2012 Helpshop: Where Environment, Spirituality, and Health Meet

With Leanna, A Participant

The Greensburg District of the United Methodist Church (UMC) held their Helpshop on January 28, 2012 at Community Church in Irwin, Pennsylvania. The theme was “Mind, Body and Spirit” with Tanika Harris, the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) of the UMC, serving as the keynote speaker. At the GBGM, “she provides resources as well as training opportunities to communities and churches throughout the country that are engaged in community development and social justice through advocacy and youth/young adult empowerment.” (Helpshop brochure) The breakout sessions included “Healthy and Vital Congregations,” “Sexual Health and Wholeness,” and “Remodeling the Temple.

I was invited to facilitate a session titled, “Africans Americans, Religion, the Environment, and Health.” We discussed:

  • Knowing one’s (environmental) history is good for you
  • Nature is healthy
  • Scripture and health
  • Better health of (African) Americans by experiencing the outdoors
  • Our Stories
  • A healthy mind: environmental meditation with African American themes

With William Meekins, UMC

One participant shared her memory of the fragrance of lilacs while spending time with her grandmother; the memory of those flowers evoked a spiritual connection, a connection to God. Our meditation included scripture, deep breathing, music, the sounds of the ocean,  prayer, and silence.

Many thanks to those in the Greensberg District of the Western Pennsylvania Conference, UMC who organized the Helpshop: Holly Sawyer, administrative assistant and William Meekins, District Superintendent. Of special note: Community United Methodist Church did a wonderful job hosting the event. And of course, many thanks to Rev. Kathy Barnhart, Rev. Rhea Summit and Rev. Augie Twigg for their diligence and hard work.

Photo by Dianne Glave

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Pittsburgh 2: Forged Steel, Flowing Rivers

Water is the equivalent of the allure of the proverbial sirens. Finding my way to water is a compelling obesseive draw. There’s something in my DNA that always lures me back to the water. A river, an ocean. I get happy about a glass of water.

It’s Jamaica, it’s the Caribbean you know. Clear blue blue water surrounding an island. Can’t shake my roots. Don’t want to.

I also think of the cottonmouth water moccasin in me. I know: cottonmouths are in the South not the cold wintry waters of Pittsburgh rivers. Doesn’t matter. WATER.

I drove for more than hour on the edges of the SouthSide Works in Pittsburgh getting so close to the water but still so far. I could almost visualize the steel works from the past with a clear path to the river now dotted with  modern-day REIs and Urban Outfitters. One hundred lefts into dead-ends with no access to the Mongahela River did not stop me. I was stymied too many times by smooth railroad tracks blocking my way to the murky river. I thought to jump the tracks landing on my feet close to the river’s edge but remembered that third rail is a killer:

Billie Joel’s “All for Leyna” from the Glass Houses CD was playing in my head: “She stood in the tracks, waving her arms, leading me to that third rails shock . . .”  I wound my way to West Homestead but still no water. Hills. Curves. Houses clinging to hillsides. That’s Pittsburgh. Not to be deterred. Still trying to find the water; I could not quite make my goal. And finally: Waterfront. Who would have thought the divining rod inside my head in search of water would land me behind a TGIF by the river?

Pittsburgh is an old soul. It feels like an ancient city in the Roman Empire. A city colonized. By the steel. By chain restaurants and stores. Past. Present. Invisibly one. The water, the steel, the hills are officially stuck under my fingernails.

I would even love the the deep dark blue of the (Wide) Sargasso Sea, real or imagined. The Three Rivers of Pittsburgh come close.

Photo by Dianne Glave

She-Wolf: Transitioning to the New Year of 2012

Tulips in Bloom, Chicago

Right now I’m caught up in series of novels titled Game of Thrones, and the HBO series based on the novels.  Creatures called dire wolves–from the Ice Age and now extinct–are central to one of many over-lapping  story-lines, with dire wolves in symbiotic relationship with young royals. 2011 transitioned so quickly cart-wheeling into 2012, and I am embracing my she-wolf. I don’t bite but am running hard and fast down two different paths: the environment and health. Like the story-lines in Game of Thrones, the two paths have and continue to overlap. I’m including some of my favorite photos from 2011 some with and without rhyme and reason in relationship to the text. Put simply, these photos like so many I took last year simply touched me.

The first path is environmental. I continued my life’s work, a ministry to people and the earth, sharing the gospel of African Americans and the environment. Back in 2010, I published Rooted in the Earth: Reclaiming the African American Environmental Heritage. Continuing into 2011, non-profit organizations invited me to do speaking engagements, some of the content based in part on the book:

At Barnes & Noble with a Little Fan

I also did a radio interview with Groovin 1580 FM and a book-signing with the Wildlife Federation at Georgia Tech. In 2012, I will continue to share an environmental gospel, speaking at the Tuskegee Institute Historic Site in Alabama and Getty College in Pennsylvania.

From Fall 2010 to Summer 2011 when I  continued my environmental opus, I was in an intensive Clinical Pastoral Education Program training for chaplaincy. I managed to complete the program, while still blogging.

Interestingly, the Rooted in the Earth WordPress Annual Report differs from my favorite blogs “penned” during part of the program. The highest ranking blog going back to 2010 was (drum roll please) Predators: Survival of the Fittest in a Busted Paradise. Perhaps not so surprising since my blogs on film and television ranked higher than some of the historical blogs. People like popular culture. Well, so do I.

