Dear Supporter of Arlington Garden,

We must come together as a community to build healthy communities, dismantle structural racism and inequality, and defeat White Supremacy. The killing of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and many other Black people has led to peaceful protests and gatherings to mourn. Protests like these are the foundation of democracy, and I hope that they lead to real, positive, and equitable change within our communities and in our relationships to nature. I encourage you to take action, make your voices heard, and support the survivors, leaders, and organizers leading the protests.

The task to combat racism and build a healthier community must be multifaceted, holistic, and personal. One of the ways is advocating for access to public outdoor space.

Outdoor space and safe access to it is a fundamental right. It is absolutely heartbreaking to hear the stories of so many who have been denied this right and feel unwelcome and unsafe in public spaces. We need to work much harder to support the full inclusion of the Black community in public outdoor spaces. This means we need to protect the rights of Black folks to walk or jog safely, to birdwatch safely, to botanize safely, to mourn and gather safely, and to protest safely. Full inclusion in public outdoor spaces means that Black folks need to be actively welcomed to do all of these things and do them without fear. Black-led organizations are leading the way on these issues, and I urge you to visit some of the links at the end of this email.

I want to foreground the goals of building healthy communities, dismantling structural racism and inequality, and combating White Supremacy. I feel it is also important for each of us to reflect on our own experiences in outdoor spaces, and how these spaces may not feel safe and inclusive for everyone.

As a Chinese/Vietnamese/White/Black woman, I find that my “ethnic ambiguity” is threatening to some people. Ever since the pandemic, I barely go out. I don’t go for walks alone. Given the political rhetoric and divisive language of the “China Virus,” I haven’t felt safe in public spaces even in Pasadena. It’s been an isolating and difficult time. Experiences like these inform my own reflection on which bodies have safe access to public spaces and which bodies do not. What does your body feel like when you are in a natural public space? We often think being in nature involves feelings of relaxation and peace. But this isn’t necessarily true for people of color and particularly for Black men and Black trans people.

I want Arlington to be a safe, inclusive, and welcoming place for all bodies, a place of community and connection, and for the garden to provide access to environmental stewardship and creative ecology. I want this for my son and for children who do not have access to a place where they can enjoy nature.

Arlington Garden is a unique, public, community-built garden that welcomes everyone. However, we know that we must do more and be better, and we are committing to learn from our diverse community by asking for your help.

  • What have your experiences been like in the garden? Did you feel welcome and safe here?
  • How can we do more to make the garden a fully safe and inclusive space?
  • In what ways would you be interested in becoming involved with the garden and its programs?

You can email us at or fill out this anonymous form.

Environmental stewardship is part of the fight for social justice, since people of color are disproportionately impacted by climate change and pollutionSegregation, environmental inequalities, lack of adequate education, nutrition, healthcare and lack of open space lead to unequal and unhealthy communities.

This is a long conversation and we still have a lot of work to do. I hope that we all take this opportunity to investigate how we can “interrogate power and analyze privilege to create and sustain healthy communities.”

Thank you for listening. I am grateful for our community.


Michelle Matthews
Executive Director of Arlington Garden

You can continue the conversation by looking at some of these related links. If you have links or resources you would like to share with us, please send them to

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