At the time, Finley was fighting the city of LA, which had written him a citation for planting an edible garden in the parkway in front of his house off of Exposition Boulevard. TNN caught up with Finley this week at Vees Cafe on Adams Boulevard to see what he’s been up to this past year.
TNN: Catch us up on the ordinance battle. You put up a petition on change.org, and got over 900 signatures. Then, the city backed down? Herb Wesson said that he backed you up in this situation.
RF: Yes, he did. Where it’s standing now, we’re in city hall. Me and Herb met, he gave us three meetings [with the city], and we’ve had two. We’re going to amend the ordinance to add edibles to it. We’ve sent them a list of what we think people should be able to grow in parkways. That’s going to affect all of Los Angeles.
TNN: We heard that you’ve recently been a part of the fight against tree removal in Inglewood; nearly 400 trees throughout South LA will be cut down to make way for the space shuttle Endeavor, which is headed to the California Science Center in Exposition Park.
RF: We think that’s insulting, and racist. [City officials] didn’t contact anyone in the community. They just went on with this and they’re taking out these mature trees. They’re talking about planting two trees for every tree that they take; they’re not planting trees, they’re planting saplings. It’s almost like the arborists have no idea what trees do to the air, to the pollution. They couldn’t do this in Beverly Hills. I’m tired of us being looked at as people who don’t care about their families or neighborhood. That’s what this shows us. It’s insulting that they would even do that without contacting us, without having a community meeting. It’s social racism.
TNN: Were you spearheading this fight, or were others involved?
RF: [Chuckles]. I’m not spearheading anything. It’s almost like, “Who wants to storm the castle?” Then everyone takes two steps back so it looks like you stepped forward.
TNN: And that’s you, the one stepping forward?
RF: Sometimes I feel like this. But this is my neighborhood, this is my city, this is the future. Our health is in turmoil. It’s a crisis situation; somebody needs to pay attention to it. It’s almost by design, dumbing people down. That’s why we’re dealing with food issues. I work in food injustice. Drive down this street: there’s no place that you’re going to get an organic apple. I got tired of that, and that’s why I planted my own garden. I want people to plant their own food; stop waiting for people to do stuff for you, because you can see they’re not. Food is our medicine. Other than air, food and water is what you need.
TNN: Do you see progress being made in our community?
RF: In certain things I do, but you wonder if it’s a dog and pony show. I feel pretty good about the parkway initiative. Wesson thanked us for bringing [the problem] to his attention. You’ve got this land and you’re asking people to use their water on it and maintain it for grass -- why? There’s no reason anyone in this country should be hungry. I sound like a do-gooder, but I’m not. But I try not to do anything if I’m not passionate about it. I don’t know how long I’m here, and I want to put a big ass dent in this place before I leave. We gotta get passion back.