PlantTherapy: The M’finda Kalunga Garden

PlantTherapy: The M’finda Kalunga Garden

Maxwell Ryan
May 20, 2006

The past few weeks have been busy. I've getting used to my new camera, the Leica D-Lux 2. I have been looking for the perfect blogging camera; this may be it.

I had it in my pocket this past weekend when I passed the M'finda Kalunga garden, named after an African burial ground, on the Lower East Side.

The volunteers that morning were all huddled around park benches discussing their plants and the latest news while sharing food. Children were also busy – young Ulysses was helping his father, Eric, tend to the mulch and topsoil piles. He is a master of dirt.

For many years this area had been overrun with drugs and crime. Most locals had no safe haven. It was the work of concerned community members who cleaned up the park and started what is now a true urban oasis. People can easily tell it is a park full of care. While I was there a woman ran in seeking help with a wounded bird. Within minutes everyone had worked to take care of the little guy.

Glancing up from the benches, you can feel the new construction and luxury apartments towering over the park. The very members who worked to create a safe haven can barely afford to stay in the neighborhood that they worked hard to clean up.

One of the founders of the park who was gardening that day mentioned that he had just moved due to the rising cost of living in that area. He still comes to work here on the weekends and works to bring in more community organizations to enrich the park, including a local school for the blind, in order to keep the park a community effort that is welcoming to all.

I truly hope their park can continue to be an all-inclusive space and nurture the goodwill it currently harbors. It is a very special garden.

- Matt N.

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