The Union Street Community Garden is officially underway! We have more than the four 4×4 raised beds that we put up in early April, and we have things growing! Unfortunately, the joy that comes with doing something to bring neighborhoods together is also overcast with doubt, murmurings and general paranoia.
If you watch the news, or read the news, or peruse Facebook or Twitter, you’ll know that Chicago has been in the news for several years for being the “Murder Capital” of the United States. I hate it. I hate that every single time that I tell someone that I’m from Chicago, and the South side of Chicago at that, they get this really pitiful look in their eyes and look as if they want to ask me if I’m okay and if I need bulletproof wear.
Yesterday, while talking to one of the community members of my neighborhood, I was reminded of the entire passage of John 1, but specifically John 1:46 when Nathanael asked Jesus if any good could come from Nazareth. Now, I don’t think that he was trying to throw shade at Jesus, but I DO think that Nazareth was seen as Chicago, and folks just thought that they ENTIRE city was a loss. A lot like they look at Chicago.
John 1:46King James Version (KJV)
46 And Nathanael said unto him, Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth? Philip saith unto him, Come and see.
Now, I’m no preacher by any means, but I know that Nathanael was honestly concerned that someone from Nazareth could not possibly be a savior for the people. Ever. Because Nazareth was full of corruption and other shenanigans and not a viable place for someone of worthiness to come from. Now. Make no mistake, I’m no Jesus, and neither is Shomari, but we are a few good people from Chicago. As a matter of fact, if you can believe it, Chicago is full of MORE good people than bad, but you wouldn’t know that by reading the paper, Facebook, or watching the news. Most would have you believe that we’re the Wild, Wild, West and just enjoying random shootings, rapes, muggings, and mob-style beatdowns on any given Sunday. I may only be one person, but I’m one person who knows that this is not the truth. Mostly because with the help of my husband, children, and community members, we’re LIVING the truth of community.
We started the community garden officially in April. I wanted to give up managing officially in April. I have lots of big ideas and most of the time they work. This time, however, I was losing lots of hope, and lots of sleep, and lots of motivation. Then I was honored by Molina Healthcare, and that set in motion a series of events all too spectacular to write about right now. Plus, I’m embargoed, and can’t write about it. So there’s that.
The point is, other people saw the good in Chicago. With no payoff for them. The various community members who have joined us so far this month to build raised beds, fill raised beds, transplant plants and even plant seeds have been amazing. The children and their parents who come to chat enjoy learning about what’s being planted, and even the CHICKENS that we have! CHICKENS! There are four red hens so far, and we’re loving them! The best thing that I’ve seen is an older gentleman who was kneeling down early one morning to take a selfie with them.
What’s been said the most is how much the community garden is reminding everyone of better days. Just growing food y’all. In an “urban” atmosphere. It’s making people feel at home again, in a city that’s trying it’s hardest to stamp some of us out. Through media. Through conversation of well-meaning suburban neighbors, and even through our own families.
My actions are often questioned by people who don’t see things the way that I do. I’m grateful for my husband, who may not always have the big picture (mostly because I always fail to lay it out for him to see) but always supports. He’s dedicated all of his off days for the last three months working in the garden and lugging soil, and building raised beds. The Home Depot, Menards and Lowe’s have seen more of us than they did when we were building our house. We’ve learned more about companion planting, and how raised beds differ from straight soil planting, and I’ve been able to get more into the chicken research that I started years ago.
There’s so much more that we have in store for the garden, and we’re looking forward to creating a space of unity, community and for neighbors to get back to being neighborly.
Please stay tuned to see what we’re up to, and follow us on social media under #WeSowWeGrow
We’ve also started a Facebook page (as of today) and we’ll be sharing information about the garden and our movement.