What a lovely afternoon spent with the EVE Circle. LaVerne Baker Hotep, with the Center for Victims of Violence and Crime (CVVC), organized a retreat for a group of African American women at Wild Red’s Gardens, formerly known as Mildreds’ Daughters Farm. It is the only farm within the Pittsburgh city limit.
The women spent a joyous day outdoors on the farm. When the skies darkened and it got cooler, they joined together for food and fellowship.
I shared part of the afternoon with the women sharing about African Americans and the environment, and leading a guided meditation focusing on faith, the environment, and health. I was delighted to see Lois McClendon with B-PEP/Coalition Against Violence and a Pittsburgh environmentalist.
Photos by Dianne Glave
February is Black History Month. Carter G. Woodson, the father of African American history, started it all in 1926 with Negro History Week.
Woodson was strategic deciding on the second week of February between Frederick Douglass’ and Abraham Lincoln’s birthdays for that special week devoted to African American history. Douglass was born enslaved in Talbot County, Maryland and knew the southern environmental landscape first hand, as a forced laborer without wages. The same was true for Woodson who was enslaved in Canton, Virginia in the same geographic region of Douglass’ birth place.
As for President Lincoln, he wasn’t the savior to those enslaved. African Americans of Woodson’s generation mythologized Lincoln through much of the twentieth century. Lincoln was more concerned about preserving the Union at any price during the Civil War. If freeing African Americans from enslavement helped so be it. If keeping African Americans enslaved bound the North and South together, that worked too. No matter your interpretation of history, whether through the lens of expediency or largesse, Lincoln was instrumental in changing how African Americans worked the land in the shift from enslavement to sharecropping, the latter into freedom.
In the midst of Black History Month 2012 . . . in this the second week of February in which Woodson marked Negro History Week . . . always remember Woodson was one of the first historians to write African American history. I owe a debt to him because his scholarship was a precursor of African American environmental history. Many of us owe a debt from historical and contemporary perspectives.
Carter G. Woodson, thank you for The Mis-Education of the Negro and A Century of Negro Migration.
One and all, have a joyous and educational 2012 Black History Month!
Several African American women in history stand out for me including Sojourner Truth, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, and Harriet Tubman. As for Harriet, she sure knew how to work nature to survive.
In 1822, Harriet Tubman was born enslaved in Maryland. She escaped to Philadelphia but went back thirteen times to lead other runaways from the grueling existence of plantation life which included planting and chopping tobacco. Harriet led a frightened people–most of whom had not been very far from the farms and plantations–at night and usually in the winter using the North Star to guide her back North. Perhaps Harriet learned the skills of surviving in the woods and other landscapes from Ben, her father, who worked the timber on the plantation. She was also familiar and comfortable with marshes because she checked and emptied muskrat traps.
Harriet Tubman: The Environmental Moses of Her People!
To learn more about Harriet, read Catherine Clinton’s Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom.
I headed down to Tallahassee last weekend. To get back to Atlanta I drove through South Georgia. I think this was my first drive through the pine nurseries and stands, pecan groves, and cotton fields in the region. I snapped a few photos during a drive that took about five hours but turned into seven hours because I was fascinated by every little thing I saw on the road:
I saw–smelled it too–prescribed or controlled burning of the pine on the road. The burn reduces the fuel to limit larger uncontrollable fires. The pine is fire resistant but can still burn. Yes, this stuff is delicate and is best left up to the professionals.
Later, I picked up a sack of pecans in the shell at Ellis Brothers. I shared some with co-workers and am still enjoying cracking a few open every day. There’s something powerful about eating food in the form closest to the the earth, in this case from the branch to the limb to the tree to the trunk to the earth.
The trip is over but the pecans keep giving.
Photos by Dianne Glave