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:

Picture

*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.

20190331_113513

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 9/26/18

Weather: Gray, humid, sprinkling rain. Later, breezy and cooling off some.

Number of people: 4 stoppers, no walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 3

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.00

 

Observations:

Short shift (4-6pm) today because of a meeting.

It’s pretty common for me to have conversations about farming and food when I do the booth at the farmers’ market. I think the three different ways these three different people are talking about them are illuminating.

Yellowjackets; cricket sounds.

 

Some conversations:

It’s a big world out there. It feels like a lot of things are ending, which, what do we do about that?

What do you do about it?

 I grow more plants, I learn about growing plants. I come to things like this.

 When is it that you feel anxious?

 Reading a new piece of news about, oh, the ways that communities are experiencing the world changing around them.

What does it feel like, when you read that or see that?

 Some kind of dread. But in many  cases it’s very removed from my actual life. It’s like I get an echo of what’s happening.

 Are there times when it feels more immediate?

 Looking around—my grandfather is a big gardener, and talking with him about things that have changed in his lifetime, like, he can grow these peppers for longer. It kinda feels positive—he feels like he can grow more stuff. English is not his first language, and he doesn’t read that much, so what he knows is mostly what my sisters and I talk to him about. So it’s one step removed, the dread—he gets it filtered through us. He’s good at focusing on the here and now.

 Is that something you can kind of learn from him?

 It feels like it’s something out of reach, but it’s good to tap into—to work in the here and now.

Do you have conversations with other people about this?

 Yeah, but a lot of the conversations I have are not very productive. Some of them end in like a feeling of dread or incapacitation—it doesn’t go anywhere and I kind of feel like it’s a copout, but how to move past that?

 What would happen if you moved past it by going through it?

 Often it’s either been with people or in spaces where we’re not able to be intentional about moving past that. It needs a devotion of time and energy, and you can’t do that individually, and the stars gotta align to have what you need to do it communally.

What would that look like?

 It would look like something that if it exists—it should look different from anything that we’re used to.

* 

It’s a bigger thing than me recycling. I do all the good things that people should do, I have dreams of owning my own little piece of land. But it’s no use doing my part unless I can get other people to do their part. The work I do, the nature of my work, kinda goes in that direction. I grow sunflowers at my house, I give ’em away to my neighbors—the other day there was a big group, a big bunch of middle schoolers, and I offered them sunflowers and they were all like ugh, you’re a dork, like my nephew’s that age. But there was this one, she didn’t want to admit that she wanted one, but she came back later.

… I feel guilty when I’m driving a car. On an individual level I do what I can, but on a macro level it’s too big for just me. Even if push comes to shove and we have to deal with some kind of environmental tragedy, we’ll handle it, hopefully. “Okay, what do we do now that the world’s underwater?” One thing that does worry me is that a lot of people close to me live in food deserts, food insecurity. Like one of the kids I was talking to [at CityFarm], she was like, “My family are farmers, but I go hungry sometimes.” So yeah, we’re giving food to the neighborhood, but what’s happening on the other side of the table? … I’m always mindful of it. I’ve gotten friends involved … It’s dope to meet people and get them interested in your interests. I’m much more into the personal interactions than I am in leading a movement. Empowering people to grow their own food– “You know what a ton of mint you can grow in this little pot? Try it!” People like to start with succulents. Something that stuck with me from childhood: Rich Petersen from CityFarm, he’s been my mentor, and he was like, “Food is one thing everybody has in common, ’cause everybody has to eat.” You can use food as a connecting tool. This one guy, I gave him a handful of huskcherries. He didn’t wanna try ’em but eventually I’ll get him.

 *

I have a lot of concern about farmers and how they’re impacted by climate change. There was some crop I was reading about recently where there was a blight, it was a very poor crop this year, and it was related to climate change. Oh, corn. One clue after the next, that’s something. With seafood—seafood is very affected by the warming of the waters. Jonah crab is becoming a thing here, and it’s great to have jonah crab, but it’s also a symbol of warming waters. How it’s affecting lobsters, other shellfish—I’m in the food business so I think about it from that point of view.

 And also the things that eat lobsters, the things that lobsters eat—

 Of course, it’s a whole ecosystem getting disrupted.

 When was this first brought to your attention?

