Transformation in Autumn

Transformation is the spirit of autumn. Everywhere you look there is change. While Autumn has its own unique colors I’m excited to move on. It’s time to fall back to Eastern Standard Time and vote.

And speaking of falling back, here’s an excerpt from my past blog post on some seasonal rituals that I fall back on during this time of the year:

“Do you have Autumn rituals? I do. It’s about accepting change in mind, body and soul. Nature changes with each new season. So must we. I believe that we all follow seasonal rituals whether conscious or unconscious that were passed down or learned along the way. I wonder what could be in an autumn ‘tool kit’? What do we need to do to open our hearts for this new season? What do you do to indulge your senses with sights, sounds, and scents of Autumn?”

Click here to read about my Autumn season rituals.

Yes, it’s been awhile since my last post. Here are some highlights:

Vegetables and flowers are still growing on my New York City roof. But the big surprises from my urban roof garden were the beans, squash and corn, a nod to my Native ancestors’ ‘Three-Sister Garden’ tradition. It was an experiment to grow corn. Actually, life as an urban gardener is a total experiment and an amazing journey.

Winona LaDuke, noted Native American environmentalist, political activist who keynoted the Community Food Systems Conference in Boston that I attended in 2017, inspired me. She recounted a story about a cousin who grew corn in a wooden crate. I copied what she said he did. It worked!

Mostly though, LaDuke’s message stayed with me. It was a message I heard before: “Listen to our ancestor’s. Prepare for the next seven generations. Protect and care for Mother Earth. Stop this culture of consumption! It’s totally not sustainable!”

 

And speaking about consumption—what are we consuming? A lot of bad news! My remedy is to unplug from social media. Once I’m unplugged, I become more intentional about caring for others and myself. It happened organically.

Gardening is my mindfulness meditation. But I did not know it when I first started. By caring for my garden, I noticed that I felt calm and connected.

My gardening experiences were very transformative for me. As a city girl, to intentionally plant a seed, hand-mix the soil, nurture and witness growth and reap a harvest—all of these gardening stages changed me. Like magic, I felt strong. I began to feel more strength between my mind, body and soul connections. Slowly, I began to reclaim artistic parts of me that I had neglected. Sometimes, I know I am channeling my ancestors.

What are your autumn transformation reflections?

 

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Memorial

Memorial Day roots

Memorial Day weekend is when I wake up my garden on the roof. That’s where I channel my farming ancestors. I plant vegetable seedlings that germinated in my kitchen. I decorate my home with flowers fresh from the local farmer’s market. I meditate. I am at peace with memories of my military father, brother, family and friends long gone. But we are not at peace. The world is at war. The fallen is rarely remembered. We need love and peace. Maybe there’s a special tea for that. Maybe gingko memory tea can help. Memorial Day is a mixed bag of facts. What are the roots? Over 20 states claim they started it. Major credit has been given over to ‘fake news’ and whitewashed memories. I have written about Memorial Day several times over the years. This year I’m offering just my favorite Top 3 facts.

Memorial

Top 3 Memorial Day Facts

  1. The earliest war memorial events have ancient roots. “Events weren’t held in the United States until the late 19th century, the practice of honoring those who have fallen in battle dates back thousands of years. The ancient Greeks and Romans held annual days of remembrance for loved ones (including soldiers) each year, festooning their graves with flowers and holding public festivals and feasts in their honor.”

To read more amazing Memorial Day facts, click here.

  1. Formerly enslaved African Americans in South Carolina started it in America. I wrote about the holiday’s African American origins in a past blog post. Here is an excerpt.

“Thank you South Carolina Sisters and Brothers! Like most Civil War topics, this holiday has a lot to do with memories lost and whitewashed. Even on mainstream websites, false credit is given to women’s history—that Memorial Day was somehow an idea created by a military officer’s wife.”

To read more, click here.

