NY-15 Candidate Samelys López Writes Article Dedicated to Bronx Community Gardens

Community Gardens:
The revolutionary spirit America needs now is grown right here in the Bronx

By: Samelys López

I love the Bronx. This Borough is where my family found our first real home, escaping the
Brooklyn homeless shelter where I spent three years with my Mom and baby brother. That first
home was an island – cut off by the cruelty and greed of redlining – but it was beautiful. Boogie
down, the birthplace of hip-hop, street parties, salsa music. Survival, resilience and creativity –
that’s what the South Bronx is all about.
Birthed amid all that magic, after the righteous anger and the heroic mutual aid of the Black
Panthers and the Young Lords, a quieter revolution got underway in the Bronx in the 1980s. On
spots once blighted by decades of economic oppression, community gardens took bloom from
Prospect Avenue to Mott Haven.
Realizing that former New York park commissioner Robert Moses was more interested in
building expressways through the Bronx than parks for us to enjoy; we in the Bronx did it for
ourselves, and did it with style. Our neighbors built a courageous vision of what these gardens
could be for our community: focal points for communal activity and cultural exchange, natural
refuges, a means to feed our homeless brothers and sisters. They provided a rallying point, a
safe haven and a source of neighborhood pride.
In 2020, community gardens are stronger than ever, right across America. New York does it
bigger and better than other cities: in 2019 our city’s 553 community gardens produced 87,000
lbs of delicious fresh fruit and vegetables! But the Bronx – as in so many things – does it best.
Our borough is home to the most beautiful community gardens in America, and it’s no
coincidence. We are often told we are America’s poorest Congressional District. But the same
forces that keep us poor, keep us creative and resilient.
People in this borough have been hungry during the COVID-19 pandemic. In the South Bronx,
we pulled together fast to form mutual aid networks, working round the clock to keep our
neighbours from going hungry, just like the Young Lords did before us.
Hard times lie ahead for our borough and our country. We know that the rich and powerful of
this nation want us to feel the pain of a recession while they profit from this disaster. Community
gardens are not immune from these forces. Often grown on land not owned by the city, and
subject to complex and shifting licensing arrangements, their survival depends on political will.
That, in turn means political leaders who center community voices, not real estate vultures in
Working class communities around the country face a choice: do we let Amazon and Whole
Foods feed us for a trillion dollar profit? Do we stand by and watch real estate billionaires and
corporate democrats bulldoze these green oases of resistance, that have nourished our
people’s bodies and souls through good times and bad? Or do we wage a green guerilla
campaign in every working class neighborhood in America? I believe that the wisdom, courage
and imagination America needs to survive and thrive in this moment are found right here in the
South Bronx. Community Gardens are living proof!

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