: Fergus Nolan)
The St Jude contract, with a nominal value of $48K annually, was signed in September 2016 and compostingwork has recently started. Although several thousand dollars were paid to Smartmule, the Decatur property only contains a small amount of shredded paper trash, and none of the food waste envisioned in the contract. The two employees planned in the Smartmule projections have not been hired.
Smartmule’s Labor Payment Policies
Smartmule uses a large number of unpaid and underpaid, mostly Black children, and some adults on its plantations. These are variously referred to as “apprentices”, “interns”, Guerrero’s Guerillas or the Mules.
In this post on SmartMule’s Facebook page, Guerrero refers to an “apprentice” he has had for “nearly ten years”. He also refers to an incident in which some students, who had been lounging unsupervised at Guerrero’s home, had been involved in an alleged assault on SmartMule manager Stephanie Ford, who was his girlfriend at the time.
Note: the following Facebook quotes were made on a thread on Fergus Nolan’s home page. Adam Guerrero’s Facebook presence is currently suspended but the screen snips were taken on the dates noted.
SmartMule LLC is a single owner LLC #000794077 at the Tennessee SOS. Adam Guerrero said:
An LLC is a for profit entity. It files no financial disclosures, such as Form 990, as required by non-profits.
SmartMule is claimed to be a co-operative, but it is ruled by Adam Guerrero without any input from its workers.
Adam Guerrero runs his for-profit LLC as a regular business and “passed” on including his people in the decision-making process.
SmartMule LLC uses or has used the labor of numerous children and some adults. Many of these children are students or former students. When asked if he paid these children, Adam Guerrero is evasive and said he did not report their earnings to the IRS. We assume no W2s were filed, social security or medicare, workman’s comp as required for all construction work, unemployment insurance or sales tax.
Among SmartMule’s fundraising, this Kickstarter raised over $11K. The fundraiser was nominally for North Memphis Farmer’s Collective, but used Smartmule’s email and bank accounts. This SmartMule bank statement shows a $10,152.21 transfer to SmartMule from Kickstarter in August 2015. The bulk of the money was used to buy a tractor and accessories, against the wishes of the other NMFC members. This tractor is in the possession of Adam Guerrero, who stores it at 0 Decatur and uses it for City contract work mowing the Shelby Farms Greenline.
Adam Guerrero also received $3,500 from Memphis Tilth when they deeded the 2267 Shasta lot to him in September 2017.
While still owned by Grow Memphis, a $20,000 grant from Rhodes College was used to develop the 2267 Shasta lot, which “improvements” were transferred to Adam Guerrero’s personal ownership when he was deeded the Shasta plantation. As this hoop house, and a nearby chicken house, are mostly located on City property, this structure is subject to removal of personal property orders from the City.
Adam Guerrero is evasive when asked if he had parental release forms or other paperwork on the kids who worked for him.
Stephanie Diane Ford, a former unpaid SmartMule manager, said:
Consistent with historical patterns of resource expropriation, Adam Guerrero has been using the images, knowledge and labor of black people to obtain resources (grants, sales income, employment income, income tax deductions and land transfers (via Memphis Tilth)) for more than 10 years with no measurable improvements to the socio-economic status of any black people he has ever worked with or claimed to be helping. (Facebook, 11/29/2017).
Adam Guerrero and/or SmartMule uses young Black men and children for agricultural and construction work, and for eye candy in their publicity materials.
He maintains hazardous workplaces, does not provide appropriate safety equipment, and employs Andy Panda, an abusive racist as an overseer of young Black children.
He does not file required employment tax, sales tax, social security, medicare or workman’s comp for his enterprise.
He represents his for-profit enterprise as a charity or a co-operative, soliciting funds and managing public opinion via a heavy-handed social media presence.
His Shasta Ave. plantation is strewn with garbage and is an environmental risk factor for the nearby Cypress Creek. This and other Guerrero properties have been reported to Code Enforcement many times. All his properties, except for 2250 Hunter, are blighted, contain garbage and are improperly maintained and mowed.
The neighborhoods he operates in were already fragile, blighted and savaged by unemployment before he bought in. Now they’re worse and many pockets are lighter.