I’m excited because the second edition of Jarid Mano’s book Ghetto Plainsman is out and available at amazon.com and your local bookstore. Jarid is also busy with Restoration Not Incarceration, a program for teens that is part of the Great Plains Restoration Council.
When I opened up Ghetto Plainsman I was struck that he was often asked, “What are you?” I get that too. I remember being in an elevator in Century City in Los Angeles. Some guy blurted out, “What are you?” I don’t remember what I said but was disturbed by that intrusive moment with a stranger. Jarid also looks like people in my family. Genetically we could be hatched from the same egg. Culturally too.
Read more . . .DIANNE: Hello, my brother. Jarid, how about we interview one another? You first.
JARID: That sounds good. I love that mutual. Hope it’s all going down good out there in the ATL! You know I can’t wait to come back there.
D: When you come to Atlanta, you can be the tour guide so I can see the city through your eyes! Ok, how come you can’t keep your shirt on? I don’t see what that has to do with the plains.
J: Hahahaha… You know, we crazie like that.
D: We . . . ha?! I keep my shirt on. Based on the “What are you?” question, what does being and feeling different define how you have related to the environment, nature?
J: It seems that a lot of the time, people really want to put things (and others) into boxes, but that is so constraining and diminishing. I’m not even sure this is done intentionally, it’s just become custom. For example, even the words “environment” and “species” sounds so objectifying, so separating, to me. Like they’re objects. I understand their usage, but on a personal, spiritual tip, it’s Earth and animals to me.
My organization Great Plains Restoration Council does its ecological work through its social work, and when our Plains Youth InterACTION team is out working to save the Fort Worth Prairie Park, we know this is a place of refuge, and the wildlife that thrives and flies and migrates and breeds and rests though this place is fam — family. We are proud to produce serious, high value conservation work, with the help of some of your best master naturalists and restoration ecologists, but our personal approach is different.
Protecting the Earth and our children’s health and future is a civil right and responsibility. And ecology is a cultural and social movement. And animals are now objects and quotas, they are lives and cultures with stories and histories and yearnings that course like a creek through the prairie and our own lives.
We belong, instead of being separate. Being different, opening new ways of looking at things that may have, beneath them, significant suffering, sadness, and/or loss, yet immense opportunities for new millennial exhilaration, takes us to a new day where we can begin a deeper healing. In my opinion, without that, we are not moving forward.
D: You currently live in Houston, Texas. What’s it like for you in the city during the spring?
J: I love Texas. I actually live in both Fort Worth and Houston, though I’m spending more time in Houston now as we develop new programming. Houston is located in the original coastal prairie of Texas. It’s where the prairie meets the sea, two halves of a whole, the place of original fertility, and where it all began in 1528 when the Moorish slave Esteban the Moor washed ashore on Galveston Island with the ragged conquistadors Cabeza de Vaca, Dorantes, etc.
Houston has changed dramatically over the last ten years — I think people elsewhere think of Houston as this big, polluted city, but while it still has work to do, I’m finding myself amazed at how livable and beautiful the city is. There are a lot of parks in the city, not least of which is Buffalo Bayou, the river that runs to and and through Downtown. They’ve kept it wild, and it’s like a linear little wilderness right through the city. Texas can get seriously cold during the winter when those frigid winds blow down across the plains from Canada, but winter doesn’t last too long, and we’ll warm up for days here and there even in the middle of the winter when the north winds don’t blow. In spring, Texas all over bursts with wildflowers backed by lush green grasses, and you can watch them start to ripple northward from Houston to Fort Worth delayed by a few weeks. Also, since we’re less than an hour from the beach, you know we’re back out there in the water in March, (though the ocean temps might still be a little uhhh cool.). 🙂
D: Your book titled Ghetto Plainsman is in its second edition which was just released. Congratulations. Speaking of your book, hat is it like in April, in the spring on the plains?
J: Thanks. That book took me over 8 years to write. What’s interesting about the plains is that we’re defined by sun, wind, grass and blue sky — and weather. In the winter, it’s a constant battle of the northerly or southerly winds. When a cold front comes down across the plains from Canada, you can track it as it causes a serious blizzard in South Dakota or Colorado and, while it modifies as it passes toward the lower latitude landscapes, you know you’ll be getting at least some very cold temps. In March, the winds pick up, as the increasing solar energy warms things, and by April, while we’ll still have some swings, we’re pretty much into the beginning of the long warm season by then. Neotropical migrant birds are nesting, in late April the Monarchs have come back up from Mexico, buffalo (where they exist, though there are still no truly “wild” buffalo except in Yellowstone and even there they are shot or hazed the minute they cross the Park boundary) will be calving, and out on the western High Plains we’re all looking forward to pronghorn antelope having their babies in May.D: I know there’s a focus on the plains in your non-profit Restoration not Incarceration? Tell us more.
J: Great Plains Restoration Council is the non-profit, Restoration Not Incarceration is our new program in planning and design now. RNI is emerging out of the successful practices and principles of our signature program Plains Youth InterACTION which basically has damaged young people healing themselves through healing our damaged native prairies and plains. In Fort Worth, with the Fort Worth Prairie Park, our work is largely a preservation issue, since these 2,000 acres on the backdoor of 5 million people are part of the most endangered major ecosystem in North America.
Restoration Not Incarceration. based in Houston, and addressing the coastal prairie, entirely a restoration issue, as averse to preservation, because there is less than 1% of the original native coastal prairie left and it’s on the verge of extinction. This work is being accomplished in partnership with the Harris County Attorney’s Office, Fifth Ward Enrichment Program, and Katy Prairie Conservancy. We are setting up a program where temporarily incarcerated individuals and probationers can enter a Three Tier program that will a.) provide skills-training, b.) social work in a trust and motivational environment, properly implemented, and c.) work in nature as a therapeutic modality. We hope to have the first pilot effort up and running, with boots on the ground, by the end of December.
Part of this initiative is also stimulating new green jobs in wildlands restoration– a whole new sector in the emerging Green Collar Economy. Carbon pricing alone will be one of the economic drivers, because native prairies soak carbon from the atmosphere and their deep roots can sequester that carbon for 8,000 years or more in the soil.
D: April 22nd was Earth Day. What does the celebrations surrounds this day mean to you?
J: Sigh. I’m like that cartoon I saw once of a seagull looking over a pile of trash on the beach and saying, “What about the 364 other days?”
D: Let’s shift a little. What does April smell like?
Sun warming the waxy green out of live oak tree leaves.
D: From an environmental perspective, what’s next for you? J: I’ve been involved in environmental and social justice work for a long time. GPRC passed its ten year anniversary this past October. It’s taken a long time to grow this non-profit from nothing, and now with my team in place, I am looking to grow exponentially and wield some real health for prairies and people on a scale that was only a dream when I first started.
J: Now it’s your turn.
D: Ah Jarid, we are out of time. Your turn will come. Let’s do this again over the summer. By that time we will be little brother and sister chicks with more to say about the great outdoors . . .
Photos by Jarid Manos