Day 2: Indigenous Food Ways: How Do We Move From Repression to Recognition?

For the Food Solutions New England 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge; prompt here, along with a list of things to look at and read.

The hills, beaches, forests and cities that I am most often within are on Narragansett, Nahaganset,* Pocasset Wampanoag Tribe of the Pokanoket Nation, and Nipmuc land**. They were the site of King Philip’s War, one of the most brutal wars of conquest in the early days of European colonization, and I just encountered a newly gathered map of histories of that war that looks amazing. It’s called Our Beloved Kin: Remapping a New History of King Philip’s War, and I want to spend some time with it.

The Narragansett Tribe has a Food Sovereignty Initiative that looks pretty cool, too. This is from their website:

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*The Narragansett are federally recognized, the Nahaganset are not and do not wish to be . The link gives a little more background, but this is a source of conflict between/among their members that it’s not my place to say any more about.

**Knowledge of whose ancestors lived here before Europeans arrived, and who lives here now, has been slowly sifting into my consciousness for a few years, as I said in the first day’s challenge—but even now, really, I just know about the names, not the lives, relationships and ways of thinking and feeling that go with them. Genuine relationship-building is slow and requires desire on all sides. I have been honored to work with and/or alongside some people who are Indigenous to the place where I live (as well as some people who are Indigenous to other places and live here now too) on various efforts where the same things matter to us or overlap, including this one, and have tried to learn by watching and listening.

Something useful that I think these daily challenges are making me think of: what are the ways that I can challenge myself—that is, learn—without placing an inappropriate demand or burden on someone else? If there’s a choice between my learning being demanding for someone, the displacement/enslavement/murder/exploitation of whose ancestors has benefited me, and me learning another way (even if that way is secondhand), I’m going to lean toward the latter. But possibly my avoidance is also a form of ass coverage/not wanting to be told no?

If I think about how I feel about this, I think I mostly feel…foolish? Gullible? Why on earth didn’t I put it together before, the various histories and silences? Actually the word for what I’m looking for is shame—I have something, but it’s wrong that I have it, and it’s more work for the people I have wronged to tell me how to make it right. But I think the good twin of shame is humility, the willingness to be small and listen, to be exposed, to learn from mistakes, to have foolishness be a necessary condition of learning and right action.

 

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Day 1: Locating Ourselves & Racial Identity Formation

For the Food Solutions New England 21-Day Racial Equity Challenge; prompt here. I did the signup wrong so am starting late. (Some of this seems a little…potentially burdensome for people of color? “Consider talking with someone you know, who would be willing, who identifies as being of a different race”?)

I feel like the number of words that anyone wants to read from a white person about being white is limited, no matter what the words are, so I will try to keep it short (for me, this is short):

When I was a kid I knew I was Jewish, because my family talked about it (and so, occasionally, did other people). I didn’t know I was white; most of the people I knew were, and none of us talked about it.

Thinking critically about whiteness and white supremacy started for me mayyyybe ten, twelve years ago? (I am 40.) The work of a number of online writers, mainly Black women, mainly writing for readers of color, laid some groundwork and so did the act of participating in the conversation ONLY by listening. This enabled me to both read more deeply and learn more from people I know as well.

My sense of myself as a colonizer or settler, or at least as someone who reaps the benefits of those enterprises, is much younger, maybe three years. The pattern is similar: this is a lesson started for me by writers and thinkers online, on Twitter and elsewhere, in a way that has enabled me to continue reading more deeply and learning more from people I know.

Between these two, I would say that my present sense of white people is something like, “People who, when we live someplace, make things worse there.” One way I try to address this is by not going very many places, or into very many contexts, unless I am invited–though sometimes I ask for an invitation.

The prompt asks, “How do you think about your own racial identity and its relevance to your life, work, studies and/or volunteerism in the food system (or as an eater)?” Certainly my class, as shaped by my race, affects what I can afford to buy to eat. This also affects the time and energy I have available to volunteer with Hope’s Harvest RI, which I do from time to time (maybe you can too?). And the food that I eat is grown/raised on land shaped by colonization, genocide and enslavement, and in many cases grown by people who–partly because of white supremacist interference in their or their ancestors’ countries of origin, partly because of the way capitalism and white supremacy work together now–are trapped and depleted by the work that they do.

