‘Long live the rose that grew from concrete … ’

By Trust for Public Land
Published July 15, 2015

‘Long live the rose that grew from concrete … ’

Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete?
Proving nature’s law is wrong it  learned to walk without having feet.
Funny it seems, but by keeping its dreams, it learned to breathe fresh air.
Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else ever cared. 

—”The Rose That Grew From Concrete,” by Tupac Shakur

Rapper Tupac Shakur spent his teenage years in Marin City, California, an underserved enclave of the otherwise affluent Marin County. He would have hardly recognized the local park at its grand reopening celebration last Saturday: kids explored the new George “Rocky” Graham Park’s tree-house-themed jungle gym, and hundreds of neighbors turned the drought-resistant turf lawn into an impromptu dance floor.

“We are going to do everything you can think of at the park,” district official Paul Austin told the Marin Independent Journal. “Plays, movie nights, concerts, Zumba, tai chi, boot camps. This is a place for the neighbors to get to know each other, a community center.”

Rocky Graham Park is Marin City’s only outdoor recreational space, its revival eagerly awaited for years. Originally built in the 1940s, the park served the families of African American laborers who moved to the region to build Liberty ships on the Sausalito waterfront during World War II. In the 1970s it was renamed for George “Rocky” Graham, a 28-year-old Marin City official who was shot and killed during a dispute.

After falling into disrepair in the ensuing years, the park was dismantled in the 1990s. It remained unused, an eyesore, for more than 20 years—until residents rallied with a petition to revive it.

K.C. Graham, son of the park’s namesake, attended the opening celebration. “This is the best feeling,” he told the Marin Independent Journal. “My dad was a hell of a man, and it’s a great way to remember everything he stood for.”

Graham was joined by dozens of his neighbors who helped transform the park—from the local carpenter who handcrafted the park benches to the artists—young and old—who painted the mural showcasing scenes from Marin City’s history. Also in attendance were Marin City residents who completed labor union apprenticeships during park construction, part of a skilled-trade training program.

“Rocky Graham Park is a unique and life-changing project in terms of job creation and community pride,” said The Trust for Public Land’s Philip Vitale. “Every time I think about what we’ve been able to accomplish here, I get goosebumps.”

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