I’m personally not engaged in any advocacy for climate change. I have a lot of colleagues who—that’s much more in their wheelhouse, and I support the work that theyre doing. Water, energy, the environment—food is the nexus of a lot of things … I’m worried and frustrated because not everybody in the political world is as excited about this. That’s what we need, to change a lot of things. And it’s hard when you come from a state that’s pretty democratic. If I was in a purple state I might be more involved.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 8/15/18

Weather: Hot and clinging, okay when clouds covered the sun

Number of people: 3 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 4

Dogs seen: 4

Dogs pet: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.40

 

Observations:

I’ve said before that people seem to be shopping at this market. I noticed today that at least some of them are also hanging out, slowly circulating, talking with the vendors and with each other.

Lots of people had questions for me (because of where the booth is set up, toward the front) about how WIC and SNAP worked at the market.

People really want to volunteer their friends– “She needs it!” “You’re the one who needs it!”–but you can’t do that.

Relatedly: when someone comes to me with something that I absolutely do NOT have the skills to respond usefully to, I try to point them in the direction of someone or someones with those skills.

A wasp landed on the cardboard part of the booth and maybe tried to eat it? A bumblebee and a honeybee also visited, hovering nearby and/or landing.

 

Some conversations:

What have you been noticing?

A lot of heat, disruption of food flow. And also how that’s been developing a lot of groups popping up in different communities, low-income communities, communities of color. We’re actually here doing this survey about the factors facing women of color, what people are dealing with. I hate the label of the food desert because it’s about food never being accessible to us due to structural things, structural colonialism. A lot of people don’t know what’s even in their water.

What are people telling you about as you do the survey?

A lot about food affordability, housing, mental health stuff. Working full time or working multiple jobs in order to sustain your household. Gentrification, pushing people out to the outskirts. Economic separation of the rich and the poor.

Where do you see climate change interacting with all of these things?

With everything. It’s at the intersection. Your environment and where you come from, how many trees are there, how many birds, not getting the right amount of sunlight, fertile land to grow food—all of that intersects with your quality of life. But we’re also seeing new alternatives coming up. Cooperative work, an increase in farmers’ markets, individual entrepreneurship—social enterprise, all these social enterprise models are coming into mainstream language in the business world.

Are you saying that they’re getting excited about something that’s been going on?

Yeah, in response to underground and grassroots stuff that’s been happening. There’s a deeper need for it because of this division [between wealthier and poorer people]–the economic support systems are breaking down.

*

My husband has PTSD, and that puts a lot of emotional and mental stress on him and myself. Some days I feel anxious myself. I want to know on a day-to-day basis what we can do to help ease those stresses. I’m learning what his triggers are, and I’m trying to be supportive and have a listening ear about things that cause him to have episodes. I also worry how it would affect our toddler, our one-year-old son. What are some preventative things I can do for him being in that environment? We’ve been figuring out what are the resources that we have, we try to stay close-knit to them, friends, family, our church family. I worry how it will affect his work life, how we can maintain financial stability. And even more so, despite his PTSD, we want to keep our relationship healthy, not toxic. We really focus on spending time together, getting a babysitter, doing things that we both enjoy.

Who else does he reach out to, besides you, or what are the other things he does to take care of himself?

He goes to our pastor—he’ll text him in the middle of a crisis. He’ll spend time at the gym. He’s a musician, so he’ll spend time recording. He’ll spend time playing basketball—things he enjoys that make him feel better. But then for a week or two those things won’t happen without him doing anything. I like that he talks about things he enjoys to do. And I like that he talks about his past traumas—he opens up to me about things in his childhood, sexual abuse and physical abuse. I feel like that’s a good relief for him. I don’t like when he’s having a really angry moment and it might come out in other ways. He doesn’t enjoy taking his medication and he hates the way he feels when he gets upset, he hates how it affects me, he wishes that he didn’t have this [condition].*

He has a psychiatrist that prescribes his medication, but he has to be consistent with appointments and open with her about the dosage and how it affects him. He took a long vacation from getting his medication and there were a lot of troubling things that happened. Now we’re glad that he’s able to get his medication, but he has mixed feelings about it. He doesn’t like the way that it makes him feel. I’m trying to help him see that the medication helps balance him out, make him who he would be, they’re not controlling him…

You’ve talked a lot about all the work you’ve done to care for him and all the work you’ve done together. What are you doing to take care of you?

