For Nat Turner, garden rakes and shovels are tools for transformation.
He's transformed an old store in New Orleans' Lower Ninth Ward into an urban Eden. Blair Grocery is now both a nontraditional school and an urban farm run by youth who’ve dropped out of mainstream education. Majora spends two days observing the teaching and training that makes the Blair Grocery Project a true innovation.
Nat Turner was one of countless volunteers from New York who raced to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina five years ago, hoping to help with the rebuilding. Turner was a high school history teacher in Manhattan who brought more than 2,000 students to New Orleans on a bright blue school bus with the name of his organization painted on the sides: “NY2NO.”
Over a two-year period, Turner drove busloads of kids back and forth to pitch in with cleanup work. But long after most relief workers had left, and as the number of volunteers dwindled, Turner recognized that there was still so much more to be done and the city was still in need of grassroots organizing and support. He decided to stay, centering his efforts on the most devastated part of the city, the Lower Ninth Ward.
To date, only 10 percent of that community has returned — with only one school open and no services like stores and hospitals. His students and trainees at Our School at Blair Grocery are learning to grow organic produce, which they’re now selling to local gourmet restaurants.
Follow Blair Grocery through the seasons.
Get on the ground with Nat and Our School at Blair Grocery.
Nat shares his Promised Land, a place where kids in the Lower Ninth can "make their neighborhood one that they would never want to leave."