Community Greens

People of all colors discussing evergreen ideas.


From New York to Oakland to Detroit and back again … This year’s #sixthannual #blackfarmersconference is happening right here in #eastharlem this Friday-Sunday, November 4-6, at Harlem Renaissance High School. Tomorrow’s events include tours of area community gardens, and featured speakers on Saturday include Savi Horne of the Land Loss Prevention Project, Owusu Bandele from the Southern University Agricultural Research and Extension Center, and Walter Hill of @tuskegeeuniversity. For details and tickets, see #bugs #blackfarmers #urbangrowers #harlem


Filed under: African-American, Blacks, Community Gardens, Community Green, Events, , , , , , , , ,

Kale & Squash Soup on a Woolworth Spoon


I eat kale as often as I can so I am always looking for new recipes and experimenting with old ones. This Kale and Squash Soup came together since my GrowNYC’s Fresh Food Box @ Uptown Grand Central included those items. The Patty Pan Squash added a wonderful flavor to the soup. Any squash will do. The taste will change slightly but the soup will still taste great. I also got a head of cauliflower. In food markets the greens are generally removed. In outdoor markets, the greens are usually still attached. I cut the tender greens from the stalks and used them as a substitute for the kale a couple days later with the remaining squash. Great switch! The poblano pepper came from my Milk Crate Garden.

I always eat soup with my Woolworth spoon. It reminds me that in January 1960 I couldn’t have eaten at a Woolworth Lunch Counter and by August I could because of the power of solidarity and non violent protest. There was a Woolworth’s on Bathgate Avenue in the Morrisania neighborhood I grew up in.

My grandmother would take me shopping with her and I’d watch her pick fruit and vegetables and haggle with vendors. We occasionally went to Woolworth’s to buy notions but I don’t ever remember eating there. My grandmother might have gotten service at the counter but I was probably “too colored”. My grandmother died in 1966. I am glad she lived long enough to see the world changing.

Kale & Squash Soup

1½ cups onion, diced
1½ tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable stock or water (plus a bit more to adjust liquid to your personal taste)
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 poblano pepper, diced
4 cups kale, chopped
4 cups squash, chopped
3/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated

Sauté onions and pepper in oil for 5 minutes or until soft.
Add garlic and cook for an additional minute.
Add stock, salt and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add kale and squash and cook about 12 minutes or until tender. Add more vegetable stock if your soup needs more liquid, and warm through.
Check seasoning, adjust as needed, and serve sprinkled with grated parmesan cheese.

Makes 8 servings


GrowNYC’s Fresh Food Box @ Uptown Grand Central

Filed under: CGCooks, Community Green, Food, Gardening, It Takes A Village, Morrisania, , , , , , , ,

Growing Up Morrisania: Kids Eat Radishes


The tenement basement I lived in was midway between Public School 63 and Crotona Park. I walked to P.S. 63 at an early age and, given the distance, my brother and I were allowed to go to the park on our own. Mom would often take us to picnic in the park. She would pack sandwiches, salads and the Sunday paper in a shopping cart and off we’d go. She would spread a blanket on the grass and we’d spend pleasant afternoons napping under a tree. She’d keep an eye on us from the nearest bench because she never sat on the blanket. She dreaded insects but didn’t miss an opportunity to take us to the park. It was “outside” and a stark contrast to living “under the steps” of our apartment building. When, we were older, one of us would carry her folding aluminum lawn chair with the green and white vinyl webbing. The park became my private Sherwood Forest and I pretended to be all manner of people while playing there.

Crotona Park was enormous to us as little kids. I learned years later that it covers 127.5 acres (0.5 square miles). The park is known for its variety of trees and the 3.3-acre lake is home to fish, turtles, and ducks. There are 20 tennis hard courts (clay when I was a kid), five baseball diamonds, eleven playgrounds (up from nine) and a 300-foot pool, the largest pool in the Bronx. The pool was in the next park section over as were the baseball diamonds, tennis courts, and Indian Lake. I would have to cross additional streets to get to those areas on my own and, when small, that wasn’t allowed. That meant I couldn’t go to the pool. Heck, I couldn’t swim anyway.

I had a lot of freedom as a child, but there were some simple rules:
Don’t play in the street.
Never cross more than one street.
Never go around more than one corner.
Come home when the street lights come on.

I had considered breaking the street rule, but I still wouldn’t be able to get into the pool without an adult. Any adult friend of my mother would surely ask if I had my mother’s permission. The idea of asking a stranger to escort me into a public pool was such a moon-like thought I’m not sure it ever occurred to me.

When I was a kid:
Kids spoke when spoken to.
Kids didn’t talk to strangers.
Kids didn’t interrupt adults when they were speaking.
Kids didn’t do things without permission.

