Greetings LQP People!
After more than 18 months of community building and campaigning, we've assigned all 433 blocks of Quilt IV to community members. So long as these final blocks make their way back by the end of May, beginning June, this quilt will be headed to the quilters by mid-summer. The top for Quilt II is completed and will also be headed to getting quilted in the next couple of weeks, once the quilter gets settled into her new place after moving and I've had a chance to take photographs, which I'll post in the June 2013 issue.
WE DID IT!
With this being the case, we'll have 4 quilts in rotation beginning at the end of 2013. Quilt III and Quilt V will go into production towards the end of the summer once I've had a chance to rest after the June 2013 activities, of which my calendar continues to fill up more and more.
So, I want to say thank you to EVERYONE that has contributed to Quilt II and Quilt IV and all those supporters out there continuing to root for our efforts!
I don't really have a lot to say this month, so I will keep things simple. I am officially exhausted.
The recent uptake in good weather means that I have spent many hours out in the community garden getting things planted. A cold and rainy start to the spring meant that we are 2-3 weeks behind where we needed to be before the weather finally stabilized. I'll have pictures soon. So, don't be shocked if food prices are much steeper for summer produce this year. When I started planting a couple of weeks ago, farmers reported they were anywhere between 50-60% behind in the planting schedule.
In other news, I have been nominated for a community award here in Indianapolis as one of Citizen’s Energy’s 125 Neighborhood Leaders! The ceremony will be June 4th! So yippie, the work is continually making its way into the public sphere. Although, I haven't the slightest idea what I was nominated for. However, the youth that I nominated, all 5 of them, made it through the gauntlet and for this I am soooooooo very happy. The children are our future and this bunch of youth is quite exceptional.
About a month ago, I presented the quilt to this group of home schooled kids and their the classmates of about 10 kids. Many had seen the quilt at the library during the Meet the Artists XXV exhibition and appreciated that it was displayed in that environment. We pulled out the comments collected in a bird cage during the exhibit to examine the public reaction. There were about 100 comments and the kids poured through them reading each one out loud and adding their own insights. It was a fascinating conversation from the minds of kids 8-16 years old. We talked about how this history connected to the contemporary times (Trayvon Martin). Why people were angry in their comments and so much more.
Afterwards the kids wanted to count up the positive vs. negative comments. What we found was the ratio was 2 out of 3 in favor of the quilt being in the the library and this history being discussed, no matter how difficult or painful. That's a lot because the comments I kept remembering where those that were highly offended and angry. So, this simple exercise was a good reality check in understanding how the work is perceived and received by the community. Thanks kids for reminding me and your youthful enthusiasm.
I'll also be speaking at the Indianapolis Museum of Art on Wednesday, June 5th to discuss The Lynch Quilts Project in relationship to a recent exhibit here by Chinese artist/activist Ai Weiwei. If you don't know the story about this artist/activist, then look him up. It is quite fascinating.
Finally, this months resources has a slew of articles. So many in fact I had a hard time choosing. Most notably this month in regards to news and race is the Boston Bombing and the recent news coverage surrounding Charles Ramsey, the gentleman in Cleveland who was instrumental in rescuing the 3 abducted women. Boston is terrible and I am thankful my marathon running cousin didn't qualify this year.
But Mr. Ramsey . . he's a hero. A real hero. Not some man in red tights and a cape, but an everyday person, flawed as we all are. Just an average person that chose to step-up to the plate and do the right thing at the right moment.
So with that said, each and every one of you that continues to support this long and laborious process is an example of what a true everyday hero looks like. So, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
This work could not, would not be accomplished without you!
A Garden Epilogue
Given the time of year and the primary focus of my attention lately, I thought it appropriate to revisit an article from last year, Root Workin' in the Asphalt Jungle, which explores my baptismal by fire to the world of gardening. Things have changed quite a bit as I've spent the winter learning about rotation schedules, companion planting, the difference between commercial vs. heirloom seeds, soil testing, natural cures for the chickens' leg mites and (good lord who would have ever thought I'd say these words) how one deals with poopy butt syndrome.
But my favorite title as of late is chicken wrangler. I take great joy in letting the 4 resident chickens of the community garden roam free a bit around the parking lot.
As of late, I've gotten a little too relaxed with April, May, June and July (our chickens) and allowed them to roam a little too free out of my eyesight. Or some days I've gotten so caught up with teaching gardening or planting, I've forgotten they were out. (Bad chicken wrangle!) They never go too far and the freedom is good for them.
But let's face it, the garden sits off the road of one of the busiest stretches in Indianapolis. And playing chicken to figure out why the hens tried to cross the road would not end well. In fact it may end on a plate with a side of biscuits and gravy if I am not careful.
So check it out this article from last year to see where the journey began. And yes, my learning curve is still going and added to list is water conservation, fishing and hunting, rain barrel projects and how to make herbal medicines.
April, May, June and July. World's most beautiful chickens.
Remix: Root Workin' in the Asphalt Jungle
"There is no escape; We pay for the violence of our ancestors."
- Paul Muad'Dib
These words are spoken by a fictional character in Frank Herbert', epic and prophetic series DUNE. If you haven't read it I would highly suggest that you do. I'll relate to you how this story of gardens, violence (past and present), lynching and healing are related. Until then, just bask in the glow of my tale.
For the past 4.5 months I have spent much of my time working within a community garden. To say that the experience was overwhelming (at first) is an understatement. To say that I was completely clueless when I started is to liken me to a newborn babe trying to figure out what to do with hands waving in the air all the time.
