THE NEW ACTIVISTS: Leaders Growing Gardens, Trees, Earth Centers and More

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Moriba Jackson, BQLT Board member

Urban Ecology

Part II of II (continued from April 25 issue)

 

As cities struggle against climate change outcomes and abuses of the earth, there are organizations working to preserve and protect sanctuaries of peace – parks, backyards, farms even, and community gardens.

Here in New York City, the local Brooklyn Queens Land Trust, under the presidency of Demetrice Mills, represents one of the best of these “peacekeepers.”

BQLT members plant seeds and cultivate soil in their communities. They work to gain ground for gardening policy in City Hall and in the Halls of Congress. As luxury buildings rise on good earth, they continue to fight to preserve earth’s spaces.

In last week’s issue, we introduced two BQLT warriors. This week, we feature Moriba Jackson, a public librarian and BQLT member for five years. 

Elected to the Brooklyn Queens Land Trust (BQLT) Board of Directors in 2014, Moriba Jackson applies her skills and experience as a public librarian to organize events, bring structure to the board and advocate for community gardening. She has represented BQLT both locally and nationally at the Environmental Protection Alliance Lobby Day (in Albany, NY), Rally, Land Trust Alliance’s Annual Conference, and as a workshop presenter at NYC Green Thumb’s Grow Together Conference. During her tenure, she has served on the Nominations Committee as Board Secretary, and most recently, Vice President. She has a Master’s in Library & Information Studies from Clark Atlanta University in Georgia and a Certificate in Conservation Biology from Columbia University.  Following is a Q&A with Ms. Jackson by Bernice Elizabeth Green for Our Time Press.

 

OTP: Are there similarities between the tasks and motivations of a librarian and a gardener?  

 Moriba Jackson, BQLT: Public libraries (my professional space) and community gardens (my civic space) have much in common. Both are places which are created to allow people to gather in a safe and welcoming environment. Create community. There is no judgment or criteria for entering. Both invite all into safe spaces to share the many and varied resources. The idea of creating and maintaining spaces which take advantage of our shared resources is powerful. We are more together than in isolation. There are very few spaces other than public libraries and gardens which are open to all without barriers–places where one can simply walk in and enjoy. Librarians and gardeners serve as an advocate, curator, welcomer for each, respectively.

 

OTP: How did you get involved with the BQLT? 

MJ: While gardening at two different Brooklyn community gardens — DeKalb Market, a  funky use of space filled with entrepreneurial designers, inventive food vendors, a radio station and other interesting shops housed in shipping containers surrounded by community garden plots that’s located at the intersection of Willoughby Street and the Flatbush Avenue Extension. Ola Ronke Akinmowo, a BQLT member, would share invitations to BQLT events like the Annual Tour of Gardens. After construction on the what is now DeKalb Market Hall, the site was closed. Then I found the beautiful, ambitious Tranquility Farm at the corner of Willoughby and Throop in Bedford-Stuyvesant, led by former BQLT Board member Ena McPherson. In addition to learning about the legacy of NYC community gardening, beekeeping, chickens, composting and exposure to so much more, I heard about the important work which BQLT is doing to preserve, conserve open green space in NYC while building community. Their example and wanting to contribute to the mission of BQLT led me to getting involved.

 

OTP: Do you have favorite gardens anywhere in the world? 

MJ: I enjoy taking time to appreciate gardens and green space wherever I come across it. Sometimes, it can be the Bluebells in Brooklyn Botanic Garden, the seasonal plantings of my neighbors or the woodlands found when hiking, I try to enjoy nature when I find it.  

 

OTP: What’s next?

MJ: Many communities around the world, especially in urban settings, have experienced food insecurity, abandoned or derelict lands, and seek to develop safe community spaces to grow much-needed food. A dream of mine is to join groups of urban gardeners who tour and share with other community gardeners around the world, witnessing and exploring the work, solutions, challenges in places like India, Brazil, Cuba, Haiti, Colombia, Venezuela, throughout Europe and Africa.

 

I’m looking forward to connecting with community gardens throughout the USA and internationally. Learning how they deal with challenges as more people share limited resources, libraries and gardens provide a real example of how we can grow, learn and share with each other.