There are periods where I can just go go go, trying to keep everything together. But being around close friends, people who care about me and are able to listen. Exercise, I love the outdoors. I love art, creating something, cooking a meal. And I’m seeking a therapist.

You also wanted to talk about your son.

He feels the energy. The shouting the punching the wall, I don’t want these things affecting him in any negative way. I try to just remove him, or me and him will remove ourselves, I’ll take him for a walk. And [my husband’s] learning to take space too when he feels this way.

*I neglected to write down what word she used, that’s why this is in brackets.

*

Gentrification. Seeing it over here, in Washington Park, Providence in general. I was driving my son for ice cream to this place we like to go in East Providence and seeing all the lights, the lights they have for traffic speeding here—I don’t see any over there! I saw in the paper they’re going to add more.

What are the worries you have about gentrification?

That we’re gonna get priced out, that the rent is gonna go up so high that we’ll have to leave. … I saw that the city a few years ago sued Santander for redlining—when Angel Taveres was mayor, the city sued and they won. They settled, but that’s admitting they did something wrong.

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 7/18/18

Weather: Hot, bright, breezy.

Number of people: 3 stoppers, 2 walkbys

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 2

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $1.00

I didn’t get permission to post any of the conversations I had today. I think they were okay conversations, though, and one of them I hope will make the idea of counseling feel normal and doable to the person I spoke with (a fairly young person) if they ever want it.

Although it was a relatively slow day for me, it seemed like it was a good day for the market in general. People were buying vegetables and—crucially—they were coming prepared to shop, making the market a part of their food plans.

Nonhuman passersby: monarch butterfly, little beetle climbing on the booth, giant black-winged beetle with orange body.

I also took a short shift today, 3-5pm, because my parents were visiting. I couldn’t find my sun hat, so my mom lent me hers. Here it is, with my face under it.

my face mom hat

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market/Knight Memorial Library, 6/27/18

Weather: Hazy, windy, heavy; later cooler and grayer

Number of people: 7 stoppers, 1 walkby

Pages of notes: 10.5

People I’ve spoken with before, back for more: 1

Dogs seen: 1

Dogs pet: 1

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.05

 

Observations:

I was in a different spot today, closer to Elmwood Avenue and next to the food. Unclear whether it was helpful in getting people’s attention, but I felt more visible. Thanks to Julius and Greg and everybody else for lending me the shopping cart to hold up the map in the wind.

I had company for the first hour, a former student of mine who’s interested in “learning the business.”

Someone mowed the lawn since last time and the clover is dull and dry. I saw one wasp, and an interlocutor spotted (as it were) one ladybug.

People continue to sort of…blur together…“climate” and “environment.” I can sort of see why that’s happening but I haven’t figured out how to reset it or if that’s my job.

I made some efforts to connect interlocutors with opportunities to work in concert with their neighbors today. Don’t know if they’ll come to anything.

 

Some conversations:

We can’t stop it—no, we can maintain it now that they wrecked it. It’s like that Billy Joel song. … We need to educate—I don’t think a lot of people know, we have to educate them. And people have to stop listening to this news, that news, and start listening to the earth. Feel the grass—why is this part mushy, why is this part dry? Get to know it! When I visited Thailand, everyone actually talked about the earth. There was recycling on every corner. Every foreign place I went to. We’re the last ones, do you know how sad that is?

… Knowledge is power. Research things yourself, and compare. Nobody does research anymore. Don’t just be like, “Google, what is…” Go out and do it yourself. You cannot change earth, you can’t fix it—no, you can fix it. Look at the ozone, it came down. It may not be quick. No, you can’t fix earth, but you can heal it.

*

Mostly stuff that I try not to think about. I took an environmental science class in 10th grade, and somehow I got the idea that all these policies seemed really clear. Like scrubbers in factories—if that’s implemented, that can fix everything. Then I went into college and literally a few weeks into college, I took this anthropology course, and what I took away from it is that everything is much more complicated. And that applies to climate as well: there’s not one thing that could happen that would change everything. It’s nature, and people are interacting with it in crazy wonky ways—for their own comfort, with gas and air conditioning and stuff, and then also trying to survive and have people here way beyond the time that we’re here. It’s hard to ask people to change their ways. Even just doing a fundraiser. You’re asking people to give up their comforts and a certain worldview, and I just don’t see that that’s gonna happen.