The older you got, the more rules you broke.

There was a playground in Crotona Park with a park house where you could borrow balls, bats, and board games when you were no longer swinging, tagging and climbing. Across from the playground, behind a fence, with two wishing wells with weather vanes, was the Farm Garden. My brother and I knew the difference between flowers and vegetables, but we didn’t have any plants at home. We never really thought about growing stuff. We didn’t get much sunlight.

One bright, warm day I spoke to the woman who managed the Farm Garden. Well, she actually spoke to us first. My brother and I, tired of the other things we could do, had peered through the gate at the strange things growing behind the fence. Rob and I watched as the woman went to and fro carrying tools and watering cans or vegetables. Every now and then, she would glance over at us. When she began to walk towards us, we considered running off, but adventurous, we held our ground. She greeted us with, “How are you boys today?” We responded politely, as taught, with, “We’re well Ma’am.” We were brave, but not enough to ask her what she was doing. It looked liked gardening, but there weren’t any flowers.

We knew about flowers, even thought we were “city” kids. Mom, a H.S. graduate, worked in an office in the garment district and the evening she came home with an orchid corsage, I learned several things. Grandmother was a housekeeper for a baby doctor on West End Avenue and brought home just-past-fresh cut flowers sometimes. We were poor kids but wore chinos and striped tee shirts from Woolworth’s on Bathgate Avenue. We never wore denim. We didn’t own a pair of blue jeans. Field and factory folk wore dungarees. We were being raised to be something else. When she asked if we would like to come in, neither of us budged. When she asked if we’d like to know what she was doing, neither of us said a word. I guess we wore her down because finally she just smiled and said, “Come on in.”

She ushered us in and stopped when we were inside the gate almost as if, now that we were in her domain, we couldn’t get away. She said her name was Mrs. Xxyyzz, but we should call her Mrs. O. We were simply Chuck and Rob. Mrs. O, said, “Can you help me?” “You see that bush near the gate?” We half-turned and were surprised we had not noticed the remarkable plants flanking the gate. She took us towards them and, almost gleefully, asked me if I would pick one of the aspirin bottle cotton “flowers.” As I reached for the closest burst bloom, she pointed to a huge blossom well inside the plant and said, “No, that one.” I thrust my hand into the bush only to be scratched on the hand, wrist, and arm. I was genuinely wounded when I withdrew the boll.

Mrs. O reached for me and I thought to move away from this trickster but, before I could, she gently touched my shoulder and said, “Baby, now you know what it’s like to pick cotton.” “Let’s grow some vegetables!” I gave her an 8-year-old’s glare as she pulled a handkerchief from her apron and took off her hat to wipe her forehead. Her hair was white and braided in the same way as my grandmother. Except for the 360 degrees of pigment between them, they could be sisters.

I let her lead me toward the vegetables, Rob following, looking for any sign of trouble. I watched her carefully, after the incident with the cotton, as she pointed out this thing and that. In a blink, I ate vine-ripened, red tomatoes and discovered they were cousin to green peppers and purple things called eggplants. I found out peanuts could be eaten raw and potatoes, beets, and turnips grew underground with fascinating things called radishes.

I had heard of radishes. I knew they were one of the things Mom liked in her salad. Mrs. O pulled some up and washed them off under the faucet inside the wishing well. I recall asking Mrs. O, “Do kids eat radishes?” She said, “They do if they like them.” “There is only one way to find out.” Sitting in the shade, on the edge of the well with my feet dangling under cool running water, surrounded by vegetables, Rob and I enjoyed eating radishes.

Crotona Park Farm Garden Wish Well

Filed under: African-American, Arts & Culture, Bronx Parks, Community Green, , , , , , ,

BRONX:AFRICA Call to Artists

bca logo

The Bronx Council on the Arts, Longwood Art Gallery@Hostos invites artists across all disciplines to submit work samples or proposals for our upcoming BRONX:AFRICA exhibition opening February 2016.

(February 3 – May 4, 2016) The BRONX:AFRICA exhibit will feature contemporary art across disciplines along with special events throughout the Bronx. Our borough is home to major and still growing populations from across Africa. This vital presence influences and transforms our city. BRONX:AFRICA is a multidisciplinary and multimodal exploration of the art, expressions and influences of African cultures, and their impact as nationals mix and infuse. BRONX:AFRICA will explore and celebrate the influence of contemporary African cultures in the Bronx and reinforce connections among the many peoples of African descent, mixed heritage and migration-dispersion that call the Bronx home.
LeRonn Brooks, Exhibition Curator; Atim Oton, Curator, Community Engagement

How to Submit:
Please upload a resume and/or bio to your submittable application, along with up to 10 work samples.For installations and performance-based work – a description of the piece, visuals or footage, web links, budget and any special needs must be included in your submission.

