Today was our second day of service and we continued our work with Green Opportunities and the inspiring DeWayne Barton. We started out the morning with DeWayne explaining his reasons for starting the organization and how after hearing neighborhood kids shooting guns near his house, he knew he had to create real change. He decided the only way to create that change was through the help of the community and working through grassroots movements. After unveiling more of DeWayne’s very complex and mysterious character our team went back to GO headquarters and got a tour of the Reed Community Center.
The Community Center is being built by community workers, using green materials, and is going to be used as a training center for community workers. Following DeWayne back to the Peace Garden, he pulled over to the side of the road and got out of the car to talk to us. He saw a renovated community building that contracted to outside workers instead of employing one of the 22% of unemployed members of the community of Asheville. DeWayne was clearly still outraged that this had occurred and that the town had allowed outsiders to come take jobs that could have been given to members of the community to assist their own community. This outraged man has more passion and loyalty to a community than I have ever seen in my life.
At GO headquarters we also spoke to Anthony, a GO employee and leader who helped incarcerated individuals get back on their feet and back to work. He spoke to us about the importance of community and the importance of finding people sustainable jobs.
We visited the Pisgah Community Garden and talked to a few members of the GO Training Team (GOTT). They were chasing chickens and planting seeds. Intrigued by working with actual members, myself and a few other members of our team stayed at this garden, while others spent the day back at the Burton Community Peace Garden with DeWayne, creating art and tightening up the space. The rest of us stayed to help the GOTT in the community garden. I chose to shovel dirt for the new crops. The rest of our team that was in the garden went to plant seeds, I shoveled with eight GO members and got to talk to them one-on-one. We joked, and laughed and broke a sweat getting to know each other in the cold weather. I talked to them about their lives, many of them under the age of 24 and already with children. They talked about the importance of making a steady income and how there are certain standards they follow at work like no sagging pants and no using your phone. They also talked about their love and dedication to DeWayne. There was a distinct type of loyalty and appreciation that they all seemed to have for him. DeWayne had even explained that once you joined GO, you were family.
Reconvening at the Peace Garden after a hard days work I got to walk around and see the art my team members created. The garden that once seemed kind of creepy and unwelcoming now seemed like a place to learn and reflect and call home. I was surprised that DeWayne had invited the input of our team members to create entire pieces of art in his garden. It was touching that he had that kind of trust in us. After talking to him about community movements and particularly about his opinions regarding the Iraqi War, I no longer questioned his work, instead embracing his every idea and helping in the Peace Garden as much as I could even in our last half hour there.
Saying goodbye to DeWayne and to GO was difficult. While I am eager to canvas and to work with another grassroots movement in a completely different way, I know that I will never have another experience like the one I had with DeWayne and with Green Opportunities.
Our team had a fantastic reflection and really seemed to have a better sense of resolution after last nights discussion of confusion and conflict. Our team seems to be getting a long a lot better too, bonding well and laughing a lot. I am shocked that it is already half over. I love Sweet Peas Hostile and adore the city of Asheville. While I will be sad to leave this town I have begun to call home, I am also eager to bring back some of these ideas to Lafayette and to Easton. I would love to inspire individuals in Easton to work towards sustainable jobs through the impact of artwork and community works.