Zulma Zabala describes the Buckeye-Woodhill neighborhood as many things: beautiful, resilient, historical. What she doesn’t describe it as is green.
“That’s about to change,” promises Zabala, the chief executive director of East End Neighborhood House.
On Sept. 30, the community broke ground on Ubuntu Park, a half-acre of community space that will be built on the corner of Shaker Boulevard and East 103rd Street. With amenities like a 5,300-square-foot-plaza with a raised centerpiece stage in the shape of the continent of Africa, murals by local artists and benches facing each other to facilitate neighborly interactions, the space was intentionally designed with the spirit of the South African philosophy that gave the park its name.
“Ubuntu means I am because we are,” explains Zabala. “This park gives our residents the chance to say, I see you. Come on by. Sit down by me. Put your feet up, and all the better in a green space that is actually within walking distance.”
Funded by grants from Partners for Peace and the Saint Luke’s Foundation, Ubuntu Park is especially significant for a neighborhood that has struggled with poverty and violence. Zabala says local residents have actively been providing input for what they want to see in the green space — a process that is both atypical and encouraging in the 95% Black neighborhood.
“People who live here want to be included in the design, spending, growth and evolution of their surrounding area and it just feels good that organizations are just now starting to listen to these powerful and important voices,” says Zabal