For four years now the Sankofa Market in Providence has kindly hosted the Climate Anxiety Counseling booth (they’re looking for gardening volunteers! Email dresendes AT westelmwood DOT org!)–and I infer that my being white, in a neighborhood mostly dwelt in by people of color (at a farmers’ market where most of the vendors are people of color, which is an offshoot of a housing development corporation that has a high proportion of both staff and participants of color) affects people’s willingness to speak with me–as well as activating my own background racism, though I try to be aware of it and not let it shape the way I’m interacting with people. Here is a picture of me, so you can see what people see when they look at me.

my face mom hat

Passover is coming up, one of the two Jewish holidays that my family celebrates as a family. I love it; I love the way that my own family has made room to acknowledge the holiday’s complexities and complicities, and the format of the Seder has been a huge influence on the way that Climate Anxiety Counseling works. There is a long email thread about who’s going to cook what, which I have mostly been ignoring, but I just made a deal with my mom about the brisket (grass-fed, organic, expensive, probably from McEnroe Farm), on Matabesec Mohegan land–which, full disclosure, I never knew until I looked it up to write this): if she teaches me how to cook it, I will do the part she hates, which is slicing it up before putting it back in the gravy.

Getting back in the saddle with the 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge

I decided to do the Food Solutions New England 21-Day Racial Equity Habit-Building Challenge because it seemed like a good idea, relevant to this work, potentially useful, and potentially connective to other people who I could learn with and from.

It’s been winter, so I haven’t been doing the booth (starting up again in May!); recording my responses to the challenge here seems like a good way to get back in the habit of posting here. (I might un-decide to do it, though. We’ll see.)

If anyone wants to do it with me, let me know! I’m fine with people jumping in whenever. If I like doing it and the organization runs it again next year, I might try to do it with people in a more organized way, but I found out about this too late to set that up this time.

Here are some peas that my mom sent me, soaking in preparation for planting.

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Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Southside Cultural Center Holiday Market and Extravaganza! 12/15

A rare winter booth appearance (indoors, indoors)! The Southside Cultural Center is holding a Holiday Market and Extravaganza TOMORROW, 12/15, and the booth and I will be there to listen to your climate anxieties and other anxieties as we stumble together toward the end of 2018. There will also be performances, craft vendors, and music. 12-4pm, 393 Broad St., Providence. Come on by!

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[Image: tree roots that have displaced bricks and gathered soil, grass and moss, all in winter sunlight.]

Some things about leaves

Walked to vote on a raw Novemberish day in Providence. When the weather is seasonable, I feel better, even though I know it has no long-term meaning. The leaves are starting to come down in earnest finally and pile up a little.

leaves 1

To pay attention to some things, we have to neglect other things. Let them just pile up on the sidewalk, break down as best they can, let the dogs shit in them, let their own tenants of fungus and bacteria emerge, unsanitary, let them spread a layer of humus slowly over the sidewalk, let people walk and wheel in the street, let dropped seeds take root. How quiet it will be. Sour smell of the smashed locust pods rotting, sparrows having to make different decisions.

leaves 2

Streets paved with gold, in the short term: let them learn again to maintain themselves, let the seedlings teach the concrete to crack. Think about who is with you now.  When you step off the street itself to let an ambulance through, you are taking a walk in the forest.

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling/Call to the Dead TODAY, and Call to Action

Today is the last Sankofa World Market. I’ll be there starting at 3pm and going till sunset. Come and share your climate-change-related anxieties and other anxieties with me.

At the end of my stint I’ll lead a brief ritual honoring all the humans and nonhumans who have already died because of climate change and its effects, and inviting them to speak to the people who have knowingly caused the worst damage.

In the wake of FERC’s decision to allow the LNG plant in Providence to go forward, the FANG Collective is calling for people to participate in a range of direct actions to stop both this and the fracked-gas Invenergy plant in Burrillville, RI. Please read this pledge and see if there’s anything on it that you are willing to commit to; if you want to talk that decision through with me today, I will try to help.

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[Image: a Black girl in a parka, drawing on the Rhode Island map of worries, next to the Providence Community Library sign for Knight Memorial Library.]

“We will keep fighting for the health and safety of South Providence”

Yesterday, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a certificate–basically, the necessary permit–for National Grid to build a natural gas liquefaction facility on the Southside of Providence. If you know me or have been reading this site for a while, you know that I’ve been working with No LNG in PVD to stop this plant from endangering the people of the Southside and (through contributing to climate change by increasing the extraction, transport and consumption of natural gas) the world at large.

lng plant panorama

Here is our statement.

