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.

USC beefs up safety measures

Listen to an audio story from Annenberg Radio News:

“Whenever young, innocent kids are brutally attacked in the way that they were, you have to say no, not in my city; not in our city,” was the message Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa passed along to members of the USC community at USC’s Town and Gown ballroom Thursday morning.

“What happened a few weeks ago, was something that not only effected the student body, but it really tore at the heartstrings of Angelenos all across the city,” said the mayor.

Ying Wu and Ming Qu, both graduate students from China, were shot and killed around 1 a.m. on April 11 while sitting in a BMW parked in the 2700 block of Raymond Avenue.

As LAPD Chief Charlie Beck outlined, many safety adjustments are being made around the USC community, and it is all coming out of USC’s pocket.

To begin with, 30 police officers will be permanently added to the Southwest division, which patrols the area around USC. And four of these newly added officers will strictly monitor the area directly surrounding USC.

“Their task will be to make sure that the surrounding residential areas of SC, where so many students live, are safe,” said Chief Beck.

And although violence has decreased in the USC area by 27% over the last 2 years, Chief Beck said these safety measures are a necessary precaution.

“This is an awful singular incident, but this is not the trend in the SC area. This is not us trying to catch up, it is us addressing an awful singular incident, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is important to the well-being to all of Los Angeles that USC is successful.”

Additionally, a detective and city attorney will be assigned to focus wholly on the USC area.

Chief Beck was asked about the ongoing investigation. “I am pleased with the progress to date, I won’t predict when we will give an outcome, but I am confident in the detective and investigative process going forward. We will reach a resolution on this,” he said.

No new information has been released.

Host mother of slain USC student defends her neighborhood

The USC community and the Adams-Normandie neighborhood are still grieving from the tragic murders of two graduate students. Ying Wu and Ming Qu, both 23, were shot at 1 a.m. on April 11 on Raymond Avenue near West 27th Street.

The electrical engineering students from China were attacked as they sat in Qu’s 2003 BMW as it was double-parked on the street. Police have no suspects and no motive for the shooting, though they are investigating whether it was an attempted carjacking or stemmed from a robbery. A $200,000 reward is being offered for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the murders.

The killings have raised alarm bells for USC students, especially among the more than 2,500 Chinese students who attend USC. The area where the students were killed has been described in media reports as gang-infested, dangerous and a high-crime neighborhood. Some USC students say they are afraid to venture west of Vermont because of safety concerns.

LAPD and USC both say violent crime in that area just northwest of the USC campus has gone down significantly in the last year, and they view this crime as isolated. The Los Angeles Times Crime Map lists the Adams-Normandie neighborhood as having the 27th highest violent crime rate out of 209 neighborhoods.

image Jacqueline Hamilton in a file photo (Photo by Karla Robinson)

Jacqueline Hamilton was the host mother for Ying Wu. Hamilton has lived on Raymond Avenue for 11 years and says in the last six years the neighborhood has become safer. She spoke by telephone with Sara Harris, host of Hear in the City radio program on KPFK-FM. Listen to the interview:

Hear in the City airs Tuesdays at 2:30 p.m. on KPFK, 90. FM. To hear the entire program in which this interview was featured, click here .

USC students shot on Raymond Ave in South LA

Reporters on the scene of Wednesday’s shooting of two USC students on Raymond Avenue. (Photo by Devin Althschul)

Front photo courtesy of ATVN

Update at 3:26 pm: The victims have been identified as Ying Wu and Ming Qu, both USC engineering graduate students. Both were in the early 20s.

Two USC graduate students — both from China — were shot around 1 am Wednesday morning on Raymond Avenue near West 27th Street.

The woman victim was found slumped over the steering wheel of a new BMW. She had been shot. Her male companion was found lying on the steps of a nearby home; he had one gunshot wound. Both were pronounced dead at the hospital.

Police are looking into several possible motives for the shooting, including an attempted carjacking. However, as the morning went on, police began to suspect it may have been a random act of violence. It’s unclear if the car was moving when the shooting occurred. Police are investigating whether it was a car-to-car shooting or if an assailant walked up to the car.

(Photo by Devin Althschul)

USC released a statement “Our community is saddened and outraged by this callous and meaningless act. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims’ families and friends and all who knew them at USC. The university is reaching out to those affected, offering counseling and support.”

The statement by Michael L. Jackson, Vice President of Student Affairs and Todd Dickey, Senior Vice President of Administration, also said, “This incident occurred outside the neighborhood areas where over the past several years we have steadily increased our security presence, adding dozens of security and license plate recognition cameras, uniformed officers, and yellow-jacketed security ambassadors. However, tragedies such as this morning’s remind us that we all need to be continuously vigilant about safety and security.”

Annenberg TV News has been on the scene of the shooting since early morning. Click here to see its coverage.

South LA garden helps community “grow” in many ways

Listen to an audio story by Annenberg Radio News:


The community garden on Raymond Avenue in West Adams has been around for three years, providing space for community residents to grow fresh produce for just $3 per plot.

image In the spring sunshine, lush greenery coats the garden. This season, vegetables can be found throughout the space, including artichokes, lemon grass and lettuce. Along the wood chip path, a cage of bunnies and compost stations can also be found. But the garden hasn’t always looked this way.

“I think prior to my living here, it was kind of a gang hangout, and there was a building that burnt down 20 years ago, and apparently that kind of sat around for a while,” said Julie Burleigh, who originally came up with the idea for the garden. “It was just a big junky lot, lots of weeds, and people would dump stuff, and you know, people would let their dogs run around, and it was just kind of an eyesore in the neighborhood.”

Burleigh was tired of viewing the empty lot and decided to turn it into something for the entire neighborhood to enjoy.

“So I said, ‘Why doesn’t someone start a community garden?’ You know, that would be a good idea,” Burleigh said. “And had a desire to connect with people in the community and I really wanted to grow food. I got really into gardening after moving here.”

What began as an idea has grown into a reality. Now, the garden provides a place to grow for 30 families in the community. But getting a plot is competitive. Since its opening, the garden has always had a waiting list.

“People want to grow their food,” Burleigh said. “It’s a pretty tempting thing to want to do when you see it being done, like right in your neighborhood. You’re like, ‘How can I get a piece of that?'”

Being able to grow her own food was one of the reasons why Ashley Miller, a Raymond Avenue resident, first jumped on the opportunity of having a community garden.

“Knowing what you put in your own vegetables and you didn’t use no pesticides and anything like that,” Miller said. “Growing it all natural, really was like, ‘Oh, maybe that’d be a good idea instead of getting it from the store.’ That’s what baited me in.”

Despite its popularity, the garden has had its struggles. In particular, the garden has been watered down with a lack of volunteers and limited financial support.

“It can be hard,” Burleigh said. “It’s like managing your own non-profit.”

However, the garden’s influence continues to thrive in the community.

“People watch out for each other, I think, a little bit more,” Burleigh said. “And it’s like, obvious its cared for. So I think that affects everyone’s feeling of like, ‘Oh, this is a good place.’ And I think the garden helps spread the love a little bit.”

And that aspect is key to the garden’s success, which is why community gardens are sprouting up throughout Los Angeles.

Photos courtesy of Full Moon Pickles blog