Friday, November 16, 2012

Roman Harrison: interviewed by Pandora Lau

Shanika and Roman at the community
 mural near their painted selves in 2007
The Quesada Gardens Initiative, a community building organization in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood, has transformed Quesada Avenue into what it is today—a clean, safe, and friendly environment for all who reside there. It was created by the work of Annette Smith and Karl Paige, as well as all the volunteers who lent a hand, whose actions diminished the drugs, violence, crime, and fear that once embodied the neighborhood.
During my service at the gardens, I was lucky enough to interview 15 year-old Roman Harrison, a local of the neighborhood of 5 years. Roman is an environmental activist who has contributed his share to the gardens. In my interview with him, the changes and impact the Quesada Gardens Initiative has had on the neighborhood, from Roman's perspective, became clear.
Roman lived in Vallejo with his family prior to moving to San Francisco. Although his previous neighborhood was quiet and nice, he wouldn’t want to live anywhere else except his home today on Quesada Avenue.
Always active, Roman is pictured at age 10.
Roman has always been involved in environmentalist groups and practices “green” actions.  He has helped shut down a power plant and open new parks and buildings—experiences that he deems the “best time of life that I’ve had.” Actions like Roman’s are what changes the community and helps shape Quesada Gardens.
Roman believes that the gardens are great for the neighborhood.  They are places where people come to think, places to meet new people, and places just to feel safe.  The Quesada Gardens has had a positive effect on everyone involved in it, Roman believes, and has even shaped the attitudes of his friends. His grades, as well as his friend’s grades, have greatly improved with involvement of the initiative.
The events the Quesada Gardens Initiative has hosted in the neighborhood are great ways for new neighbors to integrate themselves into the area. Roman especially enjoyed “movie and game night,” where all the kids on his block come together and interacted by staying up all night long playing video games projected onto a wall next to the garden. Those things really draw the community closer and creates trust and understanding among different people, Roman says.
The aspect that Roman likes the most about Quesada Gardens is the power and positive effect it has on the community. He says that when people plant a seed in the garden, water it, watch it grow, and take care of it, then they learn to treasure and respect it, as they do with the community.

This interview was conducted by Pandora Lau in November 2010 as part of a University of San Francisco McCarthy Center service-learning project in partnership with Quesada Gardens Initiative.  Roman is a bit older, and every bit as active and loved by family, Quesada Gardens neighbors and friends.

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