I had been married a year when Amadou Diallo was killed by New York City police in 1999. It was shocking, but I knew that it was the next stage of racism we, black people as a people would have to endure. I thought about his family who had made it possible for him to travel to New York, the greatest city in the world, full of opportunity, only to be snuffed out in a hail of bullets. So quick, so easy. It was in the midst of Rudy Giuliani’s Quality of Life campaign which began to remove all the grit and charm that we all had come to love as Manhattan. No more smokin weed or drinking beer on the street, not even in a paper bag. Cops were coming out of the suburbs, only having heard about the hood through rap and the media - as usual, white, fearful, believing in inevitable annihilation and wanting to take it out on anyone they could. We all asked the obvious question. Why don’t they aim for the leg or the arm, why a barrage of bullets aiming to kill?
The Central Park 5 had already happened in 1989. I was living in New York two years and I saw the full page Donald Trump ad and I thought what do five teenage boys have to do with his day to day life? I did not know that people like Guiliani and Trump thought that the city was going to hell in a hand basket because of us, people of color. Never mind that our neighborhoods had been flooded with drugs in the 60s right up and through the 80s when the streets were then flooded with guns. We now know, through redlining, those same neighborhoods were marginalized and starved of opportunity, jobs, homes everything that the pursuit of happiness was supposed to promise.
My family left Queens for Miami when I was twelve because my mother saw what was coming. She wanted a better life for us and could afford to give it to us. We are the Caribbean “upper middle class” as Mum would say. House, two cars, dog, the American dream hard won through the Caribbean diaspora through Europe to America. Mummy and Daddy taught us to be respectful of the police, to stay out of harms way. My brothers had their brushes with the law, but our tight knit family unit softened the judges’ hearts and they gave them leniency. To this day, I have been to one vigil, for Samuel Harrell in Beacon who was murdered by a tortuous sadistic “beat up squad” in Fishkill Correctional Facility in 2015. I believe in building community, not fighting against the system, but, there comes a day like today when one must join the fight. And I know why the protest has gone worldwide (thankfully), where we, the marginalized, now a majority of us across the races, realize our common bond. Human race.
I am pained to the point of immobilization some days. First Covid, now this. The American Empire crumbles like any other empire before, 400 years in. We have no idea where we will end up. We do know that our lives will never be the same. And what of this angry, fearful being, this white character, pushed into the cold dank caves of Europe before Europe. What did the North African, Sumerian, Persian borders look like back then trying to keep the refugees out. The albino is discriminated against in Africa to this day. What did they think as they huddled for warmth in those Dark Ages? Did they vow revenge? Is the hate still seething in their DNA, that when they got the opportunity for revenge, they would seek to kill their ancestral parents like any deranged child? They hate their shadow selves and their shadow is us. They think their white skin makes them pure. They think they can be rid of us. They think they can eradicate us from the face of Earth. Did it work with the Jews? I think not. And now we gain economic power, we just have to learn to wield it and you dear white people are finished. The future is female and brown, but when women have, everyone has.
Five years after 9/11 we moved upstate because I wanted to farm. We are so blessed to be upstate with Covid-19, but here lies another layer with the protests over the death of George Floyd. They are all around us. We are out of harm’s way. I travel upstate once a week to A Farm for All! to work and the roads are empty, seemingly in a bubble. Marc travels back down to the city the last two weeks to resume work. We take spoonfuls of lacto fermented food (sauerkraut) and dropperfuls of Echinacea and Elderberry tinctures for prevention directed by Susun Weed. We feel safe. But we have to head out to the streets. The gravity of the situation hits home. The world is fed up. The youth abandoned, jobless, locked down, mired by crushing debt from student loans have taken to the streets. We’ve got to do what we’ve got to do.
What do we do? I write my blog. I maintain my schedule. I garden. I did not know if Earth would be able to take this pain from me today, but just walking through Sally Garden of Eden, told me yes, Earth can and Earth will, not only take my pain, but give me back love. Lay down your burden says Mother Earth and I will hold you up. By the end of the work day, I was gleeful again. We do have to hear a story of a loved one trapped in their apartment at Union Square because theirs so much looting it’s too dangerous to go out.
