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Sunday, October 19, 2014

Black Mountain/Morgantown, NC

Merry meet friends.
Michelle here, bringing lots of light and love.

 “For the kickass women of the world
Those that are, and those that are growing up to be.
The daughters. The mothers. The sisters.
The fribblings – friends like siblings.
The wives. The girlfriends.
The aunts. The nieces.
The grand-somethings.
The young uns. The teens.
The women in your life.
Who love, lose, cry.
Laugh, heal, thrive.
Nurture. Create.
You. Are. Amazing.
As. You. Are.
Stronger than you know
More beautiful than you think.
Worthier than you believe.
More loved than you can ever imagine.
Passionate about making a difference.
Fiery when protecting those you love.
Learning. Growing. Not alone.
Warm. Giving. Generous.
Quirky. Sexy. Funny. Smart.
Flawed. Whole. Scared. Brave.
And so, so, so, much. More.
Be strong. Be confident. Be you.”

“Copyright: Tia Sparkles Singh, 2011
Your Life YOUR Way”

For the past thirty years or more, I have had a passion for the empowerment of women.  Maybe it’s because I am a survivor of sexual and domestic violence.  Maybe as a student of history, I haven’t liked the way that women have been treated in a patriarchal society; or maybe it’s both.  Whatever the reason, it is my calling, my raison d’etre, as it were.  That’s why attending the SEWW conference meant so much to me, in addition to working the Sister Love Tent.  I felt that any women attending this particular conference would be of the same mind set or consciousness.  This was not entirely the case.

It is billed as an herbal conference but it is so much more.  It is about unity as women; supporting, encouraging, loving, understanding and mentoring.  I did not expect it to have elements of discord or separation.  As I walked around Unity Village or along the lake passing other women, I was surprised at those who did not speak or acknowledge my presence.  These were mainly European women, not all of course, but enough for me to notice.   As I passed women of color, I was greeted with words, smiles or a nod.  Even in the communal showers in the morning where we were totally exposed to each other, women did not acknowledge the presence of other women.  This was disconcerting to say the least.

I am not naïve when it comes to race relations.  I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s in Virginia.  We couldn’t shop at the same stores, drink from the same water fountains or attend the same schools as Europeans.  I am no stranger to racism and prejudice.  However, I do feel as if I were naïve pertaining to this conference.  As one of the tenders pointed out to me when I voiced my concern, these are the same people you might work with or who might live in your neighborhood.  Her point was that people are who they are.  I do know that, it’s just that I thought these people attending this conference would be different. 

I was told that an African American woman went inside the Red Tent and sat down.  A few European women were there honoring one another with love.  When the African American woman sat down, the European women left.  On Friday night when I worked the Sister Love tent, some European women came by.  One woman wanted to come in and her friend said she couldn’t, then looked at Jaki, one of the tenders.  When Jaki explained the purpose of the tent, one of the women became angry and said she thought it was racist.  She stormed off and Jaki tried to get her to come back but she wouldn’t.  Jaki eventually let European women into the tent because a friend of Ola’s (European) had entered.  We tried to follow the flow of things and not be rigid.  I’m glad it worked out that way. 

On Saturday when we had the Diversity Talking Stick for all women, and after the woman left who felt attacked for saying the Native Americans were happy on the reservations, I took the stick.  I said that in my experience, African Americans feel as if Europeans always seem to think that we are happy or know what makes us happy.  I cited a true story that a friend of mine told me.  He is a retired high school principal from the Miami Dade school system.  He said that as he walked by a history classroom, he heard the teacher tell the students that slaves were happy being slaves.  Needless to say he pulled the teacher out of the classroom and corrected him.

I find this to be a misperception of some Europeans.  This is probably because slaves were usually singing, dancing and laughing.  I explained to my friend Amanda that being happy in a situation is not the same as being happy with a situation.  Sometimes those activities kept them sane or from murdering someone.  No one is happy being mistreated or having your land taken and being forced to live on a reservation.  I think if Europeans didn’t grow up around non-Europeans or have non-European friends; there is nothing to draw on culturally.  Some Europeans get their knowledge from the movies where as we’ve had to learn the European ways.

