I would have never expected that gardening would lead to a conversation about gun violence but here we are. Nor expected to have the course of my life changed by joining a community garden but here we are. Last year I signed up to be a part of the Growing Good in the Hood program through Kheprw Institute. My intention was to learn how to grow food with my youngest, to prepare for when we finally were able to get a house. I have lived in apartments or rentals for most of my life. I was excited to learn within the context of KI because of its continued focus on community as well as it being a space that truly values youth input and growth., becoming a way for my youngest and I to both learn and be in a community with folks that look like us, in a neighborhood that is often overlooked.
The garden plots were located within Riverside. A neighborhood that is full of life and teeming with families, despite what you may have heard. Everytime we went I was transported to some of my favorite moments in my childhood. WTLC playing from every home and doors left open to let in the breeze. Old timers on porches watching out for children. Young adults laughing and cooling off from water balloons and super soakers. Plumes of dust trailing behind a young child pretending their big wheel is a race car. A grandfather getting help with his retention wall by young men from the neighborhood. That garden space became a place of refuge for our family, in the midst of a pandemic that had us sheltering in place. It was our escape from the confines of our basement apartment to go outside, masked up and witness the growth that comes from caring for something in the ground.
As the days grew hotter, so did the disparity that comes with job loss, state-sanctioned violence and restlessness in a global pandemic. Our garden space became privy to a scene that plagues so many communities around this country. A moment of gun violence, spawned into moments of gun violence. A small few turning to the use of weapons as a means to show their grief. Grief compiled by the pressures of a society that has shown its true colors time and time again. Unfortunately, that moment brought about a hard decision that so many doing community work on the ground have to make. To stay within the community or relocate to ensure the safety of the growers, many of which are children.
Growing Good in the Hood has been in the same location for five years. In that time they have been able to create true relationships and foster space for community, and that should never be taken lightly. The unfortunate incident that happened, was just too close to ignore the reality of the situation. As we all know gun violence doesn’t just affect those on either side of the bullet but an entire community. I know that what happened isn’t a reflection of the neighborhood I’ve grown to love. It’s a reflection of a cycle that is deeper than we can imagine. It’s a lack of resources and hope in young folks, rarely given a chance to learn anything else.
My life has changed because of the Growing Good in the Hood program. It has shown me the true beauty of a neighborhood that is often overshadowed by the darkness of a few. It has shown me that some time you have to make a hard decision to give yourself the space to grow. It has shown me the sadness that comes from letting go.The greatest gift I’ve received is learning that the smallest of things can grow into feasts that can nourish a community. The decision to relocate wasn’t just about a few people. It has given us a chance to double the size of the initial garden. As well as have space for outdoor classes and community events. A chance to finally own the land we’re sowing. From darkness came light and a chance for Growing Good in the Hood to grow.
Tatjana Rebelle is a mother, writer and organizer. They are a member of Kheprw Institute’s Cafe Creative, the Resilience Schools Coordinator for Earth Charter Indiana and the founder/curator of VOCAB Indy.