In the midst of New Moon Prayer Week George Floyd is killed so I don’t enter the fray until the end of the week. I can hardly believe my eyes. Not to be brash, but did Officer Chauvin cum on himself as the life drained out of George Floyd’s body? Is it a rush? Does that genetic hate bubble up inside of you and you feel like you have done your part for the absurd notion of white supremacy? Have you forgotten that we, the people of color taught you about empire? Perhaps you are our chickens coming home to roost when we abandoned you into the Dark Ages. Perhaps we fortified our borders like you seek to fortify this border that never was, is not nor ever will be yours. This country is red, the indigenous people remain. The only white area of the world is Europe, step outside your borders and folks are immediately brown. And the immigrants come from your former colonies. Black and brown.
I have bought Tarot of the Orishas this year to add to my collection of decks. I have been studying the spreads during New Moon Prayer Week. A deck with dramatic depictions of the Orishas against intricate backgrounds. A mixture of white and brown people. New Moon Prayer Week is a break for me. I have decided to journal and have no judgment, no news or social media. The days become very peaceful. Last Prayer Week I dreamt of the Goddess for the first time. This New Moon, I acknowledge the confidence I have gained from engagement in my various endeavors. I believe human evolution of bias is gender, class and race in that order and race is relatively new. Empires have risen and fallen, female, male, black, brown, yellow, red and now white. Absolute power corrupts absolutely no matter who is at the helm. Will we finally learn that we are all created equal and all these differences are a human construct and can be wiped away like a mandala.
My lovely women at Sargent-Downing give me the opportunity to focus on areas of the garden I have not had the chance to pay attention. In the last two weeks we have planted
Anise Hyssop, Agastache foeniculum, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Beet, Beta vulgaris, Chenopodiaceae, Annual, Assyria
Cilantro, Coriandrum sativum, Annual, North Africa, West Asia
Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae, Perennial, Europe
Lemon Balm, Melissa officinalis, Labiatae, Perennial, South Europe
Nigella, Nigella sativa, Ranunculaceae, Annual, Southwest Asia, Meditteranean
Pea, Pisum sativum, Papilionaceae, Annual, Mediterranean, Europe
Sage, Salvia officinalis, Labiatae, North Africa, Mediterranean
Sunroot, Helianthus tuberosus, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Thyme, Thymus vulgaris, Labiatae, Shrub, West Mediterranean
We’ve opened up a bed I’ve never used for all the herbs. I have a fellow herbalist in the garden with me this season and she’s only grown communally in community gardens. We geek out regularly on herbs. What fun! We open up Three Sisters bed and plant Corn. Three Sisters is a native American tradition of planting Corn, Beans and Squash as companion plants. Beans grow up the Corn and enriches the soil and Squash shades out the weeds. It is delightful to engage in the tradition. We create sixteen mounds of soil in a thirty foot bed forming them into a volcano shape and plant the Corn seeds in the four directions. When Corn is six inches we plant the Beans inside the volcano and Squash outside the volcano. I have not had luck with Squash, but I think I will start the seeds in a tray on the deck and transplant this season. I have been direct seeding all along. I have had to move to starts with certain plants like Sunflower in recent years because they have been hit or miss otherwise. We live and learn. SDG is indigenous land, regifted to the Lenape by Madam Brett, a colonial businesswoman who’s father owned 80,000 acres (Beacon to Poughkeepsie). Her father passed on leaving the land to Madam Brett and her husband. Her husband passed on leaving all of the land to her. She gifted the valley in the mountain to the Lenape.
Hiddenbrooke is an engagement in the wild. I am hard pressed to weed out Yellow Dock and Mullein who have shown up in Echinacea bed (Echinacea purpurea, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) this season. The work is to establish Echinacea, but now I have these possible companion plants, that I think, should stay. Anise Hyssop establishes herself finally after six years of me not realizing she is a forest dweller. Somehow thinking because she occurs in the midwest, she would like full sun. Again we live and learn. Red Bergamot plants have finally shown up in the mail and I opened up the bed this week.
