–by Ron Finley (Jan 31, 2014)
See, I’m an artist. Gardening is my graffiti. I grow my art. Just like a graffiti artist, where they beautify walls, me, I beautify lawns, parkways. I use the garden, the soil, like it’s a piece of cloth, and the plants and the trees, that’s my embellishment for that cloth. You’d be surprised what the soil could do if you let it be your canvas. You just couldn’t imagine how amazing a sunflower is and how it affects people.
So what happened? I have witnessed my garden become a tool for the education, a tool for the transformation of my neighborhood. To change the community, you have to change the composition of the soil. We are the soil. You’d be surprised how kids are affected by this. Gardening is the most therapeutic and defiant act you can do, especially in the inner city. Plus you get strawberries.
I remember one time there was this mother and a daughter who came, it was, like, 10:30 at night, and they were in my yard, and I came out and they looked so ashamed. So I’m like, man, it made me feel bad that they were there, and I told them, you know, you don’t have to do this like this. This is on the street for a reason. it made me feel ashamed to see people that were this close to me that were hungry, and this only reinforced why I do this. People ask me, “Fin, aren’t you afraid people are going to steal your food?” And I’m like, “Hell no, I ain’t afraid they’re gonna steal it. That’s why it’s on the street. That’s the whole idea. I want them to take it, but at the same time, I want them to take back their health.”
I see young people, and they want to work, but they’re in this thing where they’re caught up–I see kids of color and they’re just on this track that’s designed for them, that leads them to nowhere. So with gardening, I see an opportunity where we can train these kids to take over their communities, to have a sustainable life. And when they do this, who knows? We might produce the next George Washington Carver, but if we don’t change the composition of the soil we will never do this.