Weekend Events Prove South L.A. Can Be an Amazing Destination, While Also Highlighting the Challenges that Remain to be Overcome
As I walked toward the new garden beds at the West Athens Victory Garden, I felt a little tap on my shoulder.
I turned around to see a young boy of 10 or 12 standing there.
He wrapped his skinny arms around me in a big hug.
“Well, thanks for that!” I said, surprised.
I was attending the first of three community events in South L.A. that day, and it was kind of nice to be getting random hugs so early on in the process.
“What was the hug for?”
“You’re leaving,” he said.
Looking at me again, now a little less sure of himself, he pointed to the corner of the garden and said, “You just interviewed me over there…?”
“Hmm. No, that wasn’t me,” I told him. “But, that’s OK because it means I get to interview you now, right?”
It turned out that he was one of the many young kids that had come to celebrate the new garden launched this past Saturday at 105th and Normandie as part of the Little Green Fingers initiative, a collaborative of the L.A. Conservation Corps, the L.A. Neighborhood Land Trust, the Better World Group, and several consultants, architects, and educators, and funded by First 5 L.A.
As we walked around examining the plants, he explained his family didn’t have a garden bed there but that he liked to come by and hang out. It was a nice, quiet place to play and he didn’t have too many other places he could go.
He wasn’t kidding.
If you live near the 110/105 interchange in South L.A., besides the vacant lots, there is almost nothing in the way of publicly accessible greenspace in the 3 1/2 miles that lie between Jesse Owens and Ted Watkins parks. I’m aware of one other garden, located at 104th and Vermont, that is always locked and isn’t kid-friendly, and that’s about it.
Other residents had said the same thing. A man walking around the beds with his adorable two year-old was so pleased to see such an asset in his neighborhood that he asked if he could sign up to volunteer there. He had grown up in housing projects and had been limited in his mobility as a kid. He was going to school and wanted something better for his son. And a more positive memory of his neighborhood than the large, tagged-up vacant lot that sat just down the street. Read more…