This week we're focused on a proposed highway project that would run through inner-city Shreveport, LA. As part of that, we're sharing the stories of the Allendale neighborhood, a community that would be directly harmed by this expensive and unnecessary interstate connector.
One of the shining beacons in the Allendale neighborhood is the Allendale Garden of Hope & Love. Each Allendale resident I interviewed mentioned the positive impact of this garden on the whole community. Started by a passionate long-time resident, Rosie Chaffold, the garden sits on the quiet residential corner of Buena Vista St and Allen Ave. Every single one of the proposed I-49 highway routes (besides the loop around the city) would run directly through this garden and demolish it.
The Allendale Garden is just one example of a community asset that the city wants to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to destroy with a highway. Today, we're sharing a brief history of the garden through the words of Ms. Chaffold so you can understand the storms it has weathered and its value for the city of Shreveport.
In a video interview about the Allendale Garden of Hope & Love, Rosie Chaffold explains that back in the 80s and 90s, Allendale was a hub of drug dealing and criminal activity. She’d been living there for about ten years at that point and considered moving out when the drugs came in, but she was a homeowner and didn’t have much money, so moving would have been tough, if not impossible. “[I thought], why not stay here and try to work with what I have?” she explains in the video interview. “I said, I’m going to start working this corner. […] If the [drug dealers are] going to kill me, they’re going to kill me trying to do something.”
She contacted the owner of an empty lot on a corner who gave her permission to start a flower and vegetable garden to bring both beauty and fresh food into the neighborhood. Her theory was, “If people could see one spot in a bad neighborhood that was good, maybe there would be some other spots in the neighborhood that would [improve].”
Then a local nonprofit, Community Renewal International, began partnering with neighborhood residents including Chaffold, to help revitalize the neighborhood through housing, community events and the creation of Friendship Houses. This increased the momentum of the garden further. Now the neighborhood was moving in a positive direction.
“It brings people together that had no idea that they’d have anything in common with anybody,” says Chaffold. “It’s just amazing what a garden will do.” One example of this is that the drug dealers who at first threatened Chaffold when she started her garden, eventually became contributors to the garden. And today there are other community gardens throughout Shreveport, inspired by Chaffold’s initiative.
“Once you start meeting and greeting with people, you realize that […] people in general want the same thing that everybody else wants and that’s peace, happiness and safety,” Chaffold states. “Why not work with the things we have in common and try to fix those that we don’t have in common?”
The Allendale Garden of Hope & Love has been a positive rallying point for this neighborhood, symbolizing its rebirth and bringing the community together.
To lose this garden because of an unnecessary inner city highway would not just be a loss of beauty and fresh food, it would also be a loss of neighborhood history, momentum and fellowship.
(All photos by Rev. Johannes Myors unless otherwise noted)