At Burton Street Community Peace Garden the plantings take second place to a more important function. The garden was started on a piece of land donated by the owners for use as an open space for a poor and troubled community to gather.
I did not take pictures of plants in this garden or the vegetables growing in the sunnier open section. I did not walk a few lots down the street to another vacant lot they have turned over fully to growing food. Gardens can have other meanings and serve other purposes.
Safi Mahaba and her husband Dewayne Barton have instead created a garden centered around peace, love and social justice, a garden where a community can gather to heal and find their own solutions to the common problems many poor urban communities face. Dinners can be cooked in the cob oven and served on site. What better way to have a community feel invited to gather.
Dewayne Barton is an artist who gathers the refuse, yes the garbage, that is the daily backdrop of trudging through a poor urban life and gives it a new purpose. The themes in his installations are apparent. It is a way for a community to look at and begin talking about the larger forces around them over which they feel they have no control, yet still affect their lives in many ways.
Turning dinosaurs into gasoline
The water park ride of plastic. You don't have to be poor and urban to understand his message.
The Burton Street Community Peace Garden is also very much a place for children. I did hear someone say while we were there that they were not sure it would be safe for kids with all this refuse around. This debris of urban life is what these kids walk through and play around in their environment on every given day. Why not take this garbage and put it to use to foster creativity under the watchful eyes of adults?
A garden can be many things. A garden can reflect the community it serves. A garden can foster children's curiosity about the world they live in. A garden can have another purpose.
A garden can be more than pretty flowers and textured shrubberies.