“Hey, hey! Ho, ho! The parking garage has got to go!” My friends Muriel, Juana, Lisa, and I chanted this over and over until we were hoarse. We were standing in a crowd of 50 people in front of city hall. Our goal was to save a community garden that the city wanted to pave over to make a new parking garage. My friends and I never even knew there was a community garden in our neighborhood until last month, but now we knew that it was important to save it.
It was Muriel’s mother who explained everything to us. We were eating dinner at her house, and Muriel was picking all the tomatoes out of her salad. “I hate them,” she said, making a face. “They’re too sour.” Her mother quietly scooped up Muriel’s tomatoes and put them on her own salad. “Muriel,” she said, “your grandmother grew these tomatoes herself in the community garden. You should not be so ungrateful.”
Juana and Lisa began to eat their tomatoes as if they were starving. “What community garden?” I asked through a mouthful of salad, which I thought was delicious.
“It’s on Congress and Eighth. It used to be an empty lot until people got together and fixed it up. It’s been there for years. It won’t last much longer, though, because the city is going to pave it over and build a parking garage.”
I was shocked. I didn’t think the city could do something like that.
“Well,” said Mrs. Muñoz, “you should talk to Muriel’s abuela if you want to know more.”
Muriel’s grandmother was a small woman who wore oversized sweatshirts with big hearts and cartoon kitties on them, overalls, and mud-covered boots. She took me to see the garden. It was quite an operation. It had 30 plots and, at that time of year, was bursting with fresh vegetables. She gave me a whole basket of tomatoes before sending me home. She also invited me to a SOG (Save Our Garden) meeting the next day.
I didn’t know what to expect at the meeting, but I had a great time. About 20 people showed up. They were all ages and from all different parts of the city. There were old people and people my parents’ age and even kids younger than I am. At that meeting people talked about how to approach the city. We took a vote on whether or not to hold a rally. I was so excited to vote in favor of it. Then we got into small groups and made posters and fliers. I took home a bundle of fliers and passed them out at school. Muriel couldn’t believe how much I was into the garden. But she caught the spirit. Soon she was telling everyone to come to the rally.
The rally took place on a Friday afternoon after school. Muriel and I raced downtown on our bicycles. We pulled fliers out of our backpacks. At first the crowd was really small. Then we started to chant, “Save our garden!” We handed out fliers to people waiting for buses and people just walking by. Soon we had 50 people there. We stayed until the last light was turned out in the city hall building. The mayor didn’t come out to talk to us, but we thought we had made our point anyway. We gave each other hugs and high fives before heading home.
Muriel’s grandmother told us later that the city officials agreed to meet with SOG and talk about a compromise. I was so proud of everybody in the group. We got together and tried to make some change for the good. My experience really taught me that working together can make people in power listen.
People Power by Thoughtful Learning is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
Based on a work at k12.thoughtfullearning.com/assessmentmodels/people-power.