When the Black Lives Matter movement first made waves across the Hudson Valley at the beginning of summer, Nkoula Badila watched and wondered about its long-term impact on the region. While she believed in the message behind the movement, she couldn’t shake the feeling that not enough was being done to reach and aid the local black community.
“I wanted to get real and go back to the root…and highlight the importance of black representation and unity,” she explains. “I wanted to take down the narrative of the white savior and build a way of healing for us, by us [and] prove a point that we absolutely can do this for ourselves as well.”
After identifying a lack of information about healthy eating and nutrition as a detriment for the black community, Badila, an artist and dancer whose father founded the first national “Ballet Kodia” in Paris, came up with the idea to build gardens in housing areas in which members of the black community live. By bringing the food and the resources directly to them, she hoped to put the tools they needed to educate themselves and improve their lifestyles straight into their hands.
“The healing I’ve experienced gardening, hands in soil, watering blessings and manifestations, watching the fruits of my labor blossom is phenomenal and does so much for the soul,” she says. “I wanted my community to also have that experience and to connect to each other enough [for] their growing journeys as well.”
Based in Hudson, Badila’s Grow Black Hudson is an organic movement designed to give the surrounding black communities the resources they need to educate themselves and feed their families. Badila doesn’t have a dedicated office, but instead operates from her front porch in Hudson. It’s there that she receives fresh greens to distribute, along with soil and tools, to families in the area. From there, she and her own family work with recipients to teach them how to cultivate their gardens and care for their harvest.
Grow Black Hudson may be relatively new in the Hudson Valley, but Badila has already received a wealth of support throughout the region. Her $10,000 Go Fund Me page surpassed its goal, with a total of $13,503 raised from 119 donors. As for the individuals receiving the gardening supplies and education, they’re thankful to have the opportunity to take greater control of their health and wellbeing.
“They get excited and want to share,” Badila notes. “It’s so beautiful to see how it all starts to connect, and we have those necessary convey in the process with talks of building up our black voices, representation, and business here in town. We must support each other and be consistent to feel the real results – and it’s happening!”
For Badila, the organic success of Grow Black Hudson, which hasn’t received any grants and relies upon Badila’s fundraiser and knowledge of gardening, is a testament to the power of healing and connection for the black community in the Hudson Valley and at large.
“It is important that we see us starting things for ourselves [like] true healing and connection with our roots and our ancestors all while healing that relationship between ourselves and the earth,” she observes. Looking ahead, she hopes to continue her efforts in the Hudson Valley by building more gardens and assisting current participants with spreading the word about the movement. As she points out, the ripple effect is already underway, and her group of budding gardeners is eager to share the message.
Of course, gardening is just part of it. With each garden she constructs, Badila aims to lay foundations for more eco-friendly lifestyles and education about recycling, composting, and caring for the earth. She hopes to work with her gardeners on everything from preserving produces to crafting teas and tinctures to support natural wellbeing.
“[We’re] learning the truth and taking our power back,” she enthuses.