Building the Trayvon Martin Garden : Planting Justice + Poor Magazine:


Sunny and hot and full of dust and deep into East Oakland - on McArthur and 80th street, lives an a long, 100 foot sloped dirt lot.  A small raised bed with vegetables, several murals, an old house that stands on top of the hill are the beginnings of Poor Magazine's incredible Homefulness project that you can read about below:

  • A site for F.A.M.I.L.Y.(Family Access to Multi-cultural Intergenerational Learning with our Youth) which is a revolutionary on-site child care and education project for houseless children and families which incorporates a social justice and arts , multi-cultural and multi-lingual curriculum for families and children 2-102
  • A site for POOR Magazine, The Race, Poverty, and Media Justice Institute, Community Newsroom and all of POOR’s indigenous community arts programming
  • A site for Uncle Al & Mama Dee’s Cafe; a multi-generational community arts and social justice eating and performance space

Half way up the hill, gathered in a circle were a group of youth scholars, planting justice landscapers and poor magazine folks.  Poor Magazine contacted Planting Justice to install a low-income/free garden build for their homefulness project which will soon host revolutionary on-site child care and education project for houseless children and families.  The day started with poetry and prayers.

We gathered inside the Poor Magazine headquarters to watch a film about the work Poor Magazine has been doing to fight for homefulness in East Oakland.  We learned about the dangers of GMO's and how unlabeled genetically modified foods are ubiquitous in low-income communities corner stores and groceries.  With a raised bed garden you can eat at least 50% of your diet straight from your own backyard, cutting out multinational corporations that are poising our food system and saving money.  Five dollars of seeds can grow $500 worth of produce!

Julius from the Planting Justice team introduced himself:

Gavin talked about the importance of doing Social Justice and Food Justice Work

The day began with a lesson on power drills.

Youth scholars took turns practicing driving screws into the redwood 1x1x8's we use to build our raised beds.  With the help of Julius and Julio, everyone seemed to get the hang of  it pretty quickly and scholars started piecing together the four raised beds that would soon provide food for the community.  We like to build raised beds in Oakland for annual vegetables because the soil is often contaminated and starting with a good mix of compost and soil jumpstarts the food growing process for first time gardeners.  The elevated height also makes harvesting a bit easier for elders in the community.

Anytime we install raised beds on soil we sheet mulch.  Sheet mulching is an amazing permaculture trick that uses recycled cardboard to block and kill existing weeds.  The cardboard slowly decomposes over 3-6 months and provides  carbon for the soil, litter for beneficial insects and moisture retention that aids young plants.  Typically we will lay two layers of brown (not colored or glossy) cardboard on the ground beneath and around our raised beds, wet the cardboard thoroughly, cover it with 4 inches of soil and then lay 6 inches of mulch on top.


I was so impressed with the energy and focus that the poor magazine youth scholars brought to the garden build.   Scholars shoveled wheel barrow after wheel barrow full of dirt to be delivered to the raised beds, while others documented the day with sketch pads and video cameras. 



Every Thursday afternoon the Poor Magazine folks cook a hot meal for the community - anyone walking down McArthur street is invited to come grab a hot dog and some salad.  During the lunch hour, scholars and elders shared about what they had learned so far about GMO foods, gentrification in the community and the new garden.

Nsoah gave an awesome presentation about the power of herbal medicine and gifted the new garden with a Moringa Tree and Ashitaba - a variety of Angelica used as food and medicine. edible stems and leaves, grows well in our area.

Scholars spent the rest of the day learning how to plant onions, trellis beans, build an herb spiral, separate seedlings, loosen root balls and design a productive annual vegetable polyculture.


Days after we left, the news was announced that George Zimmerman was acquitted for shooting Tryvon Martin.  Poor Magazine dedicated the new raised beds to Trayvon Martin and all the other fallen heroes.


Working with Poor Magazine was incredibly inspiring for the PJ crew - we hope to collaborate more in the future and aid them with the important work they are doing to combat the violence committed by the industrial food system in poor neighborhoods of color