"Gardening is My Graffiti": Ron Finley, the Gangsta Gardener, for Beyond the Streets

June 12, 2018

"Gardening is my graffiti," Ron Finley says inside his "Gangsta Gardener" installation outside of Beyond the Streets in Los Angeles. "Mine is really on the street." If you don't know Ron Finley, he widely known in LA as the "Gangsta Gardener," but most importantly, he has changed the way people in vast inner cities can reimagine their urban environment and use the space for healthy food and transform the way a city can look. This is real street art.

Meet Ron Finley, a man who will not sit still and watch a problem take root. Having grown up in the South Central Los Angeles food prison, Ron is familiar with the area’s lack of fresh produce. He knew what it’s like to drive 45 minutes just to get a fresh tomato.

In 2010, he set out to fix the problem. Outside his front door, that is. Ron planted vegetables in the curbside dirt strip next to his home. And quietly, carefully, tenderly started a revolution. "I wanted a carrot without toxic ingredients I didn’t know how to spell," says Ron.

The City of Los Angeles owns the “parkways” the neglected dirt areas next to roads where Ron was planting. He was cited for gardening without a permit. This slap on the wrist did little to dissuade his green thumb. So Ron fought back. Hard. He started a petition with fellow green activists, demanding the right to garden and grow food in his neighborhood and then, the city backed off. This caught the eyes of creative leaders and media voices that lauded his courageous act of ebullient defiance. Ron has continued to share his story and vision with the world, giving a TED talk and planning many exciting ways to continue his involvement in mitigating Los Angeles food prisons.

Determined to change South Central Los Angeles from food desert to food forest, he wants his actions to be educational, inspiring, and nutritious. He wants kids to grow up with the option of healthy food, instead of fried, fattening staples. He wants to sweep up and transform his street, his hood, the city of LA and communities everywhere.

Ron Finley's garden installation is at the entryway of Beyond the Streets, open through July 6, 2018 in Los Angeles.