Amanda, Lori and I sat in front of the tent relaxing one evening.  I’m not sure how the conversation started but Amanda asked why the slaves never fought back.  I explained that there were uprisings from time to time (Nat Turner’s rebellion) but some of the time, slaves would inform the slave owner and it would be thwarted.  The slave probably thought he should save himself in case the uprising failed.  Amanda said that I couldn’t be upset with them for self- preservation.  At first I agreed but then I said that I could be upset because there were more slaves than owners.  However, if the uprisings were successful, where would the slaves go and what would they do?

Most had been born into slavery as had their parents and grand- parents before them.  The plantation was all they knew and some had never been off of it.  This is the reason some slaves didn’t know what to do when they became free.  What was free?  This was a foreign word and concept. They wanted to stay on the plantation because it was their home.  I’m sure this fact is what led to the false belief that slaves were happy being slaves.  Amanda said she never thought about that and this is the reason she wants to learn. 

My great great- grandmother Ida was born into slavery.  She was six when slavery was abolished.  She had blonde hair and blue eyes.  In order for her to wash dishes, she had to stand on a box.  Once when she was washing dishes, the mistress of the house came into the kitchen.  She looked at the dishes and told Ida that they were not clean.  She then took the dish cloth and shoved it down Grandma Ida’s throat.  She shoved it so far that when she pulled it up, it was covered in blood and guts.  Her daughter, my Grandmother Early told the story and asked us why we thought it happened.  Of course the answer was because Ida was the mistress’s husband’s child.  Did she ever laugh again?  Of course she did but that did not mean she was happy as a slave.  Some slaves did kill their owners though.

When Sobande held her class “Herbs, Slavery and the South” on Saturday evening, she made this statement to Europeans.  “You own me.  I cook your food, feed your babies and take care of your household for twenty three (23) hours in a day.  In that last hour I get to go to my place and attend to my family unless your husband wants me.  And you let me cook your food?”  Sobande was making a point about the way slave owners thought.  It didn’t occur to them that a slave might harm them.  She said that many slaves put poisonous herbs into the food that they cooked.  A little of the herbs over a period of time would eventually kill the slave owner.  Sobande said she asked her grandmother if there were “good” slave owners.  Her grandmother said there were never good slave owners, some were better than others.  She was correct.  The term, slave owner is incongruent with good.

I said in last week’s post that I wasn’t sure how I felt about the Sister Love tent.  I said this because I wasn’t sure if the tent helped women of color to feel more or less inclusive.  I’ve really been struggling with this.  How does separating one’s self help one to feel more inclusive with the main group?  I understand that the tent was started as a way for women of color to talk about why they felt “not included” and perhaps along the way to discover ways to actually help with that.  In predominantly Caucasian colleges, African American student unions have been formed.  In a population of, say 2000 students, with only 10% being non-European, representation would be inadequate.  So a union is formed to discuss issues to take to the general student union meeting.  In that respect it makes sense that what may appear to be a separation would actually bring people together.

I think having the tent is not the issue.  Maybe it’s what is discussed in the tent.  I don’t feel the tent should be a place for negative commentary or an “us versus them” mentality.  I know I heard the word “cracker” used and it didn’t set well with me.  As women we have a great deal in common yet cultural differences have to be addressed as well.  I don’t feel one hour and a half in the Diversity Talking Stick class is enough time to explore differences and lack of knowledge.  Perhaps a Diversity Tent would be one answer and additional Sister Love Talking Stick classes.    

When Amanda and I returned to her home on Sunday night, her husband had prepared vegetable lasagna and a salad.  All ingredients were from her garden and so delicious.  Afterwards we had a store bought ice cream that I am now addicted to, thanks to her son, Brayton.  The next day Amanda and I talked in depth about the conference and race relations.  One of the things I shared was how all mothers are concerned for their children.  African American mothers with sons have a greater concern.  If my sons were to run down the street, and please don’t let them have on a hoodie, they are in danger of getting shot.  As a mother Amanda could understand that concern but it isn’t one she has to live with. There are so many things that the cultures don’t know about each other because it’s not being taught.

