An Afrofuturist Philly Sprouting on West Jefferson Street

Article written by Sabra Anderson on behalf of Global Philadelphia Association

The North Philly Peace Park is a beacon of hope and window into an Afrofuturist North Philadelphia. Located on West Jefferson Street, the park is nestled at the intersection of both past and future, with both historic apartment buildings and an emerging housing development surrounding it.

I had the pleasure of recording a conversation with Tommy Joshua, co-founder of the garden park, where I came to understand the passion behind such an undertaking, and what this park truly represents for the surrounding Sharswood community. Tommy Joshua explained how North Philly was a center for black renaissance, with a rich history of culture, art, and activism. Malcolm X had lived down the street from the Peace Park, where he served as a minister for the Nation of Islam, right as he was rising in fame, and African American Artist Dox Thrash lived in the area as well.

As a third generation resident, Tommy knows the neighborhood was once a community of African American migrants, who traveled to Philadelphia to escape oppression. They arrived with positive energy, culture, and agricultural knowledge. He hopes that although black communities in Philadelphia continue to be deindustrialized, the people can empower themselves by taking control of their own communities, learning from the land, and looking out for each other.

At the Peace Park, rows and rows of produce can be found in full bloom. I sampled a salad of freshly picked kale and cherry tomatoes and Tommy picked a small peach from a tree, which he ate as we walked through Imagination Land, an area of tires painted by community children assembled into a small playground with plenty of toys spread throughout.

The produce grown at the Peace Park is free, available for the community to enjoy, and flourishes because of the dedication of volunteers and community members like Tommy, who recognize the importance of community mobilization for the greater good.