State Rep. Janine Boyd (D-Cleveland Heights) condemns the recent destruction of a community garden in Cleveland Heights, where residents partnered with the city’s Nepalese immigrant community to plant and maintain the garden. More than 2,000 immigrants, many of whom left Nepal in search of a better life and to escape dictatorship, live in Northeast Ohio and nearly 100 live in Cleveland Heights.
“It occurs to me that the uprooting of a community garden designed to welcome immigrants may have been the result of hateful and bigoted anti-immigrant sentiment. Some at the federal and state levels of government have used such rhetoric to poison the hearts of those who fail to acknowledge the simple fact that our country is young—that our history is not far enough behind us to legislate, vote or even live as if it is,” said Rep. Boyd.
“When I had the privilege of visiting the World Holocaust Remembrance Center in Israel two years ago, I came across a letter on display from a U.S. Congressman in response to a concerned Cleveland Heights resident who lived on Kildare. It was dated June 7, 1939. It referenced the Congressman's intent to vote against the Wagner-Rogers bill, which proposed the admission of 20,000 refugee Jewish children from Germany in addition to the immigration quota in law during that period. The Congressman stated in his response that he would be voting against the bill because there were already ‘20 million people relying on the federal government for relief,” and that when these immigrant children grew up they would likely “displace 20,000 young Americans engaged in the same [job] search.’ This sentiment is all too familiar.”
The community garden was constructed during a summer camp that Cleveland Heights residents Jay-Rod Johnson and Steven Walker organized for the youth in their community.
“When we started this camp, we realized there was a huge Nepalese population living in the community and felt it was important to help these families feel included in their neighborhood,” said Walker. “When we started building the garden, we noticed that more and more neighbors were coming out and assisting us, doing the hard labor to create a space where the community can come together.”
“After the vandalism, people in the community told us to consider putting a lock on the gate of the garden, but we didn’t want to create a mindset of keeping certain people out,” said Johnson. “Since the Nepalese face a language barrier, they would see the lock and feel like they are being locked out of their community. Instead, we want to build a community that acts as its own lock by building trust with one another. That will keep hatred out and love in.”
The garden is completely volunteer driven.
“There are people among us who choose to use our country’s young history to further divide us and cause destruction, like thieves in the night. In Cleveland Heights and House District 9, however, we will continue to use our history to unite us,” added Rep. Boyd. “This week, we will come together to restore a piece of welcoming earth and give root once more to light and kindness. We will brighten the night.”