Okay, so, how do you feel when you think about that?

It really, really terrifies me. …It’s kind of discouraging to think that if all of us changed our everyday ways, there are also bigger things that are preventing action in terms of climate change. That’s not to say that I’m just going to give up, but…

What are some of the bigger things?

They’re almost nebulous to me. Things that happen in the seedy underworld of whatever we eat at the grocery store—the sense that there’s something bad out there but I don’t know what I can do about it, or if there’s anything I can do about it. It’s hard to see how being against something collectively can do anything—I wish there could be an alternative solution.

Have you looked? 

I’ve just been in this nebulous state of everything is really complicated and I’m scared.

Do you have a sense of what the qualities of an alternative solution would be, like what would it have in it?

Working against climate change or whatever we’re putting out into the world. Something to collectively change the mindset of people to think beyond themselves…All our actions seem so contradictory. People will go to their environmental science class, then they’ll stay in someone’s room till late and then say, “Let’s go to Wendy’s.” I’ve become kind of discouraged in a way—I’ll say, “No, I’m not going,” but now I’m in this weird space where I’m just sad. … It seems like whatever policy is implemented is harmful to somebody.

Okay, well, if that’s the case, who do we want to suffer?

I just don’t like the idea of suffering at all. I’m not really in-your-face to anybody. I’ve been in these communities where people have no idea. It almost seems unfair to be like, “Fuck you, you can take this.” They can’t fathom how much harm they might be causing.

Well, you changed your thinking about it. How did you do that?

Without an academic setting, I guess it was family and friends caring about stuff. And personal connections are important for me and everything, but people are too afraid to talk about politics at the dinner table . Especially if they’re older than you—in Korean you even use a different tense to talk to people who are older than you, and even though I consider myself Korean-American, that part of it stays alive in me. … As someone who doesn’t want to be confrontational, this is a hard thing to be passionate about.

*

I just got a text saying that Anthony Kennedy is retiring. For another generation, we’re gonna have conservative justices. There’s already the abortion thing–and then also, climate change. My dad lives right on the water and I worry about him in hurricane season. He has good windows and everything—I saw another house down the street that looked close to falling down. He’s 82. I was gonna volunteer somewhere—I was looking at Dorcas, I’ve done library ESL classes, and then on the East Side I was looking at The Providence Village, for elderly people who want to stay in their homes. I want to volunteer, but I also need to make some money. I live near [the market] but I don’t feel connected to people around here.

*

I know it’s gonna happen and I know it’s gonna hit the poor the worst, the first. We have enough people to respond in these crises. My hope is that fear isn’t gonna come down—from the state, from the military—before we create the organic structures that’ll help us through. We’re the power. We’ve been convinced by these others, by the state primarily, that it’s the opposite. This is where change is gonna come from. But when the power structure gets challenged it always rears its ugly head. When the “wonderful” structures that globalization and militarization have given us fall apart, I hope we have enough of a running start to help others so they don’t get picked off.

Where do you see examples of this kind of running start?

[Points at the Southside Community Land Trust tables] Growing in our yards! The integration of white activist culture with the [strengths] of different populations here in the West Broadway and West Elmwood neighborhoods. I don’t think it would be very hard to transplant that* to the Cape Verdean Association, have them disseminate it to all their population. I think in these types of cultural pockets, people have working community where a lot of white neighborhoods don’t. Everybody has more capacity because you know who has strengths and who has needs.

*I wasn’t totally clear on what the “that” was here and neglected to follow up.

*

War. I’m so scared to go to war. I’m thinking about our country going to war, about these kids out here going to war with each other—they send a bullet through my store—the smallest war to the biggest war.

*

Year over year, I think my own pending mortality becomes closer. My anxiety about the environment is replaced by my own fears about the afterlife. The way I have to give it all up. It’s a cruel joke. Mother Nature allows us to be parasites and enjoy it all, but at the end you gotta give.

Has thinking about this changed the way you try to live your life?

I try to be present. Take a cue from the animals that live long, the turtles—they stay pretty cool. Try to slow time through meditation. Just be. I enjoy the rain a little more, getting caught in the rain. Of all the souls that are out there, you got to be a person for a little under a hundred years. Eat good, drink good, live good—and you still gotta make room for all the other ones. Did you see Annihilation?

