Watch the Harmony Garden Video.
Proyecto Harmonía - en Español
Project Harmony was founded in late 1985 by Joseph Daniel Wilson and Cynthia Nibbelink. A relative newcomer, Nibbelink was impressed with the sense of community she found in Harlem; Mr. Wilson, already in his nineties, had lived in NYC since the early part of this century, having come to New York from Guyana. He had worked hard in the City's hotels, and owned the rooming house in which Nibbelink resided. Not formally educated, Mr. Wilson was a natural horticulturalist and studied homeopathy assiduously; he kept his own backyard garden. Nibbelink loved the area, but was dismayed to see that many vacant lots had become dumpsites, and were utilized by drug dealers, users, and prostitutes. Nibbelink, with Wilson's support, set out to turn things around. Thus Project Harmony began as an unincorporated association with the help of the neighbors, City Corps Volunteer youths, and $100 from the World Service Committee of the Harlem YMCA. Soon the first Harmony Garden on 122nd Street (between Adam Clayton Powell and Frederick Douglass Boulevards) was in bloom, the plants a donation from the NY Botanical Gardens in the Bronx.
For this first planting, the youths went from stoop to stoop, asking each person there to put one plant in the ground. The youths had designed the garden: rocks spelled out "LOVE NOT WAR" at the entrance, and what is now a circle of mulberry trees, red maple, daffodils, tulips, Rose of Sharon, and hollyhocks was a rock garden forming a peace symbol embellished with marigolds and salvia.
Our first apple tree was stolen, uprooted along with several other plants just before its five apples had ripened. The cherry tree, broken off, stands easily 40 feet high today, bearing well, the broomstick with which it was tied up (to mend) grown into the trunk. With donations and member monies, Project Harmony has been able to replace the stolen plants, and acquire many more, so that a stand of dogwood, spruce, floweing crab, Russian olive, cherry, plum, peach, mulberry, maple and black and honey locust trees, as well as roses, perennial herbs, forsythia, barberry, juniper, azalea, lilac, (bearing) grape vines, and much more flourish on what was once a garbage heap.
In 1986 Nibbelink (writer, artist, teacher, natural foods chef) met Haja Worley (activist, minister, artist, singer). Nibbelink and Worley saw eye to eye on social issues. They both recognized the crying need for programs that would "clean up" lives in such a way that the overwhelming dependence on welfare and social service programs as we know them would be lessened. They saw that our urban environment needed programs which would strengthen lives individually and collectively, raising people's self-esteem and sense of personal autonomy.
Subsequently, with Worley's input, Project Harmony stepped up its drug and crime fighting efforts. They became registered as official drug busters and block watchers with the 28th Precinct. In addition, they encouraged environmental awareness by way of regular street clean-ups, and by teaching others to "reduce, reuse, and recycle."
Presently, women, men, and youth, the "Doers" of Project Harmony, make hundreds of jars of jellies and preserves each year, as well as herbal vinegars and oils, salsa, relishes, scented oils, potpourri, and a variety of crafts, such as wreaths, centerpieces, and dried flowers.
The Harmony product line is labeled "Harlem Harvest." They are collecting a decent library of plant, flower, and resource books as well. Project Harmony's dream is that the "Harmony Institute," as they prefer to call their organization, will produce an abundant harvest of human lives conscious of their own value, the value of all peoples, and conscious of the value of this earth. The survival of all of us depends on the survival of the earth, and this is a challenge that we must face together. We must all "think globally and ACT LOCALLY." It is our dream that this human "harvest" will continue to grow in its production of a holistic education, a sincere reverence for life, and a decent livelihood for those who participate and whose lives they touch.