The Root-Riot Harambee dedication was a celebration of the newest community garden in the Austin neighborhood on Chicago’s west side. The theme of the ceremony was to honor and showcase the young men and women in this community responsible in large part for the success of Harambee garden. Harambee gardeners and guests provided refreshments; the students and guests provided entertainment.
Community spirit and support was evident in the well attended event. In addition to community residents, our guests and attendees included friends, family, politicians, ministers, Douglass Academy faculty and staff, local school council representatives, an Austin Branch librarian, members of Root Riot Oak Park and other community gardens, faculty of Dominican University, and others.
Media coverage included ABC 7 News, The Austin Voice, and Austin Weekly. A crew from Conscious TV filmed the event and interviewed Root-Riot cofounders Amy Beltemacchi and Seamus Ford and others.
The program began with drum selections by students Michelle Keaton and Joron Sanders. Student DeAndre Robinson gave the welcoming remarks. Alderman Deborah Graham was the emcee. We heard spoken word poetry by “Mama” Brenda Matthews and Anthony T. Raggs. An Afro centric libation ceremony, with drum accompaniment, was performed by Ms. Sheree Blakemore of Youth Guidance. Student Cletina Smith sang a solo. One of the highlights of the program was the “peace gathering” in which the entire congregation formed a circle; each person in the circle expressed a thought on what the garden or community meant to them. The program portion of the dedication ended with closing remarks from Amy Beltemacchi and a visibly moved Seamus Ford.
The dedication ceremony included posting our first message on the message board donated by Cook County Commissioner Earlean Collins. Commissioner Collins, who attended the dedication ceremony, also donated the flowers in the parkway garden. The students unveiled their newest signs, designed by student DeAngelo Mills. Librarian Joanne Grant, of the Austin Branch Library, displayed a totem pole decorated by Douglass Academy students.
Also, on display as part of the students’ micro-enterprise endeavor, were cold frames. The students are building and accepting orders for cold frames. Root Riot t-shirts are also available for purchase; the colors are kelly green or earth-tone.