Earthgang, community leaders plant community garden at Atlanta middle school

Students at Young Middle School will start a community garden on a nearby plot of land. 
Courtesy of Faris

Credit: Faris

Credit: Faris

Students at Young Middle School will start a community garden on a nearby plot of land. Courtesy of Faris

Atlanta rap duo Earthgang had been looking for a way to give back to their native southwest Atlanta around the same time Dona Franklin was looking for a way to repurpose her land near Jean Childs Young Middle School.

In 2014, Franklin’s home of two decades burned down, and she found the memory too painful to rebuild. Instead, she decided to donate the 1.3 acres the home once occupied to the Atlanta Public Schools Foundation for five years so students could create a community garden. In a ceremony on Earth Day earlier this month, Earthgang delivered a $10,000 check to the middle school as seed funding for the garden.

Grammy-nominated artists Johnny Venus of the West End and WowGr8 of Ben Hill met in the 9th grade during a field trip at Mays High School, the high school attended by many Young Middle School graduates. After graduating from Hampton University, the Earthgang duo signed to Dreamville, the record label founded by rapper J. Cole. Their debut album, Mirrorland, was released in 2019. “It’s just so beautiful to be able to bring something like this back to the people who grew up in this area,” Johnny Venus said during the community garden announcement. “I know growing up, it was kind of hard finding the right food sources. To be able to see how it happens and to be in control of that is something I appreciate and definitely want to bring forward.”

Young Middle School principal Ronald Garlington said science classes would start cultivating the land as soon as possible. He said he hopes once West Manor Elementary School students return to their nearby building, which is currently being renovated, they will also participate in farming on the land.

(Left to right) WowGr8, Principal Ronald Garlington and Johnny Venus unveiled a new community garden near Young Middle School. Courtesy of Faris

Credit: Faris

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Credit: Faris

The Earth Day event was attended by former Young Middle School student and rapper Khujo of Goodie Mob, Killer Mike, Atlanta council member Andre Dickens and more. Andrea Young, daughter of Ambassador Andrew Young and Jean Childs Young, the educator and advocate the middle school was named after, also appeared briefly at the event to share that a community garden was very much in the spirit of her late mother.

During an impromptu speech at the event, Killer Mike encouraged other community members to build their own gardens. “If you’ve got your grandma’s house on the west side and you’re about to knock it down, buildings don’t have to go back up. Gardens can go up,” he said. “I want to encourage everyone here to just get a seed from an Ace or a gardening place and put it in a cup, like they used to do in a thing called kindergarten, and grow some (stuff).”

Earthgang has created a GoFundMe to raise additional funds to help with maintaining and staffing the garden. So far, the fundraiser has garnered about $15,000 (including the $10,000 from the duo) of its $200,000 goal. Garlington said some of the funds would go towards hiring a fulltime horticulturist.

“This is a lot more than I ever imagined. I thought some kids would come and drop some seeds, and we would have a garden,” Franklin said during the event. “I can see the seedlings being formed in these kids where they see how something can come from a seed and become an entire economic structure. I can see us having a farmers market eventually on this land, out of what they’re growing.”