Deadline to submit: Monday, September 14, 2015

No phone calls, please. Selected artists will be contacted by the exhibition staff. Please do not submit original art – work will not be returned.

This call is open to artists from all five boroughs. However, priority will be given to artists from the Bronx.

Visit the BCA website for information as it evolves

Filed under: African Art, African-American, Arts & Culture, BCA, Blacks, Community Green, , , , , , , , , , ,

Happy Birthday, Barbara!


Barbara and her friends walked, talking and laughing, down Franklin Avenue towards 169th Street. I listened to every word they said, acting like I wasn’t there. My big sister and her friends were on their way to the Delite Record Shop on Boston Road to buy the Ray Charles single, “I Can’t Stop Loving You”. It had shot to the top of the R&B charts and the girls couldn’t wait to get it. Barbara was turning 18 on Saturday and wanted the hottest 45’s for the house party they were having at Sharon’s. Sharon’s mother was a night duty nurse and left for work at 10 pm. She wouldn’t be back until 10 am the next day. The party would be un-chaperoned and the teenage conspirators thought, with careful cleaning, no one would ever know it was anything more than a girl’s sleepover.

Every now and then one of Barbara’s friends would say something an 8-year-old shouldn’t hear and glance over to see if I had been listening. Of course I was, but I would turn my head to watch a car go by or kick a pebble to prove my attention was elsewhere. Barbara never looked at me. She knew I wouldn’t tell. I had learned long ago not keeping her confidence meant no attention and, sandwiched between older and younger brothers, I needed Barbara to look out for me.

Jean mentioned George and Barbara stopped, tipped her head down and looked at her the way mom would glare at us when we were bad. George was 10 years older than Barbara and she had been dating him for 2 years. Mom didn’t like it but, as a single mom, she had her hands full raising 3 younger boys, taking care of an ailing mother and dealing with a teenage girl. Barbara breathed out as though she were about to say something then turned and walked on. The girls hesitated for a moment before they fell back to chattering. Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: African-American, Community Green, , , , , ,

About Community Greens

It takes more than a village to raise a child in today's world. The world is more than flat or round or sun and moon. It's also the village on the other side of the river. The objects in the sky are different from that view. Community Greens, griot-like, tells a story. I invite you to share my view.


Chuck Vasser

Blacks In Green

There are more of us people of color out there than you realize and we are coming together to express our concerns, ideas and sit at the table!

Bronx River Sankofa

Morgan Powell

Smiling Bellies
The First Day of SpringMarch 20th, 2018
What are you planting today?

Upcoming Events

  • CB 12 Parks, Rec and Env Concerns Mtg March 20, 2018 at 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm 4101 White Plains Rd, Bronx, NY 10466, USA
  • Just Food Conference 2018 March 25, 2018 Teachers College, Columbia University, 525 W 120th St, New York, NY 10027, USA
  • Bronx Master Composter Certificate Program March 27, 2018 at 10:00 am – 4:00 pm Applications due February 20. 8 Tuesdays, March 27–May 15, 6–9 p.m., 2 Saturdays in April, 10 a.m.–4 p.m. (TBD), New York Botanical Garden • Watson Education BuildingA train-the-trainer course that is designed to promote the practice of composting. Deadline is February 20. Apply here.
  • GreenThumb Grow Together March 31, 2018 at 9:00 am – 3:00 pm Borough of Manhattan Community College, 199 Chambers St, New York, NY 10007, USA
  • Fruit Tree Care April 7, 2018 at 11:00 am – 1:00 pm Little Green Garden/Rock Garden, Bronx Have you ever wondered what you can do to get a great harvest from fruit trees in your…
  • NYCHA 16th Annual Garden Conference April 13, 2018 at 8:00 pm – 1:30 am Johnson Community Center, 1833 Lexington Ave, New York, NY 10029, USA
  • Beekeeping: An Introduction (Bronx) April 24, 2018 at 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm Risse Street Community Garden, Bronx Curious about bees for honey and pollination in your community garden? Join Liane Newton…
  • Tropical Accent Design May 15, 2018 at 5:30 pm – 7:00 pm Edith Community Garden, Bronx In this workshop, we will use our warm growing season to cultivate fast growing tropical…
  • Direct Sow and Transplant May 19, 2018 at 11:00 am – 1:00 pm River Garden, Bronx Want to grow more food in less space? Tired of struggling or having stunted transplants?…

The CG Fit Chick

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“Even though this planet is round, there are just too many spots where you can find yourself hanging onto the edge, unless there’s some space, some place to take a breather for a while.” –Gloria Naylor


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