Brandon Fountain had an idea he thought would serve and unite the community.
He wanted to start a community garden on the side of the Community Church of God in Christ on Park Avenue in the Fan District.
Putting a garden there was significant.
The church, located less than 500 feet from the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, had opened up its doors to groups protesting at and occupying the circle last summer.
And a community garden that had been established around Lee’s statue last year was no longer accessible when fencing was installed in January.
Once Fountain, a member of Black Lives Matter RVA, met Pastor David N. Wright Sr., “one thing led to another,” Wright said.
“It just evolved, and it’s getting better and bigger and prettier,” Wright said in an interview. “All colors are represented both in the garden and in life.”
The Community Church of God in Christ held a dedication ceremony for its Unity Garden on Sunday afternoon.
“The Unity Garden is a place where people can bring the community that they just received or felt a part of last year to a new space,” Fountain said during the dedication.
The produce grown at the garden will be donated, and Fountain said they are looking to start flower beds and gift boxes.
“We hope it grows. We hope you can eat from it. We hope it tastes good so [we] can share it,” Fountain said after the ceremony. “It’s just hopeful.”
Throughout the dedication, attendees were guided through worship songs, prayer and Scripture.
The ceremony closed with the hymn “We’re Together Again” and a prayer from Wright, who discussed the importance of collective action.
“We’re growing together and that’s the only way we can make it together,” he said. “We can’t make it apart.”
Wright was no stranger to the BLM protesters and has continued to help them throughout the past year.
He installed port-a-potties on the side of the church last summer — where the Unity Garden now lies — and eventually began feeding protesters and providing them a place to stay inside the church.
Once Fountain and Wright began the garden, they removed the port-a-potties and cleaned the area. Then an irrigation system and soil were put in place to create the foundation for the garden.
Richmond Police Chief Gerald M. Smith discussed the importance of the garden during the dedication, saying it serves as a symbol of growth, diversity and care.
“This all started in the spirit of a protest and demonstration to a protest and demonstration that has since moved into a movement — a movement of betterment ... making a better Richmond and making a better country,” Smith said.
Richmond police Sgt. Carol Adams, who gave the invocation, said she has built relationships with members of BLM RVA and wanted to be a part of the garden as it transitions from the Lee Circle to the side of the church.
“We all have likenesses in common,” she said. “They had a garden over there, but what better place for it to be over here and to be connected to the church.”
Adams said the garden is a way for younger people to learn a new skill set that involves growing and nurturing food that they can then use to fuel themselves.
“This garden is teaching them to grow it and to understand it, to nurture it, to take care of it,” she said, “so many skill sets come out of that, but then you get to eat it, too.”
Fountain said he is looking for more places to expand, build gardens and continue to “harvest ideas” as a way to give back to the community.
“Strength in numbers is the thing,” he said. “I see more than enough people here to put the word out on what we’re doing.
“All the things that we really need are hands and resources within each other to make it grow.”
The garden is currently accepting monetary donations and is open to any community members who are interested in volunteering.