Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa Market/Sowing Place, 6/2/18

Weather: windy, looking like a thunderstorm, but just occasional rain.

Number of people: 3 stoppers, no walkbys.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 3.5

People who got the Peanuts reference: 1

Pictures taken with permission: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.00



This was the second time the Sankofa Market was happening in conjunction with Sowing Place. It’s pretty new and it’s also set back off the street. So far, most of the people who’ve talked with me at this event have been involved with Sowing Place as vendors, artists in residence, etc.

I talked with two kids about yellow, white, and purple clover.


Some conversations:



I’m undocumented, and one of the major things I’m anxious about right now is the state of immigration in this country. It’s very scary. We don’t know what’s happening. Trump, one of the things he was running on was this attitude toward immigration, and he doesn’t actually know how it works—he’s talking about building a wall, because he doesn’t know that most of us come on planes. We just have overstayed visas. He doesn’t know how it works, but he wakes up and decides one day to end the program that I’m on. … So what’s the next thing he’s gonna cut? When he ended DACA it was a big deal because people cared, but then something else is on the radar next week. There’s crisis after crisis and it makes it hard to take a collective approach.

Would you say it’s a feeling that’s always with you, or comes and goes, or–

It’s seemingly always with me. It’s part of my identity, it keeps me on high alert. ‘Cause it’s not just me, it’s my entire family. I’ve been talking about it, trying to educate people. ‘Cause the whole narrative of immigration in the US is this xenophobic anti-Latino narrative, but you’ve got like Irish old men living in the Bronx who are undocumented and nobody knows about it because they’re white. So I’ve been trying to talk more, and, more publicly, about my own Black immigrant experience.

How are the conversations going?

They go well. I feel like I’m changing minds. I’ve been writing poems about it and it’s new territory for me, that I’m starting to write about it, because it’s so stigmatized. If my mother knew she’d have a heart attack. But being out and open, especially in the face of all this—when he ended DACA I was like, Let me start to be vocal. And when I talk to people I know, since they realize it’s me [that’s affected by this], they start to care. I have this visibility and maybe power, as a performer and as an online voice especially. I don’t have a huge following but I know people pay attention to what I say, so maybe I should put a tweet about this in between the tweets about poop or whatever. I’m also trying to find my stride as a writer. Poems are great and I love them, but I really wanna do essays, write about ending stigma, talking about status and citizenship. People are like, “Go back to your country,” but the country I was born in doesn’t do birthright citizenship.


What I’m concerned about is this natural gas plant. We need to figure out how to get them to listen to us. One of my coworkers has been a powerful advocate, and she got me involved. We had an event at our church, and that got a lot of people to know about it. We need to be able to eat the food that we grow in the ground, and breathe air that’s in our backyards. When I would go to these meetings, a lot of white people showed up, but we need people in the Latino and Southeast Asian communities to talk to each other. They want to know about it, but people don’t understand.

And I know that the agencies and so on don’t make it easy to understand.

When they had the hearings, they took people out of a public space into a side room like they were interrogating them. One person from our church, he said, “I thought I was doing something wrong.” There’s not enough of us to tell them that this is the wrong position. We need to make them understand that [they] are a public servant, they work for us—not the opposite.



Alternate History: 7/22, 8/1

[Note: This is the second in a three-part sequence.]


The first thought that came to me was putting God back in the schools. They would have to learn about what He wants from us–being kind to your neighbor, being kind to the earth. I think that would help out a lot with children and with society in general–I feel like there’s not a lot knowing about Him, I think it’s unfortunate that a lot of people don’t know about Him.

It sounds like a big part of how you understand how you want to act comes from your faith. Is that true?

I wasn’t brought up through faith. My main value was like, Family comes first. As I grew up, life happened, and I happened to find faith and I loved it–I was like, Cool, this works, I’m gonna stick with it. It’s not easy, sometimes it’s really hard, but you stick with it ’cause you know the benefits of it and you know the value of it.

Do you do anything where you work with younger kids, maybe do religious education with younger kids who are already interested, or whose families are involved?

At the mosque, I try to go to different groups that we have and stay as active as I can. Whenever there’s any kind of activity I try to go to that too.



The next time N went to the mosque, she looked around at the other women there. Some of them she really liked, and could laugh with after prayers. Some of them were bossy, or two-faced, or suspicious of her as a convert, or withdrawn into their own thoughts. But they shared the same peace, the same devotion and the same praise. Their bodies when praying made similar shapes.

Love is one path to recognition, mutuality and care. Another path, the path N found, is that when you turn, you turn to the same place. When you need to ask, you know Who to ask, and how; you know what is required of you, because it is also required of the people near you.

N wanted to share this certainty, this order, this way of knowing other people and the world at large. It seemed to her that especially with big unfair frightening things, people didn’t have that, and clung to what they knew. They needed a reason to move. But she knew, too, that some of the women she was nodding to or joking with (as she adjusted her hijab and prepared to go back into the heat of the day) saw the plants and air and animals and rocks as fellow worshippers of God, servants and givers of praise, and some saw them only as tools for the use of humankind. If anything, maybe the imam could speak to them about it, or include it in the khutba, but who would listen to her?

N made the dua for leaving the mosque and walked into the pounding sunshine.

At home, she looked online for suggestions. Perform tayammum with clean dust instead of wudu with water, one site suggested, but water for washing before prayers was not a problem where they were. Worship outdoors? Surrounding the masjid was a parking lot. I’m not the one with the big answers, she thought; God is the one with the big answers. That’s how we can hear and understand and measure the little answers.

When N started her weekend class for girls and women, she held it in Roger Williams Park, in a kind of gazebo thing in the rose garden. “Who made the world?” she asked them. “Don’t we believe that He knew what He was doing?” And she waited for their answers.