About two weeks ago a young 27 year old man was shot and killed in my friend's beautiful vegetable garden in Kansas City, KS. My friend, phenomenal gardener and community activist, Angela Greene, found her garden Sunday evening September 15th 2013 covered with crime scene tape and police.
On Sunday September 15, 2013 between the hours of 5pm and 6pm "Farmgirl Greene" was grilling on her porch when a barrage of gunfire rang out, shattering the otherwise peaceful evening. She seemed to count at least 20 rounds of a high caliber weapon. Many of those in the area heard it as well and surfaced from their homes to see what was causing the commotion. I called out to a neighbor and said, “Did you hear that?!” They responded that they had. I thought the porch might not be the safest place, so, I went inside my home. Within minutes I could hear the all too familiar sounds of the first responders approaching the scene. I could see that they were headed north towards Quindaro Blvd. I reasoned that some group was having a major beef and decided to settle it with gunfire. It had nothing to do with me, or so I thought. I was settling in for the evening, preparing for work the next day when I received a call from someone I had not expected to hear from. They said they were calling to see if I was okay. I said,” As best as I know I am. Why do you ask?” They went on to tell me that they heard that something happened in my garden at the corner of 13th and Georgia. “My garden? “ I questioned. Remembering the shots from earlier in the evening I immediately drove the two blocks to the garden that I had farmed since 2008. I did not recognize it, as, there were police everywhere and crime scene tape stretched about. At 9pm they had it lit up like daytime. My stomach dropped. I don’t remember getting out of the car, but I approached an officer and inquired about the incident. I was informed that a young male had been gunned down from in the garden and taken to the hospital where he later died! This was not happening in a place that I considered to be serenity! I train kids to farm here! I have volunteers here on a regular basis! This is a nightmare!
My head is still spinning from the events in evening of Sunday September 15, 2013. Another young man has needlessly loss his life, leaving family and friends to pick up the pieces. A neighborhood has been terrorized, yet again, by gunfire that knows no names. Still, we are silent. We shake our heads, lock our doors, and pull our blinds. Still, we are silent. Why do we respond to violence this way? Our area has been under siege as of late by an onslaught of violent activity. Still, we are silent. I don’t have the answers to all of the ills of society, but I can talk to someone who does.
If you are as concerned as I am about the state of our community, please join me in a human prayer chain around the garden at the corner of 13th and Georgia on October 12th, 2013 at noon (weather permitting). This is not a media or political event! This is to be a peaceful showing of solidarity in our community that we are taking our concerns collectively to our heavenly father. There will be prayers offered for the latest victims of crime, those involved in the garden work, and the community as a whole. This portion of the prayer chain will last 30 minutes. Those who are unable to attend in person are asked to be in prayer at this time. We will then hand out trash bags for people to pick up debris in the streets in our respective neighborhoods, there-by, being a day of service. Will it keep violence from happening? I wish it would, but we have to start somewhere.
Please join me and others as we let people know that we DO care what happens in our backyards!!!!
As you can see, Angela Greene is an amazing person; gifted and expressing that gift.
She works nights at UPS; in the day she takes care of her elderly father and runs this training and market garden as best she can with all on her plate. (She says poignantly, if she knew what it was going to take she might not have gotten involved. I can commiserate.)
Her garden is beautiful, flowers, and lush vegetables; it is flourishing, It has been perhaps a sanctuary for her, the volunteers and the youth, a sacred place, a place for something positive amidst the brutality of neglect and targeting of her community.
But without more neither her garden nor her community will thrive.
The gardening movement and its funders need to address the lack of power that poor people and communities have which make their communities targets for issues of community safety, including the failure of the police to protect poor community members, the targeting of poor and poor Black and Latino communities with drugs and disparate criminal prosecution, housing injustice, the disenfranchisement of poor folks, Black, Latino and Indigenous folks, the stress that our poor brothers and sisters living in these kind of conditions are suffering causing all kinds of mental illness, the deplorable medical care people living in these conditions have access to and their very targeting by medical establishments, racism, gender, youth and class oppression in order to have any success putting gardens in deeply impacted communities.
All of these issues are overwhelming poor people, and simply putting a garden, or a walk path or all the other "good ideas" in a community under these conditions solves nothing and consequently these gardens die; they do not flourish; they disappear and so too do the communities and the people. .
People are afraid and afraid for their children and rightly so to go out doors. People want decent housing, education, community safety, sufficient amounts of healthy, nutritious and culturally appropriate food, basic respect, living wage jobs with benefits, good health care including mental health care, and transportation, and services; the same things we all want and some of us have.
Without addressing the people's lack of power to get all of the prerequisite issues that poor people face, putting a garden in a community will have no impact on the people deeply impacted by our failing economic, food, agriculture, health, housing, criminal justice and other systems, our failing societies; it will not change anything, except a garden may be there and even it will not thrive in these circumstances.
We need to support and facilitate bottom up organizing by the people most deeply impacted to address the imbalance of power that determines their safety, food, health, education, transportation, wealth and everything else in their lives before just throwing in a garden will provide any kind of benefit. .