Yeah, I did. I really love the book.

We rub off on the things around us and those things rub off on us. You remember, out of the four of them, one wanted to kill it, one was scared of it, and there was the one that just wanted to be a part of it. Like cancer, the beauty of things that grow. You see a beautiful yellow flower and you like it, but then if there’s a beautiful yellow flower growing inside of us—it was meant to grow. It’s just our perspective.

… That’s why these rich guys get into politics—they’ve made all their money, and they’re like, “I’m still gonna die.” … People are scared, they try to get control. People that aren’t scared, they’re comfortable with their situation—they’ve seen things happen enough times that they know things are gonna be okay. But scared people need to feel some control. These garages I rent out for storage, I’m in the storage business, and it’s all about people not being able to recognize their mistakes. Rather than recognize it and get rid of it, they keep it—everything they put in storage is an attempt for them to push off recognition for their mistake. “Oh, I never needed it, I just bought it for the feeling,” but they pay for storage until they reach that.

…[When you change your life], it’s different because you don’t know that the next thing is gonna be the right thing. With what you’re doing now, you lose a little bit, but if you change you could lose a lot.

 

*

 

What do we do about it? Once the climate is like polluted, it’s like the water—when they polluted the water, like the oil where all the birds died. But it takes a lot of people to do that work for the climate. It takes more than one person. … People don’t care about that and then they wonder why everything’s so dirty. A lot of people gotta get involved.

[After making a circuit of the vendors and coming back] They don’t have that much at the market today. Last year they had a better selection.

I’ve been hearing people say it’s a bad season.

That’s the climate, that’s global warming. The strawberries are not growing right…a lot of things.

map 6-27-18

On the map of worries, people have written:

Fair Housing

air pollution

Equal Rights

clean water

THE POOREST AMONG US

Bird sanctuary

My family’s house in a future flood zone

Climate Anxiety Counseling at the Sankofa World Market! Rally to End Family Separation!

I’m holding climate anxiety counseling sessions at the Sankofa World Market outside Knight Memorial Library (275 Elmwood Ave, Providence) starting tomorrow (Wednesday, 6/20), and Wednesdays thereafter with a couple of exceptions, 2-6pm.

Tomorrow is the market kickoff, and there will be extra music, activities for kids, and more, as well as vegetables and crafts from local vendors. Cash, SNAP/EBT, WIC, and credit/debit cards are all spendable at the market (it’s free to be there, this is just if you want to buy food or objects), and SNAP users receive a dollar-for-dollar bonus for fruits and vegetables–a fantastic deal!

Before you come and see me at the market, I encourage you to rally at the Rhode Island Statehouse to call for the end of ICE’s cruel, punitive, racist and traumatizing practice of family separation. If you’ve been reading this particular news with horror, this is a chance to speak up. Bring a child’s toy for visual impact. (Other states have issued state orders blocking the use of any state funds for this practice, and/or refused to send their National Guard troops to the border. Rhode Island should do this too.)

Then come to the market and celebrate Providence’s lively and strong community, and support the people of all origins who make it so.

 

 

 

Climate Anxiety Counseling: Sankofa World Market, 8/30/17

Weather: Sun & clouds, fresh. No need for sunbrella.

Number of people: 8 stoppers, 1 walkby.

Number of hecklers: 0!

Pages of notes: 8

People who recognized me, and I them, from previous sessions: 4

Dogs seen: 4

Dogs pet: 2

Money raised for Environmental Justice League of RI: $0.05

 

Observations:

Today was my last day at this market this season. A major theme of the day was the need for structural action, and for personal conversations as a path to that, and I think that’s a good theme to end the season on. Watch this space for more about that path.

Mobile nonhuman organisms seen and heard: cabbage white butterfly, small ant crawling on notebook (which I killed), sparrows, cicadas in trees, crickets in bushes, pigeons in the clear light sky and a bug that an interlocutor removed from my shoulder for me.

The Food4Good free meal truck saw a lot of action today. If you have some money to spare, consider sharing it with them.

 

Some conversations:

Any new anxieties since I saw you last?

