Note: I wrote this story for the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation. It was originally published on December 17, 2014 on JKHF’s Medium.com page.
I. A Fight to Ignore
On a June morning this summer, a small group was working on a 16-by-16 plot of urban farm land in Southeast Raleigh when a fight broke out. Across the street two women were arguing over a cellphone. Shouting ensued, onlookers gathered, and the women began assaulting each other. The crowd grew, urging the fight on rather than breaking it up.
Akiba Byrd, a civic activist and entrepreneur, was supervising three youth and an intern on the farm that morning. He had been recently introduced to Nation Hahn, co-founder of the Jamie Kirk Hahn Foundation, who came to work with them on the project for the day. They watched intermittently as the fight persisted for what each says must have been half an hour. Nation mentions being disturbed and distracted by what he saw. It was so unfamiliar, and he couldn’t help but keep glancing up at it.
But each time he looked back at the youth on the farm, they remained heads down, completely absorbed in their work. They weren’t at all interested in the commotion across the street. For them, it was all too familiar.
As the fight raged, two little boys wandered up. They were holding ice cream cones. Rather than join the raucous, they wanted to know what all these big kids were doing. Why were they digging in the dirt? Farming was for the country, could they really do this in the city? Could they really do this in their neighborhood?
“They were completely fixated on this garden, this small garden,” Nation would tell me later, fascinated by the reaction. “And it was like they were entirely oblivious to this loud and violent fight just across the street. They just stood there eating ice cream and asking questions about the garden.” Continue Reading…