Atatiana Jefferson

Fort Worth Neighborhood Growing Healthier Future

The deadly police shooting that killed Atatiana Jefferson put a spotlight on the south Fort Worth community and its needs

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On Monday morning, volunteers came to Deja Jackson's south Fort Worth yard to build a gardening box. It was just four-feet by eight-feet, but the impact can reach beyond Jackson's yard.

"With everything that's been going on in the past two years, it's hard for people to come together. It's hard for people to even trust each other, let alone something that can grow and prosper," Jackson said.

The Southside Community Garden project started after the murder of Atatiana Jefferson, shot to death in her home by a former Fort Worth Police officer who was doing a welfare check.

When community activists were organizing a mural to memorialize Jefferson, they noticed there were no grocery stores in the neighborhood.

"It's been food redlining that's taken place to remove grocery stores and give communities like this, where people of color reside, no access to fresh fruits and vegetables," southside Community Garden Founder Patrice Jones said.

The 76104 zip code where Jefferson lived has a life expectancy of 12-years below the national average. It's a food desert, where access to fresh fruit and vegetables is limited.

"It's a meditative thing for me," James Smith said of his backyard garden. "I haven't started talking to the plants yet, but I do enjoy coming out and watching the progress."

Smith is the neighbor who called police to check the welfare at Atatiana Jefferson's home in 2019, a call that still haunts him.

"Every day is still October 12 to me," Smith said somberly. "The George Floyd trial starts today... I'm still waiting on our trial to start." Trial is expected to start this summer for the ex-Fort Worth Police officer who shot and killed Jefferson.

Smith got one of the first garden boxes in his yard.

"I'm 63, so if I do the math, I don't have but four years left to try and stop that narrative," Smith said referring to life-expectancy in his neighborhood. "It's like a cycle of life, you know."

Together the community is trying to turn the narrative around, and plant seeds for a more healthy, hopeful future.

The project has planted 16 garden boxes since July, with plans to build nine more. If you'd like to help, there is a GoFundMe account to pay for supplies.

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