Sometimes a community garden just needs a little extra TLC, and this is one of those times for the Bryant Hill Community Garden, in the Bronx. One of only two community gardens in the South Bronx, and an easy 5 minute walk away for half of all Hunts Point residents – whose neighborhood is a food desert with asthma-triggering air quality – it’s desperately needed, and brimming with potential. Unfortunately, its vegetation and stone pathways, battered by years of rainstorms, are also brimming with debris.
When Namira Islam had just finished law school and taken the bar exam four years ago, she paused for breath, and went online to check in with her friends and communities. She had thought about the ways in which she’d felt discriminated against during her life – both as a Bangladeshi immigrant in America, and as a non-Arab in the Muslim community – and found herself drawn to the dialogue on exclusion happening on Twitter.
Samoy Smith grew up in Detroit, with a Jamaica-born mother who wasn’t comfortable letting her venture far from the family’s tight-knit Jamaican community. It wasn’t until a school friend invited Smith to her church’s youth group one weekend, during middle school, that she really saw just how fulfilling it could be to build one’s own diverse “chosen family,” to accept invitations from neighbors and then extend them right back out to the next person.
Love music? Love working with young people? Interested in organizing a music program for youth in your community, but not sure what it could look like?
You’ve come to the right place. Over the years, we’ve worked with many leaders who have started creative initiatives in their communities that get young people involved in music, often in conjunction with something else engaging like the outdoors, visual arts, or technology. They’re all different, but they all have some common threads (such as, we’ll just say it, being awesome).
Dawn Glasco, a Community Engagement Coordinator who works with children, has lived on East 76th street, Cleveland, for the past 10 years. And right outside her window, across the street from her home, all those years, had sat a large vacant lot — run down, overgrown with tall grass that the city wasn’t mowing, and littered with trash. A couple of years ago, Glasco started to feel ready to do something about it, summoned her courage, and began going door to door, asking neighbors if they’d join a group effort to beautify the street and turn the lot into an outdoor classroom. She also called the city, asked them to come and mow, and got permission to improve the lot. Glasco’s neighbors were receptive, and so was the city. For her, a door had opened.
At a community meeting recently, in a Memphis neighborhood called The Heights, a white woman named Linda Burgess – a resident since the 70s – stood up and said that she’d had an answer to prayer. She’d seen her African American, Hispanic, and Caucasian friends and neighbors joining hands in service of their community. They were working together on the Heights Line project: a pop-up public green space on National Street, designed to bring people together and to connect the historically overlooked neighborhood to exciting nearby developments. “Linda said that we’ve been needing this in our community,” explains Jared Myers, Executive Director of The Heights Community Development Corporation (CDC).
When we saw Planetizen’s “100 Most Influential Urbanists” list last week, our reaction went something like: “Cool!” followed by, “Wait, we know a ton of influential urbanists who aren’t on this list…”
Melvin Parson, of Ann Arbor, Michigan, never planned to be a farmer. In fact, he’d never even had the faintest interest in gardening until fate struck a few years ago. “This wonderful lady named Verna,” Parson remembers, “who got around in a motorized wheel chair, passed away in 2013. And she was a prolific gardener, and she had a raised vegetable bed. I’d lived in the neighborhood for four years and never thought about growing a vegetable. It didn’t cross my mind. But in the spring of 2014, her vegetable bed landed in my lap. I’m like ‘what the hell am I supposed to do with this?’ So I just kind of rolled with it. And I remember being out there cleaning out her vegetable bed that spring, and I could feel Verna’s spirit come over me. And I’m like ‘Verna, look, you know I don’t know what I’m doing, but I’m gonna do the best I can in honor of you.’”
By the time Kevinee Gilmore was in college, it seemed like she really was beating all the odds. In the foster care system since she was 13, the oldest of five, she’d never expected to succeed in school, not to mention graduate from Cleveland State with a Bachelors degree in social work.
Linda Wallen has always been an artist. A longtime Pittsburgh resident, she spent her early career painting portraits of “the rich and famous,” and then “retired into” teaching French and Spanish (through art) to elementary school students. But it was in the 1990s that her interest in public art really took off, after a trip to Barcelona.