In 2015, Sophia Poe and Justin DiBerardinis, two staff members at Bartram’s Garden welcomed me to a meeting in their Business Office. We had a very ambitious conversation but little did I know that it would be the beginning of a successful partnership between Bartram’s Garden and the Coalition of African Communities (AFRICOM).
During the meeting, we talked about the renewed vision to open the doors of the Garden and build bridges with cross-cultural communities and families who live, work, and socialize in the vicinity. Of course, I committed AFRICOM because networking, partnerships, and leveraging existing community resources are what makes us unique
But I must admit that before the meeting, I had not visited the Garden for a decade or so, even though I frequently drive by the entrance at 54th Street and Lindbergh Boulevard. Like me, hundreds of immigrants and refugees have felt distant from the Garden as if it were the private property of Mr. Bartram alone. Many pass by on their way to their to their mechanics, grocery stores, churches, mosques, and playgrounds, without venturing through the gates to contemplate, touch, or smell the soothing flora of the garden. Why didn’t I make time for a visit? Why don’t other immigrants? Who can tell? The reasons are numerous but they are also surmountable.
For sure, the 2015 conversation broke new grounds for AFRICOM. We found a new partner––an excellent one! AFRICOM has become the connector between Bartram’s Garden and the over 4,000 African and Caribbean immigrants and refugees in Southwest Philadelphia. Working with Bartram’s Garden, AFRICOM has been a recipient of a Neighborhood YES Fund grant and then served on the grantmaking committee of the same fund. We have also attended youth programs led by the Sankofa Community Farm, participated in focus groups, and served on the planning committee for riverfront redevelopment. In addition to the families and churches that already grow their own food at the Sankofa Community Farm, our partner organizations, agencies and trainers were encouraged to bring their events to the garden. AFAHO’s Annual Family and Friends’ Day in conjunction with AFRICOM and AFRICOM’s health forums exemplify the increasing presence of African and Caribbean immigrants and refugees at Bartram’s Garden.
This year, we are more excited and confident that we are on the right track to inspire more immigrants and refugees to know, use, and connect with “their” Bartram’s Garden. In December 2018, the Samuel Fels Fund awarded AFRICOM and Bartram’s Garden a grant to turn the garden into a prime destination for African and Caribbean immigrants by hosting health, cultural, leadership training, and civic engagements programs and activities. We look forward to another wonderful season together!
Eric Edi is the Executive Director of AFRICOM
6328 Paschall Avenue, Suite A
Tel: 267 787 1302