  1. It began as ‘Decorations Day.’

Officially, as a national holiday, Memorial Day emerged in 1868 when General John A. Logan, commander-in-chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, the Union veterans organization, called on all former northern soldiers and their communities to conduct ceremonies and decorate graves of their dead comrades.”

To read more, click here.

What are your top 3 Memorial Day facts?

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Auntyland!

Auntyland is building a social enterprise to honor BIPOC (Black Indigenous People of Color) aunt narratives and support BIPOC businesses through our annual holiday – Real Aunts Day. Because of COVID19, we shifted all activities online. We believe in scholarship and community. We are developing research including GIS mapping to explore the multicultural landscape of aunts. We aim to disrupt stereotypes about aunts.

“In our world, the word ‘Auntie’ and the ‘aunt’ role present complex historical and cultural meanings. Many of the complexities of our lives are rooted in colonialism and racism. Auntyland is a place where generations meet,” said Sylvia Wong Lewis, Auntyland founder, and proud aunt.

Aunt stories will be solicited, collected, and archived for the first time. Mothers and grandmothers have been studied and celebrated for eons.  But few understand the world of aunts. That’s where we come in. We will bring more creativity, scholarship, and rigor to the aunt world.

Why Auntyland? Because aunts are superheroes who have been overlooked too long! Aunts are second mothers, grandmothers, Godmothers, and more. Aunties play pivotal roles in strengthening Black and Brown families and communities. We are especially reaching out to African American, Caribbean, African, and Asia women and siblings to document unique and resilient families and communities. This is the first time ‘real auntie’ stories will be collected and archived in a dynamic way.

Auntyland is also a whimsical place full of joyful and amazing women. We are passionate about life and love. AND activism and social justice are our biggest concerns. Do you see us keeping vigil for the caged children at the borderlands? Do you see us marching and protesting daily for equality everywhere? Didn’t we save American Democracy at an Alabama election? Today more than ever we need to disrupt the race, gender, and age bias– and take control of our narratives. Our voices and images are too often dismissed and stereotyped. No more!

“When I think about my ‘aunties’ I am filled with awe and gratitude. My mother’s friends and my parent’s siblings intervened in my life and the lives of my peers in pivotal ways. We hope to bring back some of that positive ‘auntie’ energy. “Where Sisterhood lives, Aunties Rule!’ is our motto. We aim to be a motivational and community-building space. Through our digital platform, events, and e-store we hope to inspire, educate, and entertain,” Lewis added.

Have you ever been called ‘Auntie’ or ‘Titi’? Do you call anyone Auntie or Titi? These are cultural terms of endearment and respect titles for Caribbean, Latina, African, Asian and African American women, and siblings. But the word and the role can present different meanings depending on the circumstances. Let’s explore Auntyland!

Auntyland

Podcast, Video opportunity – Let’s schedule your interview for our podcast/radio or an in-person video interview today. Talk about ‘aunties’ of all kinds. Honor an Auntie by sharing her story for our archives. Share what’s happening in your world! Do you have aunties–related, chosen, or found in genealogy? Are you an aunt or grand aunt? Are you taking care of a niece, nephew, young or old? Are you living with an Auntie?

Legacy: We want personal, family memories, reflections, and photographs. Whether it’s discovering a new aunty or singing the praises of a woman whom you call ‘Aunty’ or ‘Titi’ who deserves to be celebrated, please reply. Tell us about it today!

‘Real Aunties Day’: Nominate an aunt in your community or family who ‘goes above and beyond the call of duty.’ We will award prizes and public recognition to amazing aunties for Aunts Hall of Fame awards. Details to come soon.

Photography/Artists: We are reaching out to mature women artists and creatives of all kinds. Photos, artwork, illustrations, creative, multimedia.

Funding: We are community-based in New York City and independently funded via grants through our fiscal sponsorship with Fractured Atlas. To send a donation, click the direct link here

Contact: If interested, please send an email to contact@auntyland.com. To submit or pitch your story, please click here to complete the submission forms. To sign-up for our mailing list, click here.

