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Happy Hill Gardens launches Open-Documentary Project

HHGNA members came together to select photos for the open-doc project from the Old Salem 1998 exhibit called “Across the Creek from Salem: The Story of Happy Hill 1816-1952.”

Happy Hill Gardens launches Open-Documentary Project
March 31
14:39 2021

Happy Hill Gardens Neighborhood Association and  Rising Ebenezer Baptist Church are pleased to announce the official launch of Happy Hill  Gardens’ Open-Documentary Project. Partnering with UNCSA’s Media + Emerging Technology  Lab, the Institute for Regenerative Design & Innovation, the Center for Trauma Resilient Communities and John Jordan Films, along with many other local, national and international  organizations, this Open-Documentary Project is a part of a broader city-wide initiative called The Story of the Plate that was recently featured in Biocycle Magazine’s March 2021 issue titled “A Compost + Soil-Based Response to COVID-19.” 

Providing a clear pathway for building healthier, more resilient communities, the Story of the Plate is an urban closed-loop system where restaurant partners of Providence Culinary Training, a program of Second Harvest Food Bank of NWNC, such as Village Juice Company, Camino  Bakery, and other organizations, divert food waste from the landfill by recycling the waste into  compost bins. This compost is then used to revitalize communities from the soil up. Happy Hill Gardens has taken the lead in hopes of becoming the model resilient community for other  neighborhood associations across the city to adopt, adapt and integrate. 

Recently launched at a local international artist gathering called the Breath and the Clay that was held in Winston-Salem from March 17–20,  the Happy Hill Gardens’ Open-Documentary Project has begun to tell a new Story of the Plate that connects restorative justice, regenerative  agriculture and co-creative urban design through the lens of co-building community resiliency from the soil up. As a part of this launch, the core team released the “Happy Hill Open-Doc Sneak Peak” and held a panel discussion entitled “Living Architecture: Re-Enchantment of  Urban Environments through Co-Creation” that featured MIT Open-Doc alumni and Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Jeff Soyk, as well as co-creative writer and storyteller for the Happy Hill  community, Spencer Aubrey, and world renowned living architecture artist and visionary Phillip Beesley.  

“I am honored to be a part of this exciting project,” said Spencer Aubrey. “As a new resident of Winston-Salem and an aspiring artist, this project holds the very real and tangible capacity to make our city a genuine co-creative space for arts and innovation.” 

As the Open-Doc Project’s co-creative writer and storyteller, Spencer is the creative muscle of the project by pulling  together the literal heartstrings of the community in hopes of plucking much deeper spiritual cords of residents across Winston-Salem in hopes of inspiring the city to come together and co-build a restorative movement rooted in Soul-to-Soil relationships.  

As an active core team member of the Open-Doc Project, Amatullah Saleem, president of  Happy Hill Gardens Neighborhood Association, expressed her overwhelming support of the project, stating that “co-creation is key to community revitalization because it is rooted in a participatory design process that only works when communities are actively engaged.” She  continued, “Much like how living soils nurture entire ecosystems, when souls unite in the spirit of co-building healthy communities, they begin to overflow with diversity, life and most importantly, physical and spiritual resiliency.”  

“What most excites me about this project is how we will be implementing the Story of the Plate into our entrepreneur’s food-based products,” said Williams Fulton, Providence Culinary Training graduate and co-founder of The Greenhouse, which is a new agropreneur accelerator that is planting the seeds for growing Winston’s very own Food Innovation District in West Salem in collaboration with 1001, Providence Culinary Training and others. “I was born and  raised in Happy Hill Gardens and I am excited that a lot of the food that will be grown in the new gardens will be used to not only make various food-based products, but more importantly, will hopefully inspire a new form of regenerative entrepreneurship to be born from the soils of the very community that birthed me.” 

The Open-Doc Project team will be holding an open community dialogue event on May 1 to both explain the project as well as describe the importance that a co-creative process can provide to both community empowerment and urban design in tandem. Two key components of this project so far is to co-build an oral history archive by interviewing primarily older generations who are presently residing in or were former residents of the Happy Hill community. 

The second component is being co-designed with Winston Salem’s very own Authoring Action that will seek to empower youth and communities to tell their own stories around the inter-spiritual proverb that is at the heart of this project: “The only difference between Souls and Soils is U and I.” 

Connecting Souls and Soils, Kimberlee Brown, a member of Rising Ebenezer Baptist Church, the second oldest African American Church in Winston-Salem located in Happy Hill, enthusiastically pronounced that “healthy soil equals healthy community and it’s this crucial connection that is at the crux of what we envision for Happy Hill Gardens.” She continued, “Connecting our kids to soil means that they are building a healthy immune system and more importantly, once they eat the bionutrient food grown from the living soil, we will begin to empower a future  generation that’s resilient and equipped to bringing a spirit of hope into the world that so desperately needs it.”  

The May 1 meeting will be held at Crossnore School and Children’s Home in the campus chapel from 5 – 7 p.m. The Zoom meeting is open to the public.The in-person meeting is invite-only due to limited space and COVID restrictions. Zoom details will be provided on the  Rising Ebenezer Baptist Church Facebook page, as well as on Crossnore School and Children’s  Home website under Miracle Grounds Farm & Network. 

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