The heartbeat of Fleet Street – Life Yard hoping to impact and enact real change in inner city
The events of 2020 have underscored the ever-present necessity of Life Yard’s mission for the past six years – connecting the youth within the inner city with opportunities to transform their lives through the arts and agriculture.
Located smack in the centre of Parade Gardens – which comprises two districts, namely, Southside and Tel Aviv, at 33 1/3 and 41 Fleet Street, Life Yard has been actively involved in community development as a social enterprise. At the helm of it, since 2014, are Shane Morgan and Romaine ‘Sabukie’ Allen.
Over time, Life Yard has evolved into a tourist attraction, promoting the positives of the inner city while educating visitors on the challenges. This has helped them to produce revenue that could be reinvested into remedial projects like Paint Jamaica, a pilot programme which became a permanent component of Life Yard. Others include the urban farm, recycling initiatives, monthly educational workshops teaching farming techniques, as well as clothing and textiles, jewellery making and the playing of instruments and creative writing. There are also storytelling sessions where children get to share their own stories and weekly movie nights – most of which have come to a standstill.
Allen told The Gleaner that the activities were seeing a decline before the pandemic. “None of the community-based programmes have been [as] active as we would love for them to be for some time, not only because of the spread of the coronavirus but because of the sporadic, [incremental] violence within Parade Gardens and our neighbouring communities. Though it is because of this why our team decided to provide the youth with opportunities to uplift themselves, we cannot afford to endanger lives,” Allen said.
We are hoping our involvement as Supreme Heroes not only shines a light on underlying communities, but for it to be impactful, to enact real change, and that has to come from the inside.
“There [are] a myriad of factors and barriers our youths are faced with that stop them from realising their full potential whether because of political segregation, but the principles we follow [are] to strengthen our framework and connect us to our heritage, to keep us consistent in our approach,” he continued. He emphasises that all has not been lost. The aim has been to inspire youth – no strings attached – and remains the same. The Life Yard team, inclusive of 10 other core members: Corey Jackson, Rushane Morgan, Sashagaye Vassell, Nikaila Williams, Danijah Taylor, Everton Roberts, Andre Williams, Romar Brown, Raheem Scott and Orville Carter have continued on their mission. It is for this reason that the organisation earned a nomination for the Supreme Heroes outreach programme powered by the Supreme Ventures Foundation, in partnership with Changemakers Limited and the Mona Entrepreneurial and Commercialization Centre.
EACH ONE, TEACH ONE
They have followed the principles and teachings of the Rastafari Movement, as well as of those of Marcus Garvey, meanwhile employing the ‘each one, teach one’ philosophy by helping to foster the literacy of many young people in the community.
“If we had given up on what Life Yard is, it wouldn’t be setting a good example,” said Allen, adding that it is the heartbeat of Fleet Street. “Our message to the youths is still clear, never to give up yourself nor your dreams, even when it seem like all hope is lost, and to merge the energy and merge with the earth to develop healthy attitudes and lifestyles.”
He said the team is grateful for the nomination, given Life Yard’s history and track record of programmatic impact. Being one of four Supreme Heroes, “we will be able to fuel new strategies with a set of unique assets that can be beneficial in refining our organisation from the ground up,” shared Allen. Life Yard already has an edge as a registered social enterprise with a five-year business plan.
According to Allen, they are getting the skills and support to reclaim the organisation’s identity, and they will pay it forward by using the knowledge to educate others on social enterprises and their roles in the inner city. While the programme cannot directly influence children to get involved or increase the numbers of tourists, that drive the tours – which once, were up to 40 per day, but now, down to three – it is effective in delivering the business tools. These tools include proper customer service and constructing business plans which are needed to add momentum to smaller projects, which, he shares, “most of the members have grasped”.
“All of us have been thrust into a new normal, but we can find ways and means by being more equipped to achieve what we represent, that is, mobilising and making our community the largest multicultural and arts space. Life Yard will be able to matriculate beyond the present patterns and routines using the resources we are being provided with,” Allen expressed.
He added, “For example, the rains have more than dampened our eco-farming space, but it has influenced more backyard farming in each home in the community that youths can access easier.”
Life Yard has received multiple awards. It is the first organisation to receive the Caribbean Heritage Robert Nesta Marley Humanitarian Award in 2017 and has been featured on several international blogs and magazines, including the New York Times.
“We are hoping our involvement as Supreme Heroes not only shines a light on underlying communities, but for it to be impactful, to enact real change, and that has to come from the inside,” he said.