Community garden still going strong after five years

The music was blaring as residents walked the street fair on Raymond Avenue in South Los Angeles, on Saturday, to celebrate the saving of its community garden by the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust and philanthropist Erika Glazer, along with the City and County of Los Angeles.

imageErika J. Glazer Community Garden (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

A ceremony was held to announce the renaming of the the Raymond Avenue Community Garden to Erika J. Glazer Community Garden, and to unveil a new sign for the Glazer Garden, which was designed by its founder, resident Julie Burleigh.

Booths were set up along the street around the DJ for residents to receive information about everything from conserving water to making a worm compost.

Children lined up eager to get their face-painted, and many had their hand cupped around small, makeshift pot made out of newspaper.

“I planted beans,” said Melissa Ramirez.

The eight-year-old scooped dirt into her pot and planted her seeds, right before spraying some water on top of the fresh dirt.

imageMelissa Ramirez (Photo by Subrina Hudson)

Nkoli Udeorji, a volunteer with the grass-roots organization LA Green Grounds, stood behind a table to show other kids how to plant their seed of choice. She said being at the event is a great way to connect with the community.

“I thought we would bring the kids and let them run around,” said Karlyn Johnson, who heard about the event from another parent.

Johnson lives just a few blocks away from Raymond Avenue and said she had never known there was a garden so close to her residence.

“The more we can do stuff [like this] the more we can help the neighborhood,” said Johnson.

Julie Burleigh, who has lived in the neighborhood for 11 years, started the garden in 2008 out of a desire to be more involved in her community and create a space for growing food.

Inside, there are 35, squared-off plots. A total of 24 families grow their own food and plants, with some owning multiple pots.

Demand is high for a chance to own a plot said Burleigh, as she points to a waiting list on a table outside of the garden’s entrance. She said right now the garden is only available to the community gardeners, but she is looking to open it up for the whole community in the future.

Almost three years ago, Burleigh reached out for help to the Los Angeles Neighborhood Land Trust (LANLT), an organization that helps underserved communities develop and manage small parks and community gardens.

The 5,000 square-foot space that was being maintained by community gardeners was at risk of being taken away. The property owner owed $100,000 in back taxes, but LANLT was able to step in and also find philanthropist Erika Glazer.

Glazer donated $150,000 to pay off the taxes as well as upgrades to the garden.

Burleigh said she is surprised that the community garden has been able to survive.

“I’m also so surprised that an organization an come in and save it. It’s hard to manage a community garden – more failures than success,” she said. “It’s amazing…a total dream come true.”

“It’s a great way to be a part of the community and to get to know people and connect with people everyday,” said Burleigh.

Dia de los Muertos outgrowing its Mexican cultural roots

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News

imageDia de los Muertos fills Los Angeles with altars, sugar skulls and yellow marigolds on the first two days of November each year. But recently, the Mexican holiday has become increasingly popular.

The Day of the Dead is at least a two-day affair. According to the holiday’s tradition, souls of deceased children returned to earth today, and they’ll be joined by families’ other ancestors overnight.

But at the South LA marketplace Mercado la Paloma, this year’s festival is much bigger than its Mexican roots.

Celebrations, art and food are bringing people from all kinds of backgrounds together, said Gilberto Cetina. He owns Chichen Itza, a restaurant within in the Mercado.

“White people, Asian people, Indian people, Latin people… it’s really a multicultural event. it doesn’t matter where you’re from, or if you sing in English or Spanish.”

This year, Gilberto is serving a special tamale pie called Mucbil Pollo. It’s what families in the Yucatan region of Mexico used to leave with their ancestors’ bodies while their souls waited for the afterlife. They still leave it on their altars. And people love it.

“The Mayans had a tradition to leave a corn on the mouth of the body, to feed the body. And now that corn dog is a little bit more sophisticated, and it’s a tamale pie.”

Visitors have plenty to see, too. Altars for families’ ancestors line the walls, and each one uses different fabric, pictures and relics based on what their ancestors loved.

Damon Turner is the Mercado’s Arts and Cultural Program Director. He helped set up the altars and a festival this past weekend. As a kid, his family didn’t even celebrate Halloween.

But Dia de los Muertos is special, he thinks, because it recognizes such common ground: family and death.

“I think the idea of Dia de los Muertos is really like celebrating that which is taboo, typically, in America, which is death. It’s looking at death as a place of strength, a place where we can build community with each other – and, yeah, have some good food while we’re doing it.”

Dia de los Muertos ends tomorrow – but Gilberto’s tamale pie will be back at the Mercado la Paloma next year.

Food truck festival comes to Los Angeles

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:

Food trucks are everywhere these days, providing Angelenos with a good meal on the go on almost every corner. But local event coordinator Phillip Dane saw these trucks as a great business opportunity.

“If you have 40 trucks and each one of them has 2,500 people following them on Twitter, it’s almost a no-brainer to get them all involved,” Dane said.

image Dane had the idea for TruckIt Fest, which is a monthly gathering of food trucks where locals can come and sample all the tasty food in one place. As soon as he started advertising, he knew he was onto something.

“I’ve got more truck applications than I do space for trucks,” Dane said. “Let’s put it that way so I kind of had my pick of trucks for TruckIt Fest.”

The inaugural festival was held March 6 at Union Station. The festival cost $5 for admission. In addition to the trucks, the festival featured live bands, DJs and craftspeople selling their goods. More than 5,000 people attended.

Danny Kim of the Krazy BBQ truck said he saw big gains from participating.

“It was better than a normal day of course,” Kim said.

Soap vendor Lillie Baca says even though her soaps weren’t the main attraction, she is already seeing benefits from participating in the festival.

“I’ve had opportunities pop up because my product is on their website, so I’m getting a lot of exposure as a vendor.”

Dane says he hopes people see TruckIt Fest as a new, fun way to spend their weekend.

“You go in, you can listen to four different bands, you can explore Union Station, which is beautiful,” Dane said. “Since you have a wristband, you’re not locked into the place, and you can actually walk across the street and go downtown and come back. You could actually eat breakfast, lunch and dinner there if you really wanted to.”

The next TruckIt Fest is scheduled for April 3 at Union Station, and Dane says he is planning on having them until at least 2012.

BLOG: Finding beauty in the City of Compton

imageIn an effort to bring to the fore the artistic side of the Hub City, Compton artist Amanda Ferrell is organizing a local arts festival. Anyone above 16 years old can apply by emailing Ferrell at [email protected]. The festival will focus predominantly on visual fine art.

Ferrell hopes to eventually establish an arts district in the City of Compton. “I see a lot of spots within our city that would make a great place for a Art Market or Murals for expression,” wrote Ferrell on the Hub City Livin’ forum. “I Just was wondering about the idea of putting Compton on the map by maybe putting together a street festival or such to let the true artists here in Compton shine.”

To help the effort, Compton resident and founder of Hub City Livin’ Maurice Harr has designed a mock-up advertisement for the festival (as shown above.)

View Amanda Ferrell’s art:

Find more videos like this on Hub City Livin’

Compton is rare as a city without any art galleries, and residents have been pulling together to bring cultural landmarks closer to home. Ray Fox, founder of RAY’S Recycler Inc., is spearheading a campaign to establish the Hub Heritage, Culture & Art Gallery in Compton. The idea has been entered for funding as part of the Pepsi Refresh Project, which, if it attains enough votes, will be awarded $50,000 by the Pepsi Cola Company. To vote, visit the Art 4 All page.