By Cavanaugh Nweze
I am in love with my community! Every morning I wake, I am honored to serve my community with fresh and organic produce. There is no reason lower economic neighborhoods should be sentenced to overpriced or unhealthy food and life-long obesity related illnesses. There are many issues that are prevalent in our community. (ie. Justice system, education, and lack of employment) However, we are not subjected to any injustice as much as the injustices served on our plates and sold to use in our local grocery stores. Many people are searching high and low for solutions to obesity and malnutrition issues. Out of genuine concern and love for the complete well-being of my community, I am proud of the progress that we have made in moving towards a “food oasis” rather than a “food desert.”
While I was a student at Prairie View A&M University a group of friends and I founded a nonprofit organization, Divine Leaders Inc., and over the last three years we have operated the Marcus Garvey Liberation Garden (MGLG) as well as a number of other programs focused on the supply of healthy food in our community. The Shrine of the Black Madonna and Divine Leaders formed the principle idea for the MGLG immediately following Hurricane Ike. After the storm, our communities went weeks without electricity and access to fresh produce. As a result we took it upon ourselves to make sure we knew how to grow and produce our own food! Since February 2010 to Present Day we have grown from a 300 square foot garden to a ½ acre farm! This is a wonderful reason to celebrate.
Starting a garden on the property of The Shrine of the Black Madonna is not a foreign idea. In every city The Shrine is located; a community garden is operated on its grounds. Also, The Shrine of the Black Madonna owns the largest black owned farm in the entire United States (Beulah Land Farms is located in Calhoun Falls, SC). As an attempt to continue to provide more food for the local Houston community we have increased the services we offer this year. Not only do we grow food not commonly found in our local grocery stores, but we now educate people on the medicinal purpose of the “Plant of the Month” via our blog (Divineleaders.blogspot.com).
We have also started our own medical study involving Red Clover and its healing benefits. We have become a supplier of Organic Kale to Sunshine Health Food Store and Vegetarian Deli. The number of healthy eating establishments in our area has increased due to us starting our mobile produce stand we call “The Living Grocery Store”. Our produce stand is located at prominent community institutions such as The Shrine, Sehah Youth and Fitness Center, and Shape Community Center. We are now creating our own Farmer’s Market in the community in Our Park located right next to the Shape on Live Oak and Alabama. Lastly, we work directly with property owners to teach them how to grow their own food via our program “Grub Not Grass”.
Our work over the past few years utilizes very simple tactics to profoundly revolutionize how our community purchases their produce. Now since the work has been done, come celebrate what we have accomplished and learn how we can achieve more!!! We will host The Second Greater Houston Urban Garden Festival this August 17-18, 2012. Please visit www.mglg.net for more for the full schedule of the 2012 Greater Houston Urban Garden Festival Schedule.
(Cavanaugh Nweze manages the Marcus Garvey Liberation Garden and the Living Grocery Store in Houston, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @DivineLeaders)