Quesada Gardens Initiative has been bringing students from various area schools to San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood for years. Students work hard in the gardens and on other projects. In return, community members try to provide a meaningful experience that connects to the students’ lives and university course work.
University of San Francisco’s service-learning program, facilitated by the Leo T. McCarthy Center of Public Policy and the Common Good, has been a consistent source of engaged youth looking to experience a neighborhood many are leary of … at first.
As part of his service-learning experience at Quesada Gardens, and his university course work with Professor Rebecca Gordon, Anthony Terrazas writes…
My name is Anthony Terrazas, and I have been with Quesada Gardens Initiative for almost three months now.
When I first heard about QGI, I have to admit I was a bit skeptical. How can gardening possibly combat social issues such as marginalization, exploitation, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, violence and gentrification?
I am a second generation migrant worker. My grandfather migrated from Mexico to the U.S. illegally in search of a life free of oppression and domination. Gaining employment as a farm worker, my grandfather would migrate from location to location searching for a place to develop and exercise his capacities.
Like my grandfather, I too have been searching for a place to develop my abilities and exercise my capacities. Although I do not follow crops as my grandfather did, I have had to migrate from city to city, following the job market’s need for entry level positions.
This willingness to flee communities in search of a land free of oppression and domination often creates neighborhoods of voiceless individuals. It creates the neighborhoods I grew up in where the motto was “Sal si puedes” (get out if you can). It creates isolation and accepts the biases within social institutions.
The late Iris Marion Young, one of the most important political philosophers of the past quarter-century, claimed that, “Justice requires that all be able to express their needs.”
I believe QGI helps to fulfill this societal need. Yes, QGI does plant flowers, herbs, and vegetables, but what it actually produces is “social cohesion” or “social capital.”These crucial commodities help create a community where the motto is not to get out if you can, but to reinvest in yourself and the next generation rather than succumbing to defeatism and gentrification.
QGI helps to decentralize urban decision making and creates a small autonomous community capable of voicing its needs. It offers community members the opportunity to not only define and create their physical surroundings, but to cultivate a place where one is capable of developing his or her abilities and exercise his or her capacities.
Thank you all for joining us here today and I look forward to seeing you in all in the garden.