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Anthony Boatman's Death Stings Community: 'We Can All Learn' From Him

By Linze Rice | March 9, 2016 6:17am
 Anthony Boatman was a community organizer and activist with A Just Harvest, and was known for being a supporter of youth and urban farming.
Anthony Boatman was a community organizer and activist with A Just Harvest, and was known for being a supporter of youth and urban farming.
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Facebook/A Just Harvest

ROGERS PARK — Rogers Park residents are mourning the recent loss of a beloved community organizer, known for heading numerous urban agriculture and job development programs for underserved populations in the neighborhood.

Friends said Anthony Boatman died over the weekend from a heart attack, but his impact on the community will have lasting effects.

Boatman was the director of The Genesis Project, a community-based initiative through A Just Harvest that supported economic and agricultural development between Howard Street and Jonquil Avenue, where he served as a mentor to young people and people looking for work opportunities.

The Genesis Project provided long-term urban farming apprenticeships that taught skills like aquaponics, offered a micro-lending program, provided support for small food business entrepreneurs and partnered with universities throughout the city for learning opportunities.

On its Facebook page Monday, A Just Harvest praised Boatman's work in the community.

It is with a broken heart that we share the news of the passing of our dear friend and colleague, Anthony Boatman.As...

Posted by A Just Harvest on Monday, March 7, 2016

Boatman also taught neighborhood kids how to grow their own food at the Gale Elementary School greenhouse — a skill he felt was crucial for fostering a sense of ownership and pride in young people.

"He was big on getting the kids to live outside of their own little world around Howard Street, and worked so hard to help them gain new experiences and grow," said Christopher Coté, a volunteer who worked with Boatman at the Gale greenhouse and The Genesis Project.

"He really saw food and being able to create your own future as the goals for his programs, and if nothing else getting a job."

Coté said Boatman was a man of "constant hustle" who inspired him to get more involved in his community.

"He was always pushing, getting me to volunteer and give support however I could," he said.

Boatman had also served as a community outreach supervisor for CeaseFire for three years, a passion that started after he began turning life around.

In a video, Boatman recalled seeing his mother for the last time at age 3, when she placed him in the foster care system. For years, he said he bounced from home to home, focused on "surviving," and eventually became entangled in the criminal justice system.

But as an adult, Boatman said he began hearing of meetings for Northside P.O.W.E.R. (People Organized to Work, Educate, and Restore), a branch of A Just Harvest, in which people could meet and open up about the struggles they faced day-to-day without fear of judgment.

Once he began organizing for his community through various outreach programs, Boatman empowered young people and those in underserved socioeconomic groups to take charge of their destiny and be present in the "decision-making process" of their lives.

Tammy Goulet, a Rogers Park resident and friend of Boatman's, said there was "nowhere in this community Anthony hasn't had his hands in," and that it's been hard to pass by places she used to frequently see him working and sending a friendly wave.

She said her 11-year-old son, who looked up to Boatman, has also been emotional since news of Boatman's passing.

"My son was really hurt and cried off and on about Anthony, and that shows that he really touched the lives around him in a profound way and will be missed," Goulet said, adding that Boatman also openly beamed with pride for his own children and grandchildren.

"He was proud of them."

Posts on social media honoring Boatman show they were proud of him, too.

One daughter posted a picture of herself with Boatman from Saturday with the words, "I love you daddy," while a son paid homage to his late father, saying he was a selfless man focused on helping others succeed.

"He never cared about having the recognition because he understood that the success of the work was much more important than any one man gaining accolades from doing it," the post said.

Other friends took to social media to share anecdotes, messages of hope, and lessons they'd learned from Boatman.

"Anthony Boatman is/was a good man who did a lot of good things for a lot of people," one woman wrote. "We can all learn something from the example he set of tireless 12/13 hour work days, 6 days a week to make a positive impact in his community. He touched many lives, mine included."

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