Root Riot Harambee Dedication Event Aug 15th 3pm

We are inviting everyone to join us for a dedication celebration on Sunday, Aug 15 at 3p.m.  The word harambee means “All pull together” in the Swahili language and it has proven to be a perfect name for our garden.  Many people have contributed to this summer’s accomplishment, but this celebration is especially for the many young men and women from our community who pursued a shared vision in the face of great skepticism and created something wonderful.

Please find the background information on both our dedication event and the garden itself in section below.

For more information, call Seamus Ford 312-213-7824
Sheree Blakemore (312) 404-3180

Community Garden movement reaches Chicago’s West Side with Sunday dedication

The Austin community will dedicate its newest community garden in a ceremony 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 15, at 500 N. Waller Street in Chicago.

More than 40 urban gardeners from the west side of Chicago and Oak Park joined together as “Root Riot Harambee” for the first time to plant vegetables together, learn about gardening and strengthen their community. The community garden movement has grown across the country as a response to people’s desire to grow their own food, as a way of strengthening neighborhoods, and in response to the economic times. The example was set at the White House early this spring when Michelle Obama helped spur interest in community gardening when she organized a group to plant a garden at the White House.

The Root Riot Harambee garden is a partnership between Root Riot, Youth Guidance, and the students and faculty of Fredrick Douglas Academy High School. The garden connects students, faculty, neighbors, church-goers and gardeners in ways that are both tangible and life changing. One hope is that neighbors know each other, look out for each other and feel safer. The project brings other benefits, such as exercise, healthy food, an educational outdoor experience, and jobs. It also teaches self-reliance, and gives people the vital feeling of taking care of themselves and their neighbors.

Neighbors rent plots for $40 a year, or $100 for three years, on a lot loaned by a local developer. The plots sold out in a couple of weeks and most of the plot owners are first time gardeners. Gardening coaches help to teach the uninitiated how to plant, tend and grow crops. Workshops continue to be held on subjects such as soil health, controlling bugs and weeds without toxic chemicals and even raising chickens. In the past several weeks garners have begun harvesting cucumbers, green beans, Swiss chard, tomatoes and other vegetables.

Growing food is just one part of Root Riot. The recession has put 9 million people out of work, and unemployment has skyrocketed among youth and minorities to levels reminiscent of the Great Depression in the 1930s. Working with community partners, Root Riot and Youth Guidance have helped provide meaningful paid employment to teenagers and young adults.  With grants from “Put Illinois to Work”, Youth Guidance and the Douglass Academy students have worked this summer to help build, promote operate the garden. The youths have also raised money, talked to neighbors to recruit more gardeners and discuss the projects with the general public.

Root Riot Harambee has received extensive community support from a variety of sources, including 29th Ward Alderman Deborah Graham, Cook County Commissioner Earlene Collins and US Congressman Danny K. Davis, the Public Works Department of Oak Park and Heartland Alliance.

More information at

About Root Riot

Root Riot  is an open organization dedicated to creating opportunities for people to learn and discover the joys of growing their own food.  We are a continually expanding network of community gardens and education resources that raise the “food consciousness” of our local communities and the public at large. Recognizing the impact of the economic and environmental changes that are underway, we work in partnership with local businesses and experts to create hands on opportunities for people to grow their own food in their own communities. Our hope is that by doing so we deepen people’s sense of belonging in their community and strengthen the resilience of our society as a whole.
We place our greatest emphasis on community education and social connection. We bring people together across generations, economics, and ethnicity to work together creates something new. We apply the best practices of community organization and business development to get the job done and teach others how to get the job done.
With two locations as our starting point, we are building growing network of urban gardens as a conduit for sharing, learning, teaching and communication. A second garden is located at 838 W Madison in Oak Park.

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