Marcus Henderson at the CHAZ/CHOP gardens.
(Photo credit: Sarah Hoffman/Crosscut)
by Hayley Steele and Babs Babson
THE SEATTLE PEOPLE’S GARDEN, CHAZ/CHOP –
On June 9th, 2020, Seattle activists created CHAZ/CHOP, a police-free zone of organized protest in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Demands of the protestors include defunding the police, increasing Black and indigenous representation in state educational curriculum, and the implementation of rent control.
Within the north side of this six-block zone, activists have been working to create an expansive vegetable garden, dubbed the Seattle People’s Garden. Initiated by Marcus Henderson, the SPG presents both a physical and a symbolic form of activism.
In a recent interview with the Stranger, Henderson explained:
“We’re dealing with a question of how Black people have been disenfranchised for so long, pulled out of the economic system,” he says. “One way of doing that is not giving people access to land.”
According to The Nation, the number of black-owned farms in the United States went from over one million in the 1920s to less than 50,000 by the 1970s. Black land loss was perpetuated by and continues to perpetuate systemic racism in the United States.
At the CHAZ/CHOP gardens, conversations about systemic racism intersect with conversations about planting tomatoes and raising chickens. Each day, new volunteers show up, bringing energy and vitality to the project.
Henderson’s hope is to incorporate indigenous planting practices and technologies into the garden at CHAZ/CHOP. He is also looking into showcasing significant practices that are used by black and indigenous people on their land.
Other new projects that the CHAZ/CHOP farmers hope to put together include a mobile chicken coop, solar panels, raised beds, pots for invasive plants, supplies for indigenous allies to create culturally appropriate spaces for themselves, compost, and more tools.
- In Seattle’s CHAZ, a community garden takes root, Crosscut
- Meet the Farmer Behind CHAZ’s Vegetable Gardens, The Stranger
- Inside Seattle’s CHAZ, Organic Tomatoes Grow in Social Distancing Circles, Newsweek
Samara Hayley Steele has been part of the alter-globalization movement since 1999 and has written as a corespondent for Adbusters, IndyBay, and is a member of the Slingshot Collective. She is a PhD student in Cultural Studies at UC Davis and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Portland State University. She is an editor of Subversas Magazine. samarasteele.com