Sitting in the room where Marvin Gaye performed for the first time, we listened to Dennis, coordinator at Washington Parks and People, inspire us with the evolution of the Marvin Gaye park. What had once been a haven for drug dealers (the previous year they counted ~60,000 drug needles littered around the park), stripped cars, crime and waste, had now been reclaimed by the community as a center of hope, movement, growth, and reconnection to the land.
The 11 of us followed Dennis through the park toward the children’s garden center where we would be working that afternoon. He pointed out open spaces and his vision for their potential uses; a future playground, a future flower garden, a footbridge in progress, park-lighting in the midst of wiring… I was overwhelmed with a sense of hope and excitement of the ongoing reclamation of the park. The children’s garden, an essentially one-man operation run by an endlessly energetic elderly gentleman named Jerry, provided open space for neighborhood children to reconnect to their land. Situated around the corner from where once Martin Luther King Jr. had gathered 5,000 civil rights activists to stage lunch counter sit-ins, we worked to help prepare the children’s garden for spring.
At first, some of us who had been removed from working with the land, gingerly coaxed the weeds out of the soil with gloved hands. Realizing the weeds were stubborn and infestuous by nature, we resolved to hacking at the soil beneath the weeds, resolute to clear the soil, allow it to breathe, make way for new growth…new hope for the children who would soon be planting prized vegetables, beautiful flowers, nurturing a once abused and neglected space with care, dedication and love.
Jerry urged us, upon our departure, to return in the near future to observe the transformation of the garden after the plantings. Deeply humbled, we made the intention to return to the site soon inshaAllah. Watch out for future Green Muslim service events with Washington Parks and People! 🙂