No LNG in PVD is committed to fighting for health, safety and justice for all residents of South Providence. For three years, neighborhood residents and committed allies have fought to stop National Grid from building a liquid natural gas plant on Allens Avenue that will increase health and safety risks for residents and contribute to global climate change. On Wednesday, October 18, we learned that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has granted National Grid a certificate for this project, subject to certain conditions.

FERC’s decision came through 12 days after the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change stated in strong terms that ceasing fossil fuel emissions–reducing them to 45% by 2030 and to zero by 2050–is essential to maintaining human life and well-being on Earth. In National Grid’s permit applications, the useful life of the LNG facility is stated as ending in 2030. Meanwhile, on October 3, a truck carrying over 11,000 gallons of gasoline overturned on the Route 95 ramp from Allens Avenue, pouring gasoline onto the road and into the Providence River. Threats to the neighborhood and to the planet are ongoing from activity in the Port.

No LNG in PVD is proud of the work we have done to try to protect the people of the Southside. We are proud of delaying the construction of this shortsighted and dangerous facility for three years. We are proud of our attempts to participate in the public regulatory process despite many obstacles, and we are proud of the Southside: a neighborhood where people live and work, not a sacrifice zone. We wish that our elected officials listened to the concerns of the people they represent. We are grateful to Mayor Elorza for supporting our campaign from the beginning.

No LNG in PVD will continue to fight for the well-being of the Southside. This is only the start of ongoing efforts to make the Port of Providence clean and healthy again, and to make Rhode Island a place where economic and environmental health go hand in hand.

We learned the news yesterday. Today, I went with a friend to East Greenwich, RI to help collect salt marsh grass seed, which the Fish and Wildlife Service will germinate over the winter and set out in the spring at another marsh, in the John W. Chafee National Wildlife Reserve, to help the marsh keep pace with sea level rise.

grasses

[Image: grasses.]

Eventually, if the grass seedlings take, they will mediate between land and water (which helps humans) and provide homes for many nonhuman people there, as they do here.

grasses and mussels

[Image: grasses with mussels hanging onto their roots and the bottoms of their stems.]

I was, and am, so angry. I was, and am, so sad. I was, and am, so scared. And I am not finished. We are not finished.

grasses and beam

[Image: grasses, a sunbeam, and some tidal mud.]

I want to be clear: if the state were serious about the health and safety of the Southside, about “environmental management,” about “resilience,” we could and would work toward a restoration project like this there, too, where people live, where the land meets the water. Right now it’s poisoned by industry and choked by concrete, but Nature isn’t a specific place where you get to go if you’re rich. Nature is us.

When there is more that you can do to help us fight for-profit environmental racism, I will let you know.

Guest Post! Climate Anxiety Counseling with Julie Beman: City Wide Open Studios, New Haven, CT, 10/14/28

[Note from Kate: Julie Beman held her first ever Climate Anxiety Counseling session last week in New Haven, on the sidewalk next to Violet Harlow‘s studio sale and across from Edgewood Park Farmer’s Market. Here is her account of the day.]

 

Weather: Sunny and cool

Number of people: 7 stoppers (3 sitters) and many walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0

 Pages of notes: 0

 Dogs seen: many

 Dogs pet: 2 goldendoodles

 

 

Some conversation recollections:

 

1. Oh my god, I can’t believe you’re here! I need to talk to someone like you! I just bought this painting of a whale, I’m upset about the report that came out, I use so many plastic pens and I saw all those animals with stomachs full of plastic and there are so many plastic pens in my office…

I was thinking about the pens and remembering that I have fountain pens from my father and grandfather and I’m going to have them cleaned up and give them to younger people in my family and say “here’s a gift from your ancestors.”

(Then we talked about how ancestors don’t have to be from ancient times. Just a generation or two ago people didn’t use plastic, cooked at home, tried not to waste food, used hankies…)

*

2. What’s wrong with the climate? Why should I be anxious about it?

Well, some people think that the climate is changing and causing a lot of problems, and some people don’t. Have you thought about that?

I don’t care about anyone here. I saw a video of people in a cafe and then a tsunami came in and flooded everything. I cared about those people.

So you feel compassion for those people?

