My name is Ruby Maddox. I have been working in nonprofits for over 10yrs. In 2001 I helped start a youth urban agriculture program in my hometown, of Springfield, Massachusetts. While I still remain on the board of Gardening the Community(GtC), I have since moved into Higher Education administration at a small private women’s college.
In 2005, after operating the garden program for 4 years, one of our garden lots were put up for auction by the City of Springfield, seeking to return “unoccupied” lands onto city tax rolls. We protested, wrote letters, made phone calls, and eventually lost the site.
Two years later when the buyer who purchased land backed out, the land was returned to GtC. Much of what happened during this time shaped how I saw the work of community-based organizations and developed my interest in seeking to understand more about the relationship between city governments, community residents, and organizations. At the time of the auction and the protests I kept wondering what it was, we (the organization) could have done differently to prevent such an action. How could our agendas be at such odds? In my view, we were residents seeking to better our community. Shouldn’t they have applauded us? Wouldn’t they want to encourage and support us? And how were we, amateur organizers at the time, supposed to know the best way to have our voices heard?
Since 2005 the city of Springfield has made strides in understanding the role of community gardens; passing a community garden ordinance in 2011 and adding the creation of additional community garden spaces as a priority in their Re-Build Springfield city plan.
This blog is to help answer some of those earlier questions and a few more. Posts will focus on urban community-based organizations working in the areas of social justice, economic development, civic engagement, poverty alleviation, access to housing, community health, youth development, violence prevention, and community improvement.
Somewhere in the dialogue I’m hoping a kaleidoscope of answers will emerge on authentic engagement, unified solutions, and a progressive alliance between urban philanthropy and civic responsibility.