Here I was at the start of June, shortly after returning from my journey in Tulsa, OK and asked to help bring life to a garden built in the middle of a mall parking lot. Big Car Service Center is a bad a** place, converting an old abandoned Firestone garage into a place of hope and healing. But with all that metaphorical beauty built into this symbolic place, my initial entry into this world of gardens, reclamation and asphalt was baptismal by fire as my first task was to harvest wheat with a pair of scissors. Yes folks . . . wheat! Amber waves of grain, waving in the middle of parking lot not to the backdrop of purple mountains of majesty, but a 4 lane road full of loud honking vehicles, angry commuters and an art mural.
Day 1, I broke out in hives from the contact with the oils from the plant. The morning of Day 2 my forearms were covered in welts as I had to pull wheat splinters from my skin. (Hint: The beautiful spikes sticking out from the top of wheat are prickly and hurt like heck when they get under your skin. And they slide there easily like a hot knife through butter.) Day 3, I wore a long sleeved shirt, pants, boots and a headscarves and was on the verge of a heat stroke as it was 95+ degrees outside with high humidity.
It was an inferno.
I was in my own personal Easy Bake Oven!
And a part of me LOVED every minute of it. Despite the struggle to understand crop rotation, cascade planting schedules, good bugs vs. bad bugs, how to water a garden in the middle of a drought when watering bands hit. Trying to figure out when are the veggies ripe enough to pick and what the heck do you do with all that bounty once it starts coming in? On and on and on; the learning curve was and continues to be tremendous.
As time moved on, I realized how completely and utterly divorced I was from my agrarian roots, even though I have lived in very rural areas in my life. How odd, that I, a descent of sharecroppers and farmers, someone whose great grandparent's kept chickens in their backyard and canned their own veggies in the middle of the inner city, knew very, very little about what that life entailed. Or did I?
A few days ago, I espoused to an older black woman, who happens to be a Master Canner, Preserver and Gardener that I did not understand how and why I was not taught these "basic survival skills." Why didn't my great-grandmother teach me, why this, why that . . . yadda, yadda, yadda. She simply pointed out. That for many from the older generation they thought they did not need to teach these skills to their children and children's children because they thought we would do better in life.
That got me to thinking, what else where these generations of individuals trying to leave behind? Many left the rural south to flee the oppressive world of Jim Crow and the violence of lynching. In doing so, these actions to seek peace and freedom ultimately turned the vast majority of the African American population into an urban dwelling community divorced from the land.
Don't get me wrong, there is an Urban Ag Renaissance going on and Detroit is a testament of what can be when rethink land use in the New York Time's article Imagining Detroit. But what will a persistent disconnect from the land mean generations down the line? And how complex is this discussion and relationship between land, healing, race, violence and history?
Agrarian life was something to be left behind to work in factories "movin' on up", the countryside was synonymous with violence in many communities, rural life was backwards. After a tour of relatives in the south last summer, I could see quite clearly how living on a farmstead in the middle of rural America, put many blacks at risk. If there are safety in numbers, living off a dirt road 2-3 miles from your closest neighbor could be a potential death sentence. And keep in mind there was no 911 dispatch or cell phones then.
Throughout that visit, I had an intimate understanding of how agrarian life was not a good thing for blacks for many generations. From the horrors of King Cotton to the plight and terror of running to freedom through thousands of acres of woodlands (or swamps in the case of my Louisiana and Florida relatives) to the continued hardship of sharecropping and Jim Crow in/justice, connection to land, rural life and agriculture / natural surroundings is complex and many cases painful. So for many, north and cities were the best options.
Now fast forward 150+ years since this migration began and violence of a new sort now plagues many inner cities in general and by proxy the lives of African Americans. Is the violence a mirror of what happens when populations are detached from the land - the very thing that feeds us spiritually, mentally and physically? Detached and separated from the very thing that in essence gives birth and life to us all?
Articles and organizations abound touting gardens as the key to anti-violence ( Transforming Violence , A Garden Becomes a Protest or Urban Garden as Crime Fighter). My own garden dances in the shadow of a major local gun dealer. And today, the neighborhood unfortunately bore witness to what happens when violence erupts as this store faced a senseless act of violence leaving one dead and one wounded. [In the 8 months since this article originally appeared, there have been 2 robbery attempts at the gun dealers; a police car chase down the main street - I counted 10 and then stopped; and finally 2 shootouts in the parking lot of the mall adjacent to the garden property.]
For myself, I have found that in recent years there is a need for a counter balance. Years of reading and researching lynching, spending hours upon hours consuming some of the vilest acts of violence one can imagine eventually start to wear on a person. This past year I have had to put those books down more and more. Some I have been trying to read for months now and literally feel revulsion at the thought. In some ways that is a good thing, as it means I have not become desensitized to these horrors.
But it is interesting that it is through gardening that I found the necessary counter balance. In recent years much of my creative life has been devoted to exploring and remembering death, death, death and more death. So, the very act of taking a seed, putting it into the ground and watching it grow into cucumbers, beets, pumpkins, moon and star melons, sweet potatoes, collards and so much more . . . is an act of healing. It is through this process of creating life that balance occurs with death. (And did I mention we have chickens too!) That by returning to the land and embracing agrarian ways, which my ancestors fled and in some ways forcibly removed from their descendents, I have come full circle.
An elder told me recently that the true spiritual power of life is found in the acts of everyday living. The cooking, the cleaning, the caring, the loving . . . basically living out loud those very things that make us human and build community. And now, just as quilts and quilting are acts of reclamation and healing through fabric, so too is the transfiguration of turning black top into gardens.
You see? It's all in the hands baby.