Grand Isle, Louisiana, 2007 (ok, not 2011!)

I also love history and my personal favorites included Kentucky, African Americans, and the Environment, Harriet Tubman Working Nature, Barack Obama: An Alternate Environmental History, and 2011 MLK Day: Remembering Martin Luther King, the Environmentalist. Hey, I’m a historian. What can I say. I’m back on the steep happy hill–that’s the she-wolf in me on the move–blogging again in 2012 with a call for blogs for a State of Diversity and the Environment Blog Carnival.

So what’s that second path as I continue loping on winding path?  Back in 2010, I never imagined that graduating with an M.Div. in “Faith, Health and Science” at the Candler School of Theology at Emory University would be life changing concerning my health. Over the last year I lost 17 pounds and hope to lose about 20 more. No rush. One pound at a time. Jenny Craig, Nutrisystem, Weight Watchers . . . make it happen like Mariah belts out in the recent Jenny Craig commercial.

I continue being heart healthy with nutrition and exercise. I serve as a pastor at Crafton United Methodist Church and some of the members have followed my example joining Weight Watchers. Others have been serving healthy options like veggies at Coffee Hour after church. And yes, I found time to blog about spirituality and religion at BeingEphesus.com.

Korean War Memorial, Washington, DC

I am grateful to everyone in my personal life who patiently listened to my stories about being on paths of the environment and health. In addition, so many colleagues invited me into their institutions trusting me to share one vision of  an African American environmentalism. I did not take that trust for granted because many of the people in the audience were college students. I honored to continue working with young people, my favorite “demographic.”

Now I stand among many talented and committed in an environmental family with shared interests in diversity. One kind and generous person in stood out in 2011: Na’Taki Osborne Jelks. I knew Na’Taki for years going back to 2005 when I went on a hike with Keeping It Wild in Georgia. It wasn’t until she organized several events for me that I got to know her better. I am grateful for Na’Taki and so many others devoted to the cause.

I invite you to continue with me embracing your inner-she-wolf (or whatever creature works for you) on paths to protecting the planet and good health, with a dash of science. Thank you for coming along with me.

Photos by Dianne Glave

2012 State of Diversity and the Environment Blog Carnival

Welcome to the third Rooted in the Earth Blog Carnival!

People of color faced many obstacles in 2010 and 2011 including higher rates of unemployment during the Great Recession and increased conservatism concerning diversity/ethnicity in the US. There has also been much to celebrate with an African American president and a growing Latina/o population. I wondered in 2012, the new year, if the same ups and downs are true, when it comes to those working and serving for diversity (people of color) and the environment. Personally, I can count more than twenty people of all ethnicities I can reach out to with expertise concerning people of color and the environment. Five years ago, the ranks were thinner. At the same, time I sense some (justice) fatigue among the ranks.

I am sending a call for blogs responding to a the state of diversity and the environment in 2012. I will include your name, organization, a personal/non-profit description, and blog/website. The blog carnival is broad enough to include stories about nascent environmental movements among and concerning people of color, projects-in-progress that will help to grow the movement, ideas for the future, and more. For those who do not blog, please contact me directly so we can work together to add your perspective to the blog carnival.

Submit your blog to 2012 State of Diversity and the Environment by January 19th. All blogs will be subject to review based on suitability to the topic.

Dianne Glave

Magnolias in Pittsburgh: Walking Part 1

I took  “Walking Pittsburgh: The Ultimate Walking Tour of Downtown Pittsburgh,” a Publication of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on a cold December day.

I often slide into  jaded mode: living and working in a city rejecting being a tourist. Nope. I am going to get to know my new city even if I creep along doing it.

Magnolias in Pittsburgh in December

So I started off with a friend on a cold day in December on a walk in downtown Pittsburgh. The surprise: we discovered  magnolia trees with buds in the Theater District in the dead of winter. Turns out to be a sculpture. Fooled me.

Monongahela River

My walk, my narrative started at the middle of the walk because I was entranced and bedazzled by those magnolias. I was born in New York but the South runs ruby-red in my veins.

Going back to the beginning, the first part of the walk had us at Point State Park. I stood at The Point where the Three Rivers meet: the Ohio river forks into the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers in Pittsburgh.

I wondered how many African Americans stood there before me, before The Point became Point State Park in 1974. I imagine the long history of Pittsburgh going back to the French and Indian War (1754 to 1763) to the American Revolution (1775–1783). Some African Americans were indentured servants, others enslaved, and a few actually served in the military. I am sure some gazed at the Three Rivers just as I did. Instead of concrete, asphalt, and steel, they saw many more trees. I imagine an African American man in a buckskin coat and leggings with musket in hand sitting under a river birch.

We made it to the Strip District, the last leg of the walk. The sky was gray, the air grew colder. Regrettably, we turned back retracing our steps.

Next is the Cultural District, Grant Street, Mid-town, North Shore, and Market Square. I’m headed to Station Square this weekend.

I found a Visit Pittsburgh: African American History Guide. I’m thinking those walks will wait for the spring, after the winter thaw.

Photos by Dianne Glave