With the Roots of Change Community Garden entering spring flower in the back lot, activists and organizers inside the Southwest Workers Union Commerce Street office are deep at work melding the worlds of urban gardens with their long-standing press for environmental justice.
At a Saturday afternoon workshop at the Collins Garden Library, a handful of residents batted about notions of “food justice” with two SWU organizers and how it relates to hunger, health, and personal wholeness. Ideas gathered into the inevitable question of what drives our continued reliance on industrially produced foods that are at the heart of San Antonio's inequitable struggle with diabetes and obesity.
"If the Earth is sick, then we're sick," said Marisol Cortez, SWU's climate justice organizer. "Who is making these choices for us?"
Breaking into two groups, the 10 attendees shared their personal observations about the difficulty of finding healthy foods in the urban core along with concerns over the remote, large-scale production of food, in general.
After 20 minutes or so it became clear that even something as innocuous as a garden can become a sign of the struggle.
SWU food justice organizer Diana Lopez described those who engage in gardening this way: "They're sort of taking power, putting it in the earth, and back into themselves. â?¦ You don't have to go to Central Market to buy more expensive foods then what you have right in your neighborhoods."
One participant waxed poetic about notions of labor and the mind-altering experience to be had by engaging the land. "You think of work as having a job, clocking in, getting a paycheck,” said Donnie. “Whenever you're working with nature, nature goes at its own pace. It feels more gratifying. Everything just slows down and you're more in touch."
Gardens are one thing in bucolic suburban settings, but they become something else flowering in the face of decades of concrete and asphalt intended to lock them out.
That resistance gets even more radical when it threatens to transcend boundaries of land ownership. Cue the seed bombs.
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