MARCH FORTH, MY FRIENDS
We assemble for a friend’s birthday party and it doesn’t take me long to realize all of these friends I’ve made over the years come from completely different backgrounds and schoolings with one main defining similarity.
They are all farmers.
These friends I’ve connected with for all sorts of reasons, when it comes right down to it, enjoy nothing more than putting their hands in the dirt and making seeds come to life.
So here we are, sitting in a circle discussing a variety of tools from permaculture and the changing growing seasons, as well as what native seeds we got at the most recent seed trade and how owned land is hard to come by, so making due with squatting on abandoned land works just as well.
As the conversation moves into a reaction towards regressive politicians, the night begins to take on the look and feel of a general assembly. And as I look around me, I realize the free radicals around me are all regenerative agriculturalists. These guerilla warriors are planting corn where a rowhome burned down 20 years ago and garbage has been disposed of since.
They’re the people on the frontlines of every protest, dressed in all black, taking cracks from the policeman’s billy club.
They’re the clowns in the background raising spirits.
In all of this, they’re the ones making moves when a lot of us feel frozen. Urban gardeners continuing to prepare for the apocalypse.
Their gardens are the next to be lost. In this city, like every city, that cares more about tax revenue than moderating development to make sure developers keep in tune with the identity of the neighborhood they rape and pillage, green space is running out.
These gardeners have already lawyered up, organized petitions, and cut locks to keep their gardens operating. Food For The People are words of revolution for them.
A day later, I’m in the streets of my old neighborhood. I’m playing trumpet in a New Orleans style death march for a cat that passed away only recently. We’re all dressed in shiny, psychedelic costumes from Mummers parades past. Some of us have drums, kazoos, fireworks and other noisemakers.
The march starts with somber notes. Slow and cold we fill the street, holding a walking vigil. I feel like I’m playing a melody that is for the death of my old home in East Kensington. We pass shoddily built condos. $450,000 4-story megahomes. They’re all ugly behemoths atop streets full of sinkholes and cracked concrete. I remember all the former lots, the former community gardens, the weird art sculptures, and the grounds we had pop up music shows in.
Some of us are weeping. A lot of us are feeling glad to feel this warmth of community. We bury the cat and our leader who is part Cherokee sings a song of returning the earth to its former glory. Encouraging the grass to grow where the burial mound now is.
A neighbor overhears one of us discussing how shitty her giant condo is. She yells, “Hey, I heard that. I heard you saying that about my house.” Drunk, the guy says he doesn’t care. He can’t wait till it falls down in three years.
There’s a lot of tension and I think to myself, “Welcome to Philly.”
Someone does eventually say, “Welcome to the neighborhood.”
At that we start marching again. This time the melodies are upbeat and raucous. “Oh when the saints…go marching in….oh when the saints go marching in.”
There are a lot of drum break downs and horn solos and the band starts singing as their followers join in dancing.
Eventually we make it back to the house party for March Fourth.
“March Forth,” everyone yells.
A simple parade. Perhaps the beginning of new traditions.