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Otelia Cromwell

Otelia Cromwell Day

Otelia Cromwell
Otelia Cromwell, first African American Smith College graduate.

 Otelia Cromwell Day is a Smith College community-wide celebration. Being first to do something and inclusion are the ongoing themes. Traditionally, Fall classes are cancelled and an annual slate of workshops, lectures, films and entertainment are convened to honor Smith’s first African American graduate. New York City Smith College alums gathered on November 4, 2017 to celebrate Dr. Cromwell’s legacy.

Recent campus keynote speakers have included: Roxane Gay, writer-professor; Sonia Sanchez, poet/arts activist; and Dr. Julianne Malveaux, economist-commentator.

Black Alumnae of Smith College (BASC), the College’s first Affinity group, collaborated with the local Smith College Club of New York City to host the event that attracted over 70 alums. To see photos and video highlights, click here.

Prof. Elizabeth Pryor, keynote speaker.

 This year was New York City’s second Otelia Cromwell Day. We were honored to feature keynote speakers Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor, Smith Professor of History and Dr. Carla Shedd, Smith alum, Class of 2000, Professor of Urban Education, City University of New York. Their book signing was a double highlight: Smith College Professor of History, Elizabeth Stordeur Pryor (daughter of Richard Pryor, noted American comedian) is author of ‘Colored Travelers: Mobility and the Fight for Citizenship Before the Civil War,’ (University of North Carolina Press, 2016); and Dr. Carla Shedd, Professor of Urban Education, The Graduate Center, City University of New York, is the author of ‘Unequal City: Race, Schools, and Perceptions of Injustice,’ (Russell Sage Foundation, 2015). Last year’s (2016) NYC keynote speakers were Smith Professors Paula Giddings and Riché Daniel Barnes.

Dr. Carla Shedd, keynoted Otelia Cromwell Day 2017.

Background: The first ‘official’ Otelia Cromwell Day was held in 1989 to provide the Smith community with an opportunity for further education and reflection about racism and diversity.

However, 1970s black students started the ‘original’ Otelia Cromwell recognition. Their campus activism on racism, recruitment, and retention, are still important issues today!

My classmates in the class of 1974, the largest class of Black students, considered the question: “If we are the largest black group, who was the first? Our research led to the discovery of Otelia Cromwell and other distinguished nineteenth century African American students! The 70s black students were the first to start the ‘Otelia Society.’ We designed and wore T-shirts with imprints of Otelia Cromwell’s photo.

“People who end up as the ‘first’ don’t actually set out to be the first. They set out to do something they love.” Condoleessa ‘Condi’ Rice.

Were you the first to do something? Please share!

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BacktoFood

Back to Food

BacktoFood

Back to food is a return to love and family. My parent’s Brooklyn brownstone was on the “over-ground railroad.’ How America’s largest migration happened was “over-ground,” according to The Warmth of Other Suns, by Isabel Wilkerson. Recently I asked my brother if he ever wondered why all of those people lived with us when we were growing up. “I thought it was normal,” he said. Back then, in the 50s and 60s, it was normal for strangers to stay in your home. Racial segregation was lawful. Black folks rarely stayed in hotels or ate in restaurants! We used the Green Book to find safe places when traveling. My paternal grandmother’s Rockaway summer resort ‘The Cherokee,’ was listed in that directory! Click here to see samples.

Ms. Wilkerson’s book helped me realize the moral, historical and political context of my parent’s humble home. Their Southern and island hospitality was about love and caretaking. For years we welcomed many hopeful travelers—from the Deep South, Caribbean, Central America, and Africa. My Guyanese maternal grandfather sponsored several of our foreign student boarders. We even adopted a few white radicals from Ireland! Me, my siblings and parents crowded into rooms on cots and bunk beds to accommodate elders, married couples, artists, maids, porters, nurses, teachers, and assorted extended family—‘cousins of your grandmother’s best friend, and your aunt’s white husband’s cousins from Ireland.”

