Alumna and Board of Advisors member Jenga Mwendo, MSRED '16, has been featured in Curbed New Orleans

David Armentor

May 26, 2017

Lower 9th Ward organization fights blight through gardening

All about gardening, food deserts, and the Lower 9

Less than 10 years ago, 600 Charbonnet Street, which is just off of Chartres Street in the Lower 9th Ward, sat as an unkept and vacant lot. The dilapidated lot was like many other sites that were formerly homes, businesses, and community spaces in the neighborhood.

Fast-forward to 2017, and that once-lonely space is now a thriving garden that serves as an outdoor community classroom.

The Backyard Gardeners Network, a non-profit aimed at bringing communities together through planting, learning, and tranquil spaces, made that transformation possible. That action started in 2007 when a group of residents decided to no longer face community blight.

Starting the Backyard Gardeners Network

Jenga Mwendo, the founder and director of the Backyard Gardeners Network, grew up in the Lower 9th Ward, and briefly lived in New Orleans East during her adolescence. As an adult, she found herself in New York City pursuing a career in computer animation. In 2007, two years after Hurricane Katrina, Mwendo came back to the Lower 9th Ward to help revive the community that raised her.

The Lower 9th Ward had changed, says Mwendo. Areas that used to bloom with friends and residents were left unattended and broken. Searching for a way to revitalize her home, she rallied neighbors to restore a dilapidated community garden.

“I realized I was not passionate about work in computer animation,” Mwendo says. “Gardening just became a thing that inspired me. It wasn’t really a conscious connection. I saw this gardening piece as a cultural tradition that is familiar in the neighborhood. It’s a way that we can bring people together; It’s a community-building tool.”.... Full Article Here

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Alumni, Board of Advisors
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