It was a great day on Saturday Sept. 8 to dedicate a community garden in Austin.

Chicago Avenue was the place to be as members of the community came together to officially dedicate the Ed Bailey/ Leola Spann Community Garden. Several organizations worked to make this event possible. Those groups included the Austin African American Business Networking Association, Hope Community Church, the Sankofa Cultural Arts Center, The AIDS Foundation of Chicago, and the Westside Historical Society.

29th Ward Ald. Deborah Graham and state Rep. Camille Lilly participated in the festivities. The ceremony took place under the backdrop of the Austin AIDS (Austin Is Doing Something) mural. The garden, located at Chicago Avenue and Mayfield, is named in honor of two longtime Austin residents and community activists. Edward Bailey found the South Austin Coalition Community Council, and Ms. Leola Spann, founded the Northwest Austin Community Council.

Rep. Lilly talked about how Ms. Spann inspired her to get involved in her community. ‘Ms. Spann was the one who sent me to Washington D.C. to get an understanding of how community development works. I just got back from the Democratic National Convention in North Carolina as a proud democratic legislator.”

Rep. Lilly pointed proudly to the gardenfs Peace Tree which she helped plant last summer.

Earlier this summer, local residents, business owners, and the Austin Green Team, helped plant many of the flowers and vegetables which are now thriving in the garden. Stacia Crawford, executive director of the Sankofa Center, spoke of how proud she was to see that corner blossom from an eyesore to a garden ripe with possibilities

Ald. Graham also pumped up the crowd, saying that the vegetables from the Bailey/ Spann garden can now be sold at the Austin farmers market, giving residents an opportunity to eat healthy as well as sell their produce. Ald. Graham spoke very passionately about the Chicago Avenue corridor soon becoming an African-American business district. That, she said, is something the community will be proud of. ‘My job as alderman is to bring the resources to facilitate the communityfs vision,” she said.

Ade Onayemi, chairman of the AAABNA and lead architect on the corridorfs development plan, also spoke at last Saturdayfs dedication, expressing how happy he was that so many came together. Dara Cooper donated soil which she brought back to Chicago from a recent trip to Ghana. She collected the earth from the village where the great Ashanti warrior, Nana Yaa Asantiwaa, was known to have lived.

The crowd applauded as Mr. Rickey Brown of the Westside Historical Society pulled his ceremonial sword and poured the vile of dirt from the Ashanti people on the ground of the garden. Following the dedication, community members enjoyed a two-block long outdoor party. The festivities included live stage performances, a basketball tournament, a bounce house for the kids, and free food, as well as health screenings.

Malcolm Crawfor
Co-owner of the Sankofa
Cultural Arts and Business
Center, and executive director of the Austin
African American Business Networking Association