I have witnessed community gardens and farmers markets used as tools to begin the process of changing a community. The outcome of this transformation often depends on who are the stakeholders directing the change and where is the source of the support for the garden, mini farm or farmer’s market. What we see in Atlanta is that gardens and markets initiated and controlled by community members in the neglected communities in Southwest Atlanta receive very little support from funders and advocacy groups. While gardens and markets in the very same neighborhoods are funded, staffed and promoted when they are installed by outside foundations and management groups. In both cases local food is being grown and marketed to ‘underserved’ communities of color. But in the case of resident lead efforts there is little support and no protection when faced with eviction or ‘redevelopment’.
With plans that include expanding their community garden, working with Philly Orchard Project to create a food forest, and building an Earthship, which is a biotechnological green building- that will overlook this garden space, One Art Community Center is leading the way in community-supported urban sustainability.
Written by Pendle Marshall-Hallmark
Andrew observes that there is still a deep stigma in the black community associated with farming and agricultural work. Because of its connection to slavery, “many people see it as a sort of weakness”, he explains, “Something they’re above doing.” He worries that many poor people of color are not aware of the danger in consuming foods that contain GMO’s and other processed elements. Andrew believes, and preaches fervently, that there is power in deciding to grow your own food, and that the process of gardening is therapeutic. He wishes that more people in his community associated gardening with self-sufficiency and strength, rather than subjugation and vulnerability.
Today, I will provide for you a brief update on flooding and extreme weather. This is an issue of equity and environmental justice. It is our most vulnerable residents, particularly those with limited economic resources, who are most at risk from extreme weather...In neighborhoods such as East Germantown and Eastwick, Philadelphia residents know this increase in flooding events firsthand.
The Public Interest Law Center of Philadelphia’s www.GroundedInPhilly.org web mapping and organizing tool is now redesigned and updated to increase access to vacant land data for residents looking to transform vacant land for community use or preserve existing community spaces.
A while ago I was talking to a friend (another Executive Director, since all my regular friends have abandoned me because I make jokes about compostable sticky dots), and he said, “Have you noticed that everyone is getting paid to engage us communities of color except us communities of color?”
Sigh. Yes, I have noticed. I’ve been thinking a lot about this, and have come up with a term to describe it: Trickle-Down Community Engagement (TDCE). This is when we bypass the people who are most affected by issues, engage and fund larger organizations to tackle these issues, and hope that miraculously the people most affected will help out in the effort, usually for free.
Written by Kirtrina Baxter & Nicole Sugerman
With all the civil unrest around the brutality and unjust policing of communities of color, people are looking around their neighborhoods to see just how they can make a difference. People are asking their community leaders, “what are the next steps for justice?” and thinking about strategies to gain community adhesion and sovereignty. The topic of community power and how to attain it, is chief among concerns.
Creating a community garden can be a strong force for community power. Not only in the radical act of producing one’s own food, a necessary requirement to live. Or in the ability a garden has to bring unity to a neighborhood through a shared space of positive work. But inherent in the process of determining how land is used in your neighborhood, communities can help to build community power! Now let me explain.
The process of creating a community garden has a few major steps that are important to consider: choosing a particular site (hopefully along with other residents), and garnering approval of this site as a space for gardening and community gatherings from neighbors, council people, and owners. Then, community members must work together to create guidelines and protocols to ensure a functional, communicative garden. The process of gaining approval and securing land for the garden is where we start to build power.
In order to be successful at creating a long-term community garden, engaging residents in the area in creating the plan for that space is essential. It creates a symbiotic relationship between neighbors towards a common goal that could benefit everyone. Building trust, accountability and respect for the opinions and creativity of all, is a large part of this process. In order for this to be successful, first, participants should be willing to do the hard introspective work of breaking down whatever stereotypes and biases that would make it difficult for them to work with a diverse group of people. This does not just relate to ethnicity but to religion, sub-culture, sexual preference, gender, and class. This process in itself allows for personal growth that adds to one’s own sense of power.
Second, creating processes to work together and create strategy toward the goal of getting the land builds cohesion among the group and power in your community. Things to be considered are, what skills do people bring to the table and how can those skills be applied to the agreed upon strategy? Communities must plan tactics to further the group’s strategy, this works to create power through research and knowledge sharing and advances collaboration and action.
Written by Nic Esposito