BacktoFood

At The Table: Everything centered at the dining table. Our galley kitchen could feed an army but seated only a few. My Mississippi father was a professional baker. My Trinidadian mother was a serial entrepreneur: SuSu banker, daycare center owner, tailor, and caterer. She also held a day job at a local hospital. Southern and Afro-Asian-Indo Caribbean Diaspora food was our general menu. Besides eating, the dining table was a place for storytelling, activism, celebrations, doing homework, and more. I wish today’s youth could benefit from the daily meals and conversations my generation experienced! The dining table was also where we learned culture and home training–table manners, discipline, proper order, behavior and language.

backtofood

Cooking Genes: A seat at our table was a boisterous, multi-lingual place where West Indian English, Ebonics, Spanish, Chinese, Patois, and Louisiana Creole were spoken. Jazz, blues, Gospel and classical piano and vocals, Calypso records, folk music, tap dancing, radio shows, and Red Fox comedy albums, were normal sounds at home. Our home was also a rehearsal studio with four pianos, an extension of my paternal grandmother’s Harlem music schools. Those colorful, diverse long-term guests shared food, tall tales, talents, garden tips, health remedies, and a strong work ethic. Food aromas were constant. Everyone seemed born with cooking genes. Callaloo, Curries, Rotis, Buss-Up Shot, Gumbo, Beans and Rice, Potato Salad, Peach Cobbler, and Sweet Potato Pie, were standard fare. Every bowl of food provided a history lesson about slavery, colonialism, migration, and  immigration. Each cook owned their unique culinary skills, techniques, and preparation styles. I have eaten many types of fried chicken, gumbo, beans and rice, curries, pies and cakes. ‘Soul’ food deserves more respect in the cuisine world. For a fresh perspective on cooking genes, check my friend’s new book called #TheCookingGene by Michael W. Twitty. Click here for more information.

BacktoFood

Cooking Lessons: Sometimes our guests cooked their own tribe foods. But most times my parents, both home chefs, cooked daily meals. My Trinidadian cousin Sandy and I learned to cook by doing. We grated coconuts to make real coconut milk. We made thousands of Jamaican meat and veggie patties! We used upside down teacups as cookie cutters to make the pastry patties that were filled with deliciousness. As a baker’s daughter I grew up playing with dough. I learned to cook Creole Southern and Chinese-Caribbean meals by observing and assisting in the kitchen. We were a loud, crazy-mixed-up family that attracted nosy neighbors. They were happy to receive tasty bribes to go away! But they always came back for more.

Happy Tuesdays: Back to earth! With anxieties about hurricanes and immigrant children getting deported, I need Tuesdays– my new happy day! That’s when my local CSA- Community Supported Agriculture, kicks in (blue tent in photo). For the next 10 weeks, Farmer Pedro & Family @LaBarajaFarm will deliver produce from their land in Goshen, just fifty miles away. A recent delivery included: carrots, beets, red onion, celery, potatoes, corn, kale, tomatoes, lemon grass, and peaches!

backtofood

To learn more about CSA, click here. Actually, we are taking in too much food for two people. So, my husband and I share with friends and family. In addition, we get more food from my local senior center. They offer veggie bags for $8! Thank you to Gale Brewer, Manhattan Borough President. To learn more about NYC senior veggie bags, click here.

To see what I’m cooking, check Silvera88, my Instagram page, and SilverGingko, Food is Culture, my Pinterest page. I try to embrace a full food spectrum: food is love, food=culture, food is medicine, food social justice, gardening and sustainable agriculture.

In the Garden: I’m grateful that my tiny garden, assorted containers on the roof, is alive with growth. A surprise bloom, buzzing bees, fluttering butterflies, chirping birds, wild weeds, are simple things that inspire me. Jamaica Kincaid’s book ‘My Garden Book’ is one of my favorite garden books. To check it out, click here.

What are your favorite books about gardens, food, or farms?