“Black and Brown folks have been farming in Philadelphia for generations,” says Kirtrina Baxter, a community organizer with Soil Generation. The farmers transformed abandoned lots into community gardens and gathering spaces. Now, developers are buying the land out from under farmers to build condominiums, threatening food sources in neighborhoods that already lack grocery stores. People should be able to keep this land as a service to the community,” Baxter says. “Neighborhood farms and community gardens are so important, especially during COVID when people need healthy food in their community.”
Soil Generation, a coalition of Black and Brown farmers and advocates, is leading the fight to ensure that people of color regain community control of land for growing food. The coalition, an Equitable Public Space Fund grantee, formed in 2013 to advocate for urban growers in Philadelphia’s rapidly gentrifying environment.
In 2018, Soil Generation launched the Threatened Gardens Campaign, its most ambitious to date. The campaign kicked off with a protest at City Hall with hundreds of farmers and advocates. This show of community support led to Soil Generation winning the contract to write Philadelphia’s first-ever Urban Agriculture Strategic Plan with the planning firm Interface Studios. The plan will establish goals for how the city can support urban agriculture, including cutting through bureaucratic obstacles that impede Black and Brown farmers from purchasing land. “Over the next five years, we look forward to having more opportunities for collective ownership, which leads to community control of land,” Baxter says.
Soil Generation’s work is rooted in agroecology, a community-led process that values ancestral growing practices and aligns agricultural production with community organizing for land rights and food sovereignty. They are producing an agroecology manual, which will be available digitally in December 2020 and in print in spring 2021. Baxter hopes it can be used as an organizing tool for people working to reclaim land and as a guide for people starting community gardens.
For Soil Generation, there is power in gardening. Baxter emphasizes: “Gardening is a radical act of resistance. By growing food, you are taking control of your own community.”
At Bread & Roses Community Fund, we believe that grassroots organizing led by communities most affected by injustice is essential to overcoming systems of oppression. Our 2019-2020 Equitable Public Space Giving Project, a partnership with the William Penn Foundation, brought together 18 determined volunteers from across differences of race, class, gender, and age to engage in a transformative process of collective giving, fundraising, grantmaking, and community building.
Over three months, Giving Project members raised $150,000 for grants from 366 donors! The money they raised was matched 2:1 by a generous grant from the William Penn Foundation, and in March 2020, Giving Project members made $450,000 in 2-year grants to 20 grassroots groups using community organizing to promote equitable public space.
The 20 Equitable Public Space Fund grantees are organizing their communities to create equitable public spaces in parks, libraries, recreation centers, greenways, waterways, community gardens, community centers, plazas, and play areas in Philadelphia and Camden.
Soil Generation — $50,000
Soil Generation is expanding their Threatened Gardens Campaign to push forward equitable policies that reduce barriers for people of color and low-income communities to access land and grow food.
Urban Tree Connection — $30,000
Urban Tree Connection is repurposing vacant lots in West Philadelphia’s Haddington neighborhood for communal growing and gathering, sustainable food production and affordable food distribution, and intergenerational health, wellness, and political education.
VietLead — $30,000
Vietlead is growing their intergenerational Resilient Roots Community Farm in Camden by cultivating neighborhood ownership and co-creation, making the farm more publicly accessible, incorporating art and cultural knowledge, and launching a campaign against gentrification.
Asian Americans United — $20,000
Asian Americans United is organizing around Chinatown’s changing public spaces, including protection of the Inch by Inch Garden, educational programming around public space equity, and publishing recommendations for equity in Chinatown.
Black and Brown Workers Cooperative — $20,000
Black and Brown Workers Cooperative is organizing to reclaim land, conducting teach-ins about community land trusts, and bringing art and disruption actions to public spaces.
Coalition of African Communities — $20,000
Coalition of African Communities is expanding access to public parks and libraries for African and Caribbean immigrants by hosting events and trainings in public spaces as well as conducting legislative advocacy campaigns to build more soccer infrastructure.
Cooper Grant Neighborhood Association and Concerned Citizens of North Camden — $20,000
Cooper Grant Neighborhood Association and Concerned Citizens of NorthCamden are working in coalition to expand access to public spaces controlled by Rutgers University Camden by organizing residents, distributing multilingual information, and creating guerilla marketing campaigns.
Healing Communities USA — $20,000
Healing Communities USA is using a restorative justice approach to expand access to public spaces for communities impacted by the criminal legal system.
Holly Street Neighbors Community Garden, an initiative of UC Green — $20,000
Holly Street Neighbors Community Garden, an initiative of UC Green, is amplifying its role in West and Southwest Philadelphia by serving as an accessible and therapeutic community space for events, education and arts.
MOVES — $20,000
MOVES is working to create access to community-controlled spaces in which Black and Brown LGBTQ people can create, critique, explore, enjoy, and perform art.
Mt. Vernon Manor CDC — $20,000
Mt. Vernon Manor CDC is partnering with the Friends of the Mantua Greenway and the Mantua Urban Peace Garden to organize community members, create a succession plan for the older generation of leaders, and steward local green spaces.
National Institute for Healthy Human Spaces — $20,000
National Institute for Healthy Human Spaces is working with the Camden NAACP and Friends of Cooper River Open Space Equity Group to push officials to remediate and open up public spaces that have remained polluted for over 20 years. In Philadelphia, they are working with Native American House Alliance to build awareness of local historic sites and promote open space and land justice.
Norris Square Community Alliance — $20,000
Norris Square Community Alliance is promoting equitable development through their Nuestro Barrio Project, which organizes to secure public ownership of vacant lots that have been used as public spaces for years and to steward these spaces to meet the needs and wants of their community.
One Art Community Center — $20,000
One Art Community Center is increasing community land ownership, expanding accessibility, cultivating educational programming, creating coworking spaces, and building a community kitchen and a library.
Philadelphia Black Pride — $20,000
Philadelphia Black Pride is organizing to make William Way LGBT Community Center more equitable and welcoming to Black LGBTQIA people by hosting events, developing leaders from the Black LGBTQIA community, and increasing the number of Black LGBTQIA people accessing resources and services at William Way.
Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign — $20,000
Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Campaign is partnering with United Steelworkers (USW) Local 4889 to create a public “free store,” expand their community center hours, create a community farm, and build a labor history and activism library.
Senior to Senior Community Outreach — $20,000
Senior to Senior Community Outreach is expanding
their campaign to address food insecurity in senior communities by
developing a series of forums to discuss accessibility of public spaces
such as community gardens and libraries for seniors.
Spiral Q — $20,000
Spiral Q is claiming public space using art activism in order to center and honor people working against oppression and discrimination and to connect people and movements for change.
Urban Creators — $20,000
Urban Creators is investing in amenities that enable their neighbors to use their 2-acre farm on their own time and terms and establishing a neighborhood marketplace that offers local businesses and entrepreneurs opportunities to generate revenue and develop their businesses.
William Way LGBT Community Center — $20,000
William Way LGBT Community Center is expanding their free and low-cost space-sharing program to specifically meet the needs of people of color, transgender, and gender-nonconforming people.
Interested in joining an upcoming Giving Project at Bread & Roses? Visit our Giving Project page to learn more.