I hate the world more. I don’t know if that counts as anxiety. That’s what I like about [TOWN]–my girlfriend and I are living in the woods out there. I don’t come around here anymore. My girlfriend got hooked on heroin down here, I’d get jumped every now and then ’cause I’m homeless, you wake up and your bag is gone, your stuff is gone. In [TOWN], nobody bothers us, we’re the only ones there. We work the off-ramps. I’m up here because I got picked up by the cops for unpaid fines. I was in the ACI and now I have to go back there and get my stuff—my blankets, bus pass, my clothes, my wallet.

We get corn, tomatoes, put ’em on the fire—we make a fire out of just brush and leaves. Sometimes people give us cases of food. Lotta granola bars. Someone gave us a five-pound block of cheese, but there’s only so much of that you can eat, we had to throw some out. If you go to Taco Bell at 4am, they’re getting rid of stuff.

I’m a country boy. I grew up on a 27-acre farm. That got repossessed, foreclosed on, that’s why I’m homeless. We’re the only ones out there, me and my girlfriend. We’re not trying to set the world on fire. Sometimes we sleep in a graveyard, a graveyard’s nice and peaceful. If we make enough to take a day off work, we’ll go to the ocean. We’d rather be freezing our butts off together than apart.

What are you thinking for the winter?

If it’s cold cold we head over to [REDACTED]. They have these steam pipes—you put cardboard down, then a blanket over, and then we sweat. You can do better with panhandling in the winter because people feel sorry for you.

*

I’d think there would be more need now. Not necessarily climate-related, but [people] got other anxieties. Half the people like the job that the anxiety is doing—most of the people I spend time around are Trump supporters.

What are they like?

They tend to be mostly Caucasian. Some of them are people who voted for Obama—maybe they just go wherever the wind is blowing, whoever gets buzz is who they jump on. Unanimously, people who dislike him are people who pay more attention to what’s going on…

…I still have the [RI organism] card you gave me. I believe it was a plant. I come here [to the market] once a year, when I get the free voucher from the senior center. If I had more money I would come more often. I don’t fault any of the small farms—they’re doing what they’re doing to make a living. But a lot of people around here are working with convenience meals. And the end of the month is a bad time.

*

That’s funny. I mean, “funny.”

Do you want to do it?

Sure. My anxiety is that it’s out of anyone’s control at this point. Like is it too far gone? When you see things like the flood [in Houston]–I don’t know if it’s that I’m worried. It’s depressing and terrifying.

What are you afraid of?

Survival. The future. That’s the last question, I don’t want to talk anymore.

Okay.

No, you can ask me questions. One more.

You’re talking about the future, being afraid of the future. What about the present?

We can only change the present, so we do what we can. That’s a good question.

*

How much of this do you think we’re really confronting, as opposed to just verbalizing?

Confronting how? Like, in our perceptions, or in our actions?

There could be many verbs—challenge, disrupt. Making it uncomfortable, taking it out of our experience, our comfort zone. There’s certainly something about talking about stuff, unloading what’s on your mind or your heart, but is there another step to take it into personal action, social action, justice action? There are a few points in clinical work and therapy, ideas and systems [that acknowledge that] everything happens in relationship to everything else. Real change doesn’t come until there’s change in the system. Do you do that, and how, and still maintain friendships so you’re not throwing people aside? … There’s therapy that brings people to action and then there’s therapy that helps people maintain where they are. The goal is not necessarily to gain more mastery or to hold onto what we are. How do we in this state of dynamic flux hold onto what we have, which is maybe a myth? How do we handle what’s there so it doesn’t apoliticize, a-seek change for us? If we are always changing and growing, why are we always holding on, instead of stepping forward and taking risks?

*

I’m really worried about global warming. It seems really clear that it’s gonna be a problem for everybody, and nobody’s doing anything about it, and I can’t—I can reduce my carbon footprint, but I feel disillusioned about it, because it’s not gonna make a difference as long as the larger structural things don’t change. It’s more than Trump—his predecessors didn’t do any better. They took some steps but it’s still a mess. And I’m sitting in this privileged country, I’ve enjoyed the benefits—do I get to say, “No no, Africa, no no, Asia, you can’t enjoy life”?

How do you feel when you think about this?

I’m gonna have to think about that. Sometimes I’m just like, “The earth will survive.” I’m not that tied to the human race. I’d prefer that we don’t blow the place up—then the next species to take over will do what they do. But that doesn’t help me know what I want to be doing now.