The Laurel Area Victory Garden Project

The Laurel Area Victory Garden Project

  • When: March 2020 - Present
  • Duration: 150+ hours
  • Services Rendered: Public Landscaping, Landscape Design, Rewilding, Decolonized Outdoor Classrooms
  • Front Location: Pampas Ave (~4539 Pampas Avenue, Oakland, CA 94619)
  • Back Location: Behind Urban Montessori Charter School
  • Major Contributing Volunteers: Sean, Zach, Claire, BenEzra, Monti
  • Funded By: Sean Levon Nash (Self) and Local Community

How can I donate?

The official donation page for this project is currently under development.

For the time being, you may use my artist support page found here: https://ko-fi.com/seanlevonnash

Please make sure to specify the amount you would like to donate and add "For the Laurel Area Victory Garden Project" in the description.

How can I volunteer?

We can always use more helping hands! Please use my contact form to write me a message about your interest in volunteering.

Project Description

I have always talked about what I would do if I “had the time” and so many of us before this crisis had such grandiose ideas about what we might do, complaining about the many structural failures of the system and the unsustainability of the direction and pace of our culture.  As I heard governor Newsome suggest that for the next 2 weeks we would all have to shelter in place some part of my internal bullshit detector went off.  I may be of the land but I am from the streets too. I know the difference between a lie you tell because you want to exploit someone and a lie you tell because you are afraid of the truth. I flipped out. It may be two years, not two weeks.  I exhausted the landscaping and gardening options at whatever property I had access to and realized I needed more land. There was an abandoned isosceles triangle of unused property at the end of the street where I was staying in Oakland.  A friend lived adjacent to it and we began to use the opportunity to hang out there. It was littered with debris and there was some trafficking going on, but our daily presence and a few conversations were all that it took to clear that up. We watched how people were using this land to walk their dogs amidst the unwarranted neglect that the park of sorts had succumbed to.

I, in my frustration with the inability to trust the humans who seemed to be fumbling every ball began to invest my time in the reclamation of this land. The neighbor started to clear debris and when he saw us carrying buckets offered us water and a hose.  We started clearing ivy, building boxes and hauling the branches of trees fallen from last winter’s storm to build walls to retain the soil, hauling horse manure and loads of cedar and redwood mulch and buying dirt to heal the land. Turns out we had friends with skills, and chainsaws so we started clearing what we could and rolling the logs out into circles for makeshift outdoor classrooms. We started growing food, and native plants. We dug out the old drainage ditch for paths, and put up a big chalkboard sign with a drawing of the park to suggest some behaviors that would be safe in the crisis. Designing trails and paths to reinforce the 6- 12ft social distancing requirements of the time and share ideas with the neighbors. We built with permaculture in mind and took some donations from local nurseries and I hauled mulch for neighbors who in turn donated plants and love and time and support.

We decided that no one was going to come to save us, so we should start saving ourselves. At the bottom of the hill there was an abandoned school, and Native American Child Resource Center  had a few planter boxes. We decided to work with everyone to come up with a plan to steward the land and change started to happen. Growing up Indian you hear a lot about having your land stolen but this was a way to take it back and then give it away to everyone, as should and could have been done.  We give away the food and we are growing medicine, Rewilding our environment. We are not talking about what should be done nor did we sweep in with lofty ambition and airtight plans. We are building a multi use area that is an encyclopedic garden where people can learn about different gardening methods and as resources to support fixing the land everywhere. We give away food, we give away mulch and supplies and the more we give to the land the more it has given to us.  I grew up down the street from here surrounded by concrete, unable to care for the land or feed the greenery that pushes through the concrete. All that has changed. We weren’t just seeking victory over COVID, we are reclaiming our relationship to the earth and want to lend our support to anyone else who understands the weight of our responsibility to act now.

Infinite Thanks

(Yakoke)

Project Photos


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