Thursday, March 19, 2015

How a “Gangsta Gardner” Changed How Los Angeles Polices its Sidewalks

From:  Care 2

March 18, 2015 4:00 pm

How a “Gangsta Gardner” Changed How Los Angeles Polices its Sidewalks

South Central Los Angeles is known for a lot of things, most of them not positive. It has been the subject of songs, movies and the location of the famous 1992 Rodney King riots. However, South Central Los Angeles’ rich history runs the gamut of a turn of the century multi-ethnic neighborhood to a victim of social policies of forced segregation and the war on drugs. It is also the birthplace of a new hero whose guerilla gardening has changed the way Los Angeles City now polices its sidewalks.

As Ron Finley tells it, he was just doing something good for his community when he planted his first garden in 2010. South Central is one of the thousands of neighborhoods in the United States that are known as a food deserts. It’s particularly galling considering that just a few miles away in several directions, more affluent neighborhoods are overrun by grocery stores filled with organic produce and farmers markets happening several days a week. Finley was tired of having to drive 45 minutes “just to get a tomato.” While growing up in the neighborhood he also raised his sons in, he saw his neighbors dying of curable diseases. “I see wheelchairs bought and sold like used cars,” Finley shared in his Ted Talk. “I see dialysis centers popping up like Starbucks.”

In South Central Los Angeles, “The drive-thrus are killing more people than the drive-bys.”
With space at a premium, Finley decided to make use of the unused areas between the sidewalk and the curb called parkways. Maintenance of the city-owned patches of dry dirt were the responsibility of property owners, but remained uncultivated and ignored, just like his neighborhood. He decided to maintain it by planting a “food forest” on the 150 foot by 10 foot plot of land in front of his home. Soon the area was overrun with vegetables and fruit. He let his neighbors know they didn’t have to steal in the middle of the night, as he once caught a hungry mother and daughter doing. He grew it for them. 

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