When I was in Earthaven, I asked Dimitri how many acres Earthaven had.  He said 360.  I jokingly said that 40 of them belonged to me.  He asked to what I was referring.  Of course I was referring to the 40 acres and a mule that were promised to slaves after they were set free.  Neither he nor Joel (Seaver's brother) knew anything about that.  He asked if it were every slave and I told him it was slave families.  Since it never happened, the descendants are waiting.  Dimitri said and I quote, “Those mother fuckers!” and Joel followed suit.  I laughed.  When I told Amanda about the conversation, she had never heard it either.  History books are not recording our history accurately. 

A woman, Susan, who was in the talking stick class, shared that she marched in the Civil Rights movement and had several African American friends.  She said that when the Black Power movement started, her African American friends abandoned her.  I heard her pain and apologized on behalf of all African Americans because that, in my opinion, was something that did not have to happen.  I explained that while it was necessary for us to have Black pride and know our worth, that shouldn’t mean dismissing European friends.  Susan had worked through her feelings long ago and I sensed that but I still felt pain.  She thanked me and accepted the apology.  We plan on meeting with two other women to continue the dialogue.

This planet and the people on it need healing.  We are one but we don’t act like it.  We still “see” separatism.  It’s not just color; it is also gender, class, education, gender orientation, etc.  I want to see equality for us all.  I’m starting with women because that’s my calling.  Females give birth.  Perhaps it will take females to birth a new way of seeing; a new way of being.  A pastor-prophet, Travis Thigpen, said that to me once.  He said GOD was giving me a “new way of seeing and a new way of being”.  That is my prayer for us all.  May it come forth as manna to feed a hungry world. 

Until next Sunday,
Merry part and merry meet again.
Blessed be,
Gypsi Mama Michelle

PS  I use Artisana coconut oil and I can only find it in NC.  Amanda took me to a health food store on the way to Charlotte.  Her mom rode with us.  As I stood in the line to pay, her mom gave the clerk the oil and paid for it.  I had just met her.  She has even invited me to stay with her for a few days when in NC and I tire of Amanda. LOL  Beautiful people!




  1. As an adult, I have come to believe that growing up in Richmond, VA - the capital of the confederacy - we, as Black children, were cloistered and protected because our interaction with Europeans was very limited, i.e., the insurance man, the Jews* who operated the corner store (from which the four of us were frequently expelled), or sales clerks on the rare occasion that we went uptown. The adults in our world, during our early years, took the brunt of the horrors of Jim Crow via the disrespect they faced when they went to work for ‘Master Charlie.” At the end of the day, through recanting their experiences, they were able to seek solace and understanding in the safety and comfort of their homes, family, and segregated communities. When doing so they were able to use laughter as a “salve” or release. However the laughter in no way was indicative of happiness but instead was an expression of, and reaction to, the absurdness and disregard they endured from their European ‘superiors’.

    It wasn’t until 1968, when I was thrust out of the safety of my all Black elementary school and into the harsh, cruel, realness of a predominantly white high school, that I began to understand, first hand, prejudice, racism, and my marginalized status in this society. As a college professor, I was often charged, by my European students, with bringing the Black perspective into class discussions but what other perspective could I bring? They believed that we (Blacks) keep 'racism' going but they are so misinformed - the residuals of slavery keeps racism going.

    We are one in the eyes of God but we all need to recognize that as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. so poignantly said, "no one is free until we are all free."

    *Are Jews white? They too were ostracized by the Europeans. Let's all who haven't been raise our collective hands! *Are Jews white? They too were ostracized by the Europeans. Let's all who haven't been raise our collective hands!

    1. Sorry I asked the Jewish question twice - cut and paste, for us seniors, can be a dangerous thing. LOL

  2. Your remarks are so right on. We were thrown out of Mr.Davis' store so many times. Racism is as real today as it was back then. It's just more subtle.

  3. The way I respindedmakes it seem as if we were thrown out of Mr. Davis' store for racism, we were not. It's because we were being brats and smart mouthed.