Father and Son Reflect on Southwest Summers and New Opportunities

Can you each introduce yourselves?

Steven Young, Jr.: I’m Steven Young, Junior. I go to Carver Engineering and Science. I’m seventeen and an incoming twelfth grader.

Steven Young, Sr.: And I’m Steven Young, Senior. I was born and raised in Southwest Philadelphia. I returned to Southwest and I’m raising my family in Southwest.

Jr: Full circle!

Sr: (nodding) Full circle.

How did you first get connected with Bartram’s Garden?

Sr: As a child, we used to sneak in to go sledding at the Garden. We didn’t know we weren’t sneaking in, but we felt like we were. The nature part is what brought me back. When I got married, we—my wife and I—would come and just explore, to take in the scenery.

Jr: For me, I go back to . . . elementary school?

Sr: Before that! We used to bring him here as a toddler

Jr: Well, I don’t remember that. But I remember when my mom was a school coordinator, she had an event down here, and we were giving out art that the kids at Tilden [Middle School] were making, and I was helping out with that—actually right across from the farm by the slide.

Jr: When I started high school I interviewed for the job at Sankofa [Community Farm] when I was fourteen, and I got the job. I’ve been working here four years now. It doesn’t feel like that long ago and it is long ago. When I say it out loud I feel how old I’m getting, but I don’t have the luxury of saying I’m old yet.

You’re an old soul!

Sr: How many times have you heard that?

Jr: (shaking head) Too many!

What are you working on now that you want people to know about?

Jr: I’m working during the summer with a couple of coworkers at Sankofa and we’re going to try to find local community gardens––I shouldn’t say where yet! But we’ll try to fix them up, get some garden beds, maybe an orchard—basically replicating what we have here and try to spread it all around.

Sr: We have been going out spreading the word about what’s available in the Garden, to try to promote use for the community members. [Bartram’s Garden] is an underutilized resource that’s right in everyone’s backyard. What I have found is that the kids are some of the best ambassadors, so just trying to get people to bring their kids out.

What feels exciting to you lately in Southwest?

Sr: Seeing the development and seeing it coming into the beginning stages. Because of my profession, when I see infrastructure work going on, I know where that leads, and I know that’s the precursor for change.

Jr: For me, because I’m starting to creep towards the behind-the-scenes work, I’m having a greater understanding of what it takes for what he said—for change to happen. So I see good and bad changes, but for me I’m seeing a lot of positive change: in the people getting involved, and the connections being built, and just everything coming and meshing together. I obviously haven’t been here for the very beginning of it but I’ve been here early enough to see that this wasn’t here before and now it’s coming about. I can see how it’s all coming together and it’s exciting.

Sr: (chuckling) I’m just looking at him and sometimes I find it funny that he’s seventeen!

Best summertime experience in Southwest?

Sr: Currently or ever? For me it was playing in a fire hydrant—a very, very long time ago. A few decades ago, wow! That was the age of innocence—just being kids. We were very adventurous kids. We used to go walk all around, we used to walk on the train tracks looking for snakes, we did it all. But it was a much simpler time and we were able to really explore the neighborhood.

Sr: There was a time when the city’s pools weren’t open––they went through a down period during the recession of the ‘70s––and I actually remember there was a blackout, a power outage, because we were in a heat wave. So they opened up the fire hydrants and we were just cooling off, being kids.

Jr: You reminded me of something. It was graduation from CPS Elementary School, and we had a big block party. We tried to combine my sister’s birthday party, my birthday party, and graduation all in one. I was really antisocial and didn’t know who to invite, but some people from my class came. I remember that was when I got my bike—I still have it!–and I was just riding down the block with my friends. We had all this food and ice cream, plus water balloons. It was the perfect excuse to hit my sister with a water balloon.

Steven Young, Sr. is a member of the Bartram’s Garden Board of Directors and the Southwest Philadelphia Community Leadership Team. Steven Young, Jr. is a rising twelfth grader and a youth leader at the Sankofa Community Farm at Bartram’s Garden.

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