Yeah, people on islands. Not here. I think about the environment. I try not to buy a lot of things. I don’t need a lot of things. People buy too many things. We don’t need that many things.

(And that was about how it went until he said “Yeah, I see why you’re doing this. Cool. You made me think. Cool.”)

*

3. A man and a woman. He talked about the government and multinationals and career politicians and “follow the money.” She talked about all of the things she’s trying to do – organizing, making donations, calling/writing politicians. He just kept going and going – very ‘splainy – and concluded with “Well, are you supposed to give us advice before we leave?” I asked if that’s what he wanted, and he said yes, so I said “OK. Try to spend some time with your feelings.”

 

Other folks stopped by who didn’t have time to sit and talk, but said that they would have if they could. A couple of people said they were moved by the question. One bicycler shouted that she’d be back later.

 

On Instagram a woman asked if I’d be doing something similar locally (Hartford area rather than New Haven), and I said I was trying to figure out where to do it.

 

 [This is Kate again. If you’re interested in figuring out a version of Climate Anxiety Counseling that works for you and the people in a place where you live or spend much of your time, let me know at my gmail address, publiclycomplex, and I will help you get set up.]

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 10/10/18

Weather: 83 degrees Fahrenheit in October in New England; sunny

Number of people: 1 stopper, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Dogs seen: 2

Dogs pet: 1

Empanadas (from the store across the street) eaten: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.00
Observations:

Only one person talked with me today. My friend Rani made this beautiful henna pattern on my hand at a time when she didn’t have any customers either.

unravel henna

Nonhuman visitors and passersby: hornet and ant on the notebook (at different times), monarch butterfly in the library garden, carpenter bee, honeybee, tiny grass moth.

 

A conversation:

What do you think can be done on the civic level?

[I spoke about cities making room for climate migrants and refugees, and increasing food sovereignty; didn’t write down what I said.]

Our system don’t think about even half of what you’re saying. The way that democracy work, things go from the top to the bottom. We don’t have the infrastructure—we need to create more. We see the problems with the house, but the rules are set by the landlord, so if you wanna change the room—you have the idea, but it’s frustrating, because the people who can make the change will not do it.

What appeals to me is having some representative here, because what I’m telling you has no weight. We can talk, but as nice as that is, it doesn’t change things. You can’t act on something that you are not allowed to act on. Having representation here—someone with influence in Washington who can get things done.

Fight Fossil Fuels in RI TONIGHT

No LNG in PVD, Burrillville Against Spectra Expansion, the Mashapaug Nahaganset Tribe and others are asking people to speak out against Governor Raimondo’s support of fossil fuel projects, and urge a change of course, at her fundraiser TONIGHT (10/16), 5-7pm, 60 Dorrance St, Providence.

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is running for re-election, and Rhode Island needs her to actively oppose the two fossil fuel projects proposed for our state. Here is a very full statement of what her priorities have been and why they need to change, from the groups opposing these projects. From the statement:

You have told us to “trust the process” with the power plant. But the process is not a neutral one. Your administration, through various advisory opinions submitted to the Energy Facility Siting Board, has issued several reports that support the project and ignore serious concerns. With the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources even claiming that the construction of the power plant, which would produce greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to putting 763,562 cars a year on the road, would be a good thing in the fight against climate change.

For both National Grid’s proposed LNG facility and Invenergy’s proposed power plant, free and prior consent was not reached with the indigenous nations whose land these projects would be built on. This includes your Administration ignoring the Mashapaug Nahaganset Tribe’s December 2017 cease and desist order demanding the halt of the LNG permitting process.

In addition to these local impacts, both of these projects would continue our region’s dependence on fossil fuels and would contribute to global climate change. A report from the United Nations released on October 8th stated that our civilization only has twelve years to confront the climate crisis before the crisis spirals out of control, with devastating impacts. To remain silent, or supportive of these fossil fuel projects proposed for Rhode Island, would mean that you are complicit in the violence and destruction of the climate crisis.

With key permitting decisions coming up for both the LNG facility and the power plant, now is the time for you to do what is right and speak out against these projects. In our opposition to these projects we have always been honest, direct and transparent. We now ask the same from you. We urge you to listen to the people of Providence and Burrillville, and to listen to the people of Rhode Island. The health and well being of your constituents, and your legacy, is on the line.

Please come out tonight, if you can.

no lng rally