A growing interest in culture, sustainability

Khadijah Johnson and Nadine Espinoza

Khadijah Johnson (left), sophomore in political science, and Nadine Espinoza, junior in criminology, sample organic salsa and fresh vegetables during an event sponsored by the UIC Heritage Garden. Photo: S.K. Vemmer

UIC students tasted fresh salsa, learned new dance steps and toured campus gardens at the UIC Heritage Garden kick-off event, “What’s Good and Growing on Campus?” Sept. 9 in the Lecture Center Plaza.

The event offered a variety of activities for attendees, all taking place near the satellite gardens around the Lecture Center Plaza. Satellite gardens are miniature versions of a larger garden planned later.

“The satellite gardens are creating something very different on campus,” said Rosa Cabrera, director of the Latino Cultural Center.

“People are stopping at the gardens and looking at the plants and photographing. And they’re also talking with each other. The space can be transformative; it is allowing people to stop and talk.”

Cabrera and Lori Baptista, director of the African American Cultural Center, are supervisors for the Urban Heritage Garden internship program, a paid internship for UIC students.

“The Urban Heritage Garden came about from the Latino Cultural Center and the African American Cultural Center wanting to promote climate plan and to engage a broader group in the importance of environmental sustainability and cultural diversity,” Cabrera said.

Chef Tsadakeeah gave cooking demonstrations using plants from the satellite gardens. He showed students how to prepare easy vegan dishes.

“It’s possible to have environmental sustainability or grow your own foods with an urban setting. We’re connecting cultural sustainability with environmental sustainability,” said Yaxal Sobrevilla, Urban Heritage Garden intern and senior in communication.

At one booth, students who help grow the Heritage Garden passed out free butterfly-shaped seed paper to help students start their own small gardens.

“The butterfly seed paper is really neat. I really want to plant this at my apartment now,” said Aiwan Hazari, a sophomore majoring in biology.

Cabrera explained the importance of balancing one’s own heritage with American culture.

“What are the different practices, especially with immigrants, that people bring with them from their homelands that are friendly to the environment? We’re confronting these huge environmental challenges and we should be looking at cultural diversity as an asset,” Cabrera said.

The Centers for Cultural Understanding and Social Change, Office of Diversity, Office of Sustainability, Office of Student Affairs, Honors College, and Latin American and Latino Studies Program also support the Heritage Garden.

Heritage Garden organizers are planning to create a larger main garden, where they hope to educate more students on the importance of culture and sustainability.

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