This weekend I went out to the Overtown community garden project, spearheaded by the Miami-based nonprofit permaculture design company Inhabit Earth. At the site, there are loads of compostable bags filled with soil for annual plantings along with extensive mulch rows for future food forest style plantings. A kind, wise woman named Lily takes care of the shaded nursery area of the property where all the future garden residents are currently being incubated. There are over 90 lemongrass pots, 200+ malanga, and an assortment of other herbs and tubers that will populate the long mulched rows set up by volunteers weekend after weekend here. I’m sure the ecology of the garden will be abundant and beautiful. The biggest need that the garden has, besides water, is the people to meet our fellow plants and soil.
The local people I’ve spoken with in Overtown were very friendly and open to interaction. I saw that, it being a Sunday, people walking in and out of a local church were especially buoyant and alive. Now I know that there are undercurrents of violence, drug use, systemic poverty, and displacement here, but there are also pockets of human connection and community there that are more vibrant than even the most pristine upper-middle class suburban neighborhood.
Some of what I’m relating here may be a projection from my own experience of crushing loneliness in the suburbs of New Jersey and the contrast of that with the vibrant culture of the African-American community. But when I listened to J Cole alone in my dorm room at boarding school, or danced around the streets of Summit, New Jersey, stoned and depressed while listening to Kid Cudi, I connected to a deep vein of human experience that belongs to all of us. To this day, hip hop music invigorates and empowers me. It’s what sends blood rippling into my calves as I cruise around Miami on my longboard (The Underachievers yo!). And it’s part of what draws me to Overtown.
My inner experience guides me towards this pocket of Miami. My heart beats to the rhythm of a latent potential that’s waiting to burst through the tired pavement here. My vision of the urban ecological web is already feeling out the potentialities in this area, listening to the groaning and humming of the pained forgotten stewards of the land. We are really all Earth’s co-creative participants. However, it can take dire circumstances to wake up to what is really nourishing and connecting in this world. Social chaos is a symptom of our collective root trauma, our dissociation from the wider family of organisms that we cohabit the Earth with. When the exploitative system that props up a massive community or society neglects segments of the population bound to it, then a free-fall ensues in which the neglected population loses its sense of basic care and safety and psychosis fills the void. The social problems of Overtown do not come from the people themselves being psychotic or destructive, but rather the wider system disempowering and depriving them of the nourishment and connection that the Earth provides.
I do recognize that my own distortions around food (and sexuality, another repressed shadow I’m exploring) have guided me into this awareness and purpose. Just like Gollum led Frodo into Mordor, my Gollum leads me into the “ground-zero of the heroine epidemic in Miami”, a food desert where cigarette-fumes and amalgamations of processed corn characterize the local grocery shopping experience. Actually, it makes perfect sense now why I’d walk straight into Overtown as the site of self and communal healing. Gollum called me there. Gollum knows where the other hungry, sneaking hobbits are. But only Frodo knows how to wrest the distortion from our minds and bring us into the peace and abundance of the Shire.
I’ve also been reading a bit about the soccer stadium for an expansion MLS team that David Beckham and co. are pushing in Overtown. I wonder, though, if this is what the people there need for revitalization. More frenetic activity and economic activity don’t necessarily translate into community building. Rather, they usually lead to community fragmentation and displacement. Getting the people of Overtown to work in the construction and functioning of the stadium instrumentalizes them for economic big dogs that cannot truly give a shit about them, so long as Beckham and co.’s personal interests come before those of the community they’re penetrating. If we can come together and actualize our sovereign right to the land, then the argument that a stadium could heal the woes of Overtown will become even more unfeasible and a healthy cycle of community engagement will take its place.
For whoever reads this, thank you for staying with me even when my writing seems abstract or wordy. That’s how my mind works (education and meditation). You are all welcome to unite with the Earth League. We are a field of awareness and action, watching the cracks emerge in this city, filling them with soil, and guiding hands back into their home. Earth stewards recognize dirty hands and shake them heartily. Let’s hold hands, brothers and sisters. Let’s eat, shit, and fuck among Nature, as humans do (though generations of shame, distrust, guilt, and unprocessed trauma have made that an oddly challenging thing to do, at least for me).