I first heard about Planting Justice while inside San Quentin. I read about a 90 day Insight Garden Program class to learn about gardening, with the prospect of getting hired by Planting Justice upon parole at $17.50 per hour. Most folks were very doubtful, but I decided to give it a ago ... and it was true. When I paroled in April of 2012, I was able to start work with Planting Justice on my birthday, May 1st. I got to know some of the Planting Justice staff, and went on my first job with Or and Quincy. After attending a two week training at Rubicon I got help getting my ID and license.
I felt welcomed at Planting Justice. It was a family setting. I knew a little about planting and had some limited skills with tools.
Gardening skills and unity on the team continues to get stronger as we build more and more gardens. Nowadays - I can build a garden by myself. I can sheet mulch, build redwood raised vegetable beds, plant them up, install automatic irrigation system. I know a lot about individual types of veggies and trees and how to care for them. I'm learning more about the design process: I can imagine what a garden will look like five to ten years down the road after we install it. "It's more than a 'job' for me. It feels like I'm working with my family."
I'm physically stronger and Planting Justice has helped me with my communication skills. I enjoy weekly yoga with the team. I've been able to meet other organizations and people in the movement. Planting Justice is a big part of my life ... it has kept me out of trouble. It's part of my identity ... I tell everyone about my work and that I'm making $20 per hour at this point. When I got out, my friends that had been out of jail told me how hard it was going to be in the streets... that there wasn't any work. I was lucky enough to have a job when I came out, and I can't even imagine what their experience was like... or how it would have been for me without my relationship with Planting Justice.
I got married on December 3rd, 2012 and was proud to be able to pay for the wedding. In January 2013, we found out that my wife had cancer. I've had a lot of support from my co-workers in dealing with this situation. She is now going through chemotherapy. Even though she's tired all the time, its working and the cancer is going away.
I'm excited for the future. I'm looking forward to working out on the Planting Justice farm in El Sobrante. I'm gonna be around for a while - they are going to have to roll me away from Planting Justice on a wheelchair.