2020 is my tenth year gardening on my own. I’m realizing my experience with the plants. Outside of native/restorative, in the last couple of years I’m considering companion plants. Those plants that grow together without overtaking one another. Native belief (Choctaw) is that families of plants are those that grow next to one another. Mugwort (Artemisia vulgaris, Asteraceae, Perennial, North Africa, Siberia, Europe) has been the greatest challenge, but she grows amicably with Sunroot (Helianthus tuberosus, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island), while Echinacea, Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island) hold their own amidst Mugwort and Sunroot. Now this season we will monitor Echinacea amidst Mullein and Yellow Dock. Mullein chooses different spots every season so may not show up in Echinacea bed unless 2020 is year one (Mullein is a biennial). After nine years at SDG, Wild Bergamot has chosen many spots in the garden so I expect the same at Hiddenbrooke. I have planted the perimeter of what we can call Hiddenbrooke meadow (a slope in front of the house) and want to watch who chooses where to migrate. It is an interesting development. Thirty foot beds of herbs I want in quantity and then to allow the wild and cultivated to blend.
Yellow Dock (Rumex obtusifolia, Polygonaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island
I have made decoction with Yellow Dock root and taken it for formication here during menopause. I remembered a friend of mine making it many years ago. A good source of iron especially for women. I use a cup of Yellow Dock leaves in my Nettle soup. I have also made vinegar with Yellow Dock seeds.
Mullein, Verbascum thapsus, Scrophulariaceae, Biennial, Asia Europe
Leaves can be dried and used for infusion with milk for asthmatics. Folklore states that the smoke can be blown into the face of the asthmatic to stop an attack. Mullein flowers can be used to treat eczema and heal wounds. Seed oil can be used for dry skin. Mullein root is diuretic.
Red Bergamot (Bee Balm) Monarda didyma, Labiatae, Perennial, Turtle Island
Natives have brewed the leaves of Red Bergamot as Oswego Tea. M. citriodora (lemon-scented), M. pectina and M. fistulosa (lemon-oregano-scented) and M. menthifolia and M. punctata (mint-scented) were used as seasoning. Leaves were also infused in oil to be used in hair. The leaves contain antiseptic thymol and can be used for pimples, steam inhaled for colds and steeped for nausea, flatulence and insomnia. I use Wild Bergamot (M. fistulosa) for heartburn for digestive upset throughout the year, especially at the holidays. It is time to harvest Wild Bergamot leaves for tea. Once the flowers appear the leaves get powdery mildew.
I do have my experimental plants, Pleurisy Root (Asclepias tuberosa, Asclepidaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) and Red Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata, Asclepidaceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) that need woods and wet areas respectively, which I can expand with into A Farm for All! I tried to grow Joe Pye Weed (Eutrochium purpureum, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) the last time I started Pleurisy Root and Red Milkweed, but I only got three plants. I was thinking to transplant from Seed Song (www.seedsongfarm.org) ( I could to A Farm for All!), but why not just plan to go and harvest at Seed Song? I have harvested Goldenrod (Solidago canadensis, Asteraceae, Perennial, Turtle Island) for the past two years at Seed Song. My evolution has been from wondering if I wanted the responsibility of land to now visioning big land with access to A Farm for All! and Seed Song. At ten years, I’m all in and dreaming bigger. I also got my beloved White Sage (Salvia apiana, Labiatae, Annual, Turtle Island) our Southwestern Sage annual here in the Northeast. I think I will plant her at SDG.
It is time to harvest Comfrey (in flower).
Comfrey, Symphytum officinale, Boraginaceae, Perennial, Europe
One of our European standbys, Comfrey is also called knitbone and I have used Comfrey infusion for recovery after an ear infection, hip pain, and I make a Comfrey Salve for anything from cold sores to cuts and bruises. Comfrey is also good for arthritis and rheumatism.
Hate is learned. Children have to be taught difference. Hate. We are loving, kind beautiful beings. Humans have place artificial constructs on top of our natural inclinations leading to abhorrent unnatural impulses. These haters are hurt, damaged, miserable beings. How did they get here? We are resilient, strong, loving beings. Martin Luther King, Jr. the Saint of our time said that racism is a disease. May we find the cure. May we learn how to treat it. May our black brothers and sisters stop being sacrificed. I offer strength to us all who take to the streets. I participated in my first march last Saturday and every time I have a day off, I will be out there. Solidarity is a strong and uplifting experience. It takes away frustration, confusion, anger, despair. Mother can hear us. Can feel our feet on the pavement. Can watch us kneel for eight minutes and forty-six seconds.