You can view the newest episode of #DownDiRoad right below, but I implore you to stay and read the article as well as view the photo gallery!
Fleet Street, Parade Gardens, Kingston Jamaica.
If someone mentioned the community of Parade Gardens a few years ago, if you even knew of it you’d probably just associate it with that one word…. “ghetto.”
I mean, based on the socio-economical conditions that determine a community falling in that category, Parade Gardens fits the description, but what you need to realize is that this community is a ghetto paradise.
There are a group of young men who grew up in the community, and they decided that they were going to take their lives into their own hands. They wouldn’t let the crime & violence define them or the community and they would breathe life into the community, so that’s what they did and Life Yard was born.
Life Yard as defined by it’s members is a social enterprise, the first multicultural, intergenerational eco-village of it’s kind in Kingston. At this point in time it is not just a physical space but a movement, with it’s group members and affiliates spearheading several community outreach programmes. The programmes are mostly based on Fleet Street but they have started spreading throughout Parade Gardens and it’s neighbouring communities.
Life Yard’s Executive Director is Shane “Eyeball” Morgan and the Director Secretary is Romaine “Sabukie” Allen. They weren’t on site when I visited, but members Orville, Shango, Loyal, Asher & Shasane gave me some insight on the whole movement & what they are doing in the community. It was a joy to sit among them & have a reasoning. The topics discussed in the Life Yard courtyard are vast & wide, we started with life in general & ended up talking about the new NIDS programme. That’s what I love the most about Life Yard, they are welcoming to people from all walks of life & are interested in connecting with everybody on a personal level.
I think the most significant programme to ever come out of Life Yard has been Paint Jamaica, which was the catalyst for Life Yard’s exponential growth. Paint Jamaica was founded by Marianna Farag, a French native who came to Jamaica in 2014. Marianna was inspired to start the Paint Jamaica movement & subsequently collaborated with several local & international artistes to give Fleet Street the face lift, which has aided in their new trajectory to becoming one of Kingston’s major eco & community tourism destinations.
In the words of Marianna, “the idea at heart was to change and revolutionize the relationship between art, talent and society. However, along with creative expression, Paint Jamaica had a greater social cause which was to change the negative stigma around Kingston’s inner cities.” The project has done just that.
Life Yard & Paint Jamaica now go hand in hand, and are the backbones of a revitalised Fleet Street. Visitors now come from near & far to see the murals that have been painted at 41 Fleet Street, the big abandoned warehouse which is the original home of the Paint Jamaica project. Fleet Street is now one of Kingston’s most popular street art landmarks and a real life reflection of work being done by the Life Yard team & their associates.
The children feel so at home in the warehouse, it’s a joy to see them outdoors having fun in a place you could never imagine.
The members participate in farming (the Farm Jamaica programme which is affiliated with Life Yard had early beginnings from the the own farm located on the compound), furniture making, arts & craft projects, writing workshops & many more programmes, but they also operate the Life Yard Vegan & Vegetarian restaurant & juice bar. Most importantly I think, they are also operating as a community centre, spearheading several initiatives that are teaching inner-city children how to become farmers, craftsmen & entrepreneurs themselves.
Life Yard is promoted a social enterprise, but it’s members also realize that it is & are promoting it as a tourist attraction. I came to learn that each member has their own individual skill set, which when combined form a cohesive ecosystem of sorts which naturally aids in reaching Life Yard’s goals.
The efforts of the team at Life Yard have not gone unrecognized. This year they were the recipients of The Caribbean Heritage Organization’s Robert Nesta Marley Humanitarian Award. The work does not stop here. These young men have a vision, one for a better Jamaica & they have taken the first step in seeing this vision become a reality.
What also made this experience extra special for me, was that I was able to share it with a very popular Italian based Youtuber, Ms. Tia Taylor who is in the island on vacation. She reached out to me for some advise on places to go in Kingston & luckily I was able to bring her & have her experience Life Yard first hand.
I truly appreciate the work that the Life Yard team is doing & I will try my best to be involved in some way shape or form, because at some point in life, when you want change you have to make the first step.
In my view Life Yard is heart of Fleet Street. I would implore everyone to make a visit & speak with the Life Yard team. It’s truly a life changing experience.
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For more images of my Life Yard & Fleet Street tour, check out the gallery below.