April 11, 2024

We are incredibly excited and grateful to have been awarded a Davis Projects for Peace Grant for our project, The 59th Street Garden: A Community Approach for Solving Neighborhood Crime, which we will work on right here in the Englewood neighborhood of Chicago this summer.

We are a team of graduate students at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy with a shared goal to create safe spaces and peace in the Englewood neighborhood. For decades, South Side Chicago has suffered from a lack of public and private investment due to the history of systemic racism in America, evidenced by oppressive policy measures such as redlining and restrictive covenants.

Originally from Virginia, Jane has lived in Chicago for nearly a decade, teaching in Bronzeville and Englewood, where she learned from her students, their families, and community members about the persistent hardships faced in these neighborhoods. Pedro, from Mexico, previously worked for the Government of the State of Mexico, where he witnessed social inequity and violence in communities with sociodemographic characteristics similar to Englewood’s. Jane and Pedro are International House Fellows in the same master’s program as Joseph, a lifelong resident of Englewood. Joseph cherishes his community and founded Gambit Chicago to create safe recreational spaces for youth. However, crime, gun violence, poverty, and employment remain pressing issues in the community, and we believe in the fundamental role of building community to bring peace and opportunities.

Now that we’ve gotten the grant, we are excited to take our first steps towards making this garden and youth programming a reality! We’ve gathered some varieties of seeds and are looking for more to grow a mix of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. We have a lot to figure out, such as the plant species most suitable for the terrain and weather conditions, as well as our garden layout for optimal planting.

Another priority is securing the garden from unwanted visitors, such as local wildlife or pets. We are trying to see if chicken wire could do the trick or if we need to build a sturdy chain link fence to match the historical fence structure onsite. Lastly, we are currently thinking about how to get the gardening tools. Should we buy new tools or maybe used ones would work just as well?

Whatever we decide, we are eager to welcome children and community members this summer. Speaking of community, we are partnering with Urban Prep High School’s Englewood Campus, where Joseph graduated and serves on its board, and local schools to engage nearby youth in gardening activities and learning. We are ecstatic to get started!


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