"Late afternoon one day, when I was just six years old, I heard a series of loud cracking noises. Suddenly, my grandmother pushed me and my sister down and threw her body on top of us. When we woke the next day, I learned that a drive by shooting happened the night before.
It was in that moment that I became aware of the reality of poverty and violence in my neighborhood. Although my father was addicted to drugs and never around and my mother struggled to raise my sister and I on clerk’s wages, I was blessed with teachers, family and community members who helped me stay focused on my dreams and efforts to go to college. It wasn't until I visited South Africa in 2001 and saw shanty towns, that I understood where poverty, privilege and power intersect and realized that no one should have to grow up the way I did, or for that matter, the way the South African kids were either.
As I grew older, I came to learn that 31 people in my family were in prison, and just 1 of us was in college - me. I went on to graduate school and decided to return to my community, Inglewood, to teach critical literacy to black male youth at Morningside High School and help them experience what I felt when I went to South Africa. At Morningside, I founded the Black Male Youth Academy where I work with students and community members to use research in order to identify social issues in our community and then find solutions.
Two years ago, they decided to tackle food justice and began an initiative called "100 Seeds of Change" where they are creating 100 urban gardens – community, school and home gardens. Our program got a big lift this March at a KaBOOM! playground build where my BMYA students led the construction of a wonderful new community garden, next to the brand new playground in Inglewood.
That day, we helped move the 20 tons of soil into over 50 garden beds that were then filled with vegetables, fruits, flowers, and plants. There was a stage and 9 benches to transform a once unsavory concrete desert into an outdoor classroom that stood in front of a custom mural. Two picnic tables turned a barren wading pool into a pleasant lunching spot. A storage box was placed near the garden beds for onsite access to tools and supplies and future plans include the building of an 'outdoor kitchen' that will allow for the community to grow, harvest, prepare, and eat in the same space as where they play and gather.
Both myself, and my students left feeling empowered at the end of the day, and I know we’ll be able to do even more now."
– Dart Scorza, Inglewood, CA
Dart was already a leader in his community, and with the help of KaBOOM! he was able to empower even more people.
Play it forward today to help us work with more leaders like Dart.
We have long asserted that playgrounds and gardens go hand in hand—they both nourish communities and help keep kids healthy.
KaBOOM! was recently invited to attend a fall harvest at a very special community garden—at the White House—with First Lady Michelle Obama, White House Chefs Sam Kass and Cris Comerford, Let’s Move Executive Director Judith Palfrey, and a few dozen local children.
If you think your community doesn't have the resources to match the White House garden, you might be surprised to learn that the first White House planting only cost $200. And the small bee hive (pictured below), which is tended to by White House carpenter Charlie Brandt, houses around 70,000 bees.
Throughout the afternoon, we discussed the importance of both good nutrition and physical activity. Palfrey asserted that one of the most important things parents can do to help solve childhood obesity is to make sure their children get to "run and jump and play."
On the way to the kitchen, we passed the White House playground, which sits adjacent to the community garden, and then got some tips on good nutrition from Chef Cris Comerford (pictured above).
Raising healthy kids isn't as difficult as parents might think. But as Let's Move and KaBOOM! both recognize, kids who grow up in "food deserts" and "play deserts" are less likely to have access to veggies and outdoor play opportunities. That's why, according to our motto, a healthy childhood "starts with a playground" -- and a community garden.