LIVING FOR CHANGE
I Dream A Garden
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, July 4, 2010
“I Dream a Garden”
Come into the circle—circle of life
Come into the dream of a paradise
What was once a ruin can be reborn
Just like the sun after a storm.
With our hands—with our hearts
With this land—we can make a new start.
Everything we need is beneath our feet
There’s a new way to live—
with our roots planted so deep
Every step is a blessing
Every song is a prayer
Every seed is a healing
That the world will share
In the early evening of June 25, 2010, the fifth day of the 2nd United States Social Forum, a generationally and ethnically very diverse group of USSF activists sang “I Dream a Garden” and danced the Harvest Dance, combining Native American, African American and Asian American steps, on the lawn of Genesis Lutheran Church,
Genesis Church is on the corner of Mack and E. Grand Blvd, a few hundred feet north of the Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. We danced there because Gerald Hairston, the Gardening Angel who sparked the urban agricultural movement in Detroit, was a member of Genesis, he was also a member of the class of 1964, the last graduating class of Eastern High School which occupied this corner before it was renamed King High School and moved a few miles southeast to Lafayette and Mt. Elliot.
“I Dream a Garden” was written and choreographed by Nobuko Miyamoto, an Asian American community artist who as a child was interned during World War II even though she was a Sansei whose ancestors had lived in this country for three generations.
Nobuko danced on Broadway, in the original Flower Drum Song, in 1959, and in films such as The King and I (1955) and West Side Story (1961).
In 1978 she founded Great Leap as an Asian-American arts organization. Today Great Leap is a thriving, multicultural performing arts group that gives voice to the experience of contemporary Asian-Americans as well as African-Americans, Latinos, Native Americans and other groups. Great Leap’s multicultural performances reach tens of thousands of children and youths in the public schools in southern California and the U.S.
In 1992, responding to tensions between Los Angeles’s African-American and Asian-American communities, Nobuko Miyamoto took what she had learned with Great Leap to shape a healing multicultural touring show that includes Latinos and African-Americans and is called “A Slice of Rice, Frijoles, and Greens.” Great Leap’s theme song and ongoing residency program, “To All Relations,” brings together people from diverse backgrounds to explore and tell their own stories, thereby creating an alternative narrative for the world’s future. “I believe there is no better way than the arts to open the cultural, racial, and economic chasms which abound,” she says. “We have a powerful, creative tool to educate, entertain, and transform our world.”
Ten years ago I invited Nobuko to Detroit where she worked with Detroit Summer youth and was inspired by Gerald Hairston’s Gardening Angels dreams. After Gerald’s death in 2001, she wrote and choreographed “I Dream a Garden” and we performed it on the Genesis lawn in 2002.
This year Renee Wallace and Jeannine Hatcher of Genesis Hope invited Nobuko and landscape architect Ashley Kyber, who was also a friend of Gerald’s, to return to Detroit during the 2nd USSF to re-create “I Dream a Garden” because they believe Gerald’s Gardening Angels legacy can expand and enrich community organizing on the east side of Detroit.
My USSF Conversation with Immanuel Wallerstein can be read here.