Planting Justice is a nonprofit nursery in Deep East Oakland working at the intersections of racial, environmental, and food justice. In rewriting the narrative of Deep East Oakland -- center of the racist War on Drugs -- many of the men on staff are also rewriting their personal legacies. One in two men employed at Planting Justice have been personally impacted by mass incarceration.

The following portraits, accompanied by quotes, illustrate that community healing begins with individual healing -- and individual healing can begin with a farm. 

Photographs and interviews by Marissa Leshnov.

“Planting Justice helped me while I was in San Quentin. It meant a lot to know that there was an opportunity for me once I got out. I’ve since gone to juvenile halls and helped them build raised beds. I’ve spoken at schools. I’m trusted here. Six months in, they gave me the keys to everything - trucks, you name it. I hope that I’ve broken the cycle.” - George

"I play the lottery because I wanna give Planting Justice money to hire more people and to buy another nursery so we can show people how to grow their own food. I want there to be a garden in every Oakland high school, so our youth know where their food is coming from." - Anthony

“It means a lot to me to be able to work in the community where I live. Not having to commute lets me live a green lifestyle and be a climate activist outside of my environmental work. It’s a little victory, but also a big victory. I want the opportunity to be extended to more people in Sobrante Park.” - Cesar

“I want to be thinking about something bigger than me. Before, I was thinking about just me and I got institutionalized. If I’m thinking about other people, there’s no time for shenanigans. If I’m thinking about someone besides myself, I know I’m growing.” - Bilal

“I want to be positive. It’s about energy, really. I come to work and choose to be positive, instead of choosing violence, taking someone’s money, or hurting somebody. I’m gainfully employed. That’s what drives me and keeps me out of trouble.” - Otis

“The best part of coming to work every day is getting to be a connector for the community and learning something new everyday. I’m glad that the nursery can be accessible to people in the city. We need the community to make this work possible.” - Joseph

“What I like about this place is that you can come here and plant a seed. We can plant seeds for the youth, too, but we need to have hard conversations with them to help them grow.” - Eloy

“I used to work with metals. It literally was a toxic workplace. One day when I was driving home on the freeway, I looked over and saw that someone had built a greenhouse. I passed it a few more times before I decided to just see what was going on. I think that coming here helped me make the lifestyle change I needed, and helped me be a better example for my son.” - Jose

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