Three years ago, a group of volunteers in Pittsburgh’s Larimer neighborhood decided to do something about an empty, overgrown lot that had become an eyesore in their community. Where that vacant lot once was now sits the African Healing Garden, which serves both as a tool education and relaxation for Larimer residents.
The group of volunteers behind the Healing Garden was led by longtime community organizer Betty Lane.
90.5 WESA’s Elaine Effort recently met Lane at the garden’s Meadow Street location for a tour and to discuss the inspiration for the project.
Below are excerpts from their conversation for our series 90.5 WESA Celebrates: 90 Neighborhoods, 90 Good Stories.
Portions of this conversation have been edited for length and clarity.
Lane on why a community garden was a fitting replacement for an abandoned lot:
"I feel like there needs to be a lot of healing, not just in this community, but all around the city. Having lived through the gangs in this neighborhood and all of the violence and the killing, I felt like there needed to be a place of solace; a place where people could just come and sit and smell the aromas or just sit and relax, or to come and just have a class so that the children can come and enjoy the plants and learn about the plants.
For me, it's just a place of solace. And to use the name African Healing Garden--I feel like it takes it back to the motherland."
Lane on how she thinks the garden brings the Larimer community together:
"One of the things that I like about the garden so much is that--it's everybody planting. It's everybody putting in something, in terms of--if you're not able to do weeds or something like that, they're putting their ideas here.
I have to say this--the community respects the garden. Because they haven't come in here and tried to trash it, because it's not locked. You know what I mean? So, I feel like they do respect it; they don't come in and try to destroy things. I'm very grateful for that too."
Lane on her favorite spot in the garden:
"Well, you know, I like to sit on that rock that's right above the pond. I like to sit over there on that rock because it's natural. I like to sit by the water. I like to hear the water, I like to hear the sound of the water running."