Sunday, July 11, 2010

Witnessing for peace: An inner city garden

Davenport, IA.

The historic Gold Coast neighborhood included a visit to the Central Community Circle garden Saturday in the special garden tour event they sponsored. In contrast to the gentrifying Gold Coast glory located just a few streets east, the CCC inner city neighborhood has struggled hard to restore a sense of order to the crime-ridden streets it experienced just a decade ago.

It takes continual vigilance to maintain the peace that now characterizes the CCC neighborhood, says Marilyn Schierbrock, CHM, the neighborhood advocate. And, initially, it required many strategies to achieve it.

One of those strategies was gardening.

The garden revived in 2000 when neighbors teamed up with volunteers to address the drive-by shootings of drug dealing gangs who overtook an area of declining economic status in the city, just west of the downtown, mere blocks from the edifices housing city and county officials. Landscaping and beautification could make the neighborhood more pleasant in appearance...augmenting real estate value, they reasoned.

The community garden created a public space for CCC neighbors, friends and families to gather. They committed themselves to raise healthy, organic food. Flowers graced the space with their loveliness. The power of community working together toward health and dignity was transformative.

"The hallmarks of the Central Community Circle Neighborhood are 'presence, openness, and cooperation,'" asserts Sister Marilyn, who has served as a convener and facilitator in the area since 1999.

And the garden?

"The garden continues to serve as a living testimony to the power we can claim when we work together toward peace. It stands amidst homes that still hold the bullet holes from those drive-by shooting days."

Saturday's visitors were impressed with what they saw growing: food, flowers, and peace.


Photo montage captions (click photo to enlarge):

Center: The program for The Gold Coast and Hamburg Historic District Association garden tour, Gold Coast Blooms.

Top row, left to right

1) Participating gardeners share their surplus produce at the neighborhood food pantry, also managed by Sister Marilyn.

2) Sister Marilyn's perennial flowers bloom in her "Peace Plot."

3) The sign clearly demarcates Central Community Circle's garden that participates in The Garden Growers cooperative, a city program that operates from the ISU County Extension office.

4) Garden produce--here tomatoes--are grown organically in this garden. The soil is tilled annually and tested regularly.

Bottom row, left to right

1) Tassled decorative purple popcorn stalks serve as a centerpiece to the lower garden. The CCC Garden includes several plots, two of which are raised bed frames.

2-3) Two of the groups that participated in Saturday's tour. Organizers estimated they hosted 125 visitors at the CCC garden.

4) Corporal Andrew Harris of the Davenport's N.E.T.S. Unit (left) and Sister Marilyn work together to help neighbors better engage the local law enforcement's assistance in addressing local crime incidence, focusing on prevention.


matt said...

WOW! This is beautiful and inspiring!

Creative activism and community partnership are indispensable elements for our world; they are the fuel of hope.

mucho amor, B.E.!

Big Mark 243 said...

This is what folks would like to happen in Detroit, taking vacant lots and doing urban farming. Wonder what it would take for those folks to advise the Detroiters who would like to accomplish something akin to this reach their goals?

Border Explorer said...

Matt, you yourself are an inspiration in harnessing the power of gardening toward community development. Thanks for reading and commenting...and for your partnership on the border. With affection!

Hey, Big Mark, there's a great TED talk on this subject by a woman who changed the Bronx. Matt (of comment #1) shared it with me last year. Let's see if one of us can share that link here.

Tim said...

Billie, this has brightened my day in every way. Thanks for sharing the experience.

No matter how old I get, I'm always amazed how simple solutions work best. Getting people to work together and take pride in their neighborhood by making it beautiful--it's so obvious and easy it should become standard practice in every town plagued with urban blight.

Just marvelous!

Border Explorer said...

Tim, I just wanna give you a big smooch for that beautiful, supportive comment. Thank you so much!