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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Charlotte/Black Mountain, NC

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

“Any time women come together with a collective intention, it’s a powerful thing.  Whether it’s sitting down making a quilt, in a kitchen preparing a meal, in a club reading the same book, or around the table playing cards, or planning a birthday party, when women come together with a collective intention, magic happens.”….Phylicia Rashad

The Southeast Wise Woman Herbal Conference is a collective intention.  Corinna Woods is the director of the program.  Corinna emailed me and asked if I would be interested in staffing the Sister Love Tent in Unity Village for the conference.  I had never attended the conference so I didn’t know what the tent was.  She directed me to the web site to read about it.  The Sister Love Tent is a sacred space for women of color who are non-European.  The tent was started a few years ago by Olatokunboh Obasi because women of color attending the conference in past years felt out of place and not included.  It is a place to share experiences and commonalities.  I believe it was felt that the women could talk about the reasons exclusion was felt and having talked it out, integrate more fully into the rest of the conference.  Since it was a full work exchange, I applied and was accepted. 

The conference was from October 10-12, 2014.  I traveled by Greyhound on Wednesday, October 8 for Charlotte, NC.  The conference was held in Black Mountain, NC.  I left Richmond at 10:30am and arrived in Charlotte at 8pm.  This was a local bus and it stopped in Petersburg, South Hill, Henderson, Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, Winston Salem, Salisbury, Concord and Charlotte.  I decided that instead of being frustrated by all of the stops, I would enjoy the ride and relax.  The stops gave me the opportunity to stretch and use the bathroom. 

Originally I thought that I had to be at the conference on Thursday at 10am. So I put out feelers to see what other work exchangers had to be there at the same time.  My friend, Amanda Nowatka, had to be there at 2pm.  She said that she would pick me up from the bus station, drive me to her home to spend the night and go into Black Mountain early for me.  Amanda lives in Morgantown which is one hour away from Charlotte.  Offering to do that was such a gracious thing to do especially since I only met her in May at the Immersion.  I didn’t have to be there until Friday at 10am, however, so we didn’t need to rush in the morning.

Amanda, her husband and her son made me feel very welcome. Amanda makes yogurt which we had for breakfast, along with homemade granola and honey from her bees!  Did I mention the homemade bread?  It was all very delicious.  The time arrived for us to leave.  We were so excited to attend the conference and see some of our tribe from the Immersion. 

Other blessings included Lori Saunders providing me with an air mattress to sleep in her tent, bedding and food that she cooked on her fabulous cook stove.  I took fruits, nuts, cheese, turkey slices, crackers and water to share, which I didn’t need because Lori had it all.  The eggs were from her hens, the vegetables from her garden and there was homemade yogurt.  Everything was organic and non GMO from both ladies.  For dinner, Lori cooked salmon that she caught in British Columbia, cous cous with eggplant and a salad.  Yummy, yummy, yummy!!!

When we arrived on Thursday, after parking, we walked around to get the lay of the land and to find Amanda’s sleeping quarters.  We saw Jenna, Corinna’s assistant and we all screamed.  Later on the walk I saw friends from Earthaven; Molly, and Hillary, who has changed her name to Yuna.  It was great seeing them again.  When we walked over to Unity Village, I saw NikiAnne, who is also from Earthaven and was the go to person for the tents.  The anticipation was rising. At 1pm we went to check in and saw Mary from the Immersion.  The three of us talked for a while and then Mary and Amanda left for their meeting.  I meandered around waiting for Lori.   As I walked by the lake, I saw her and we hugged. 

I had gotten permission for Lori to camp behind the Sister Love tent since I was working there.  Lori wanted to camp by the lake and so we began to put up the tent.  It started to rain, the wind began to blow and one of the rods broke.  In addition to that, we were told we couldn’t camp there and that we had to move behind the Sister Love tent.  As we moved the things, Lori’s scooter stopped working and that was the last straw for her.  Lori was one of the photographers and if she couldn’t get around, she couldn’t do her job.  She was devastated and wanted to go home.

Lori discovered that a rock had gotten under her scooter and she was finally able to get it working again.  Hallelujah!  We began to put up the tent.  Well, she began; I absolutely know nothing about that.  Amanda and Mary helped and I did what I could.  Finally it was up.  The rain hadn’t lasted long at all but my pillow did get wet.  Lori was happy with the new spot because it was near the trees and out of the sun.  We were probably closer to the bears though.  Yes, bears!  I never saw one but they were there.  We blew up our air mattresses, set up the tables for preparing the food and cooking and put out the folding chairs.  It was a really good set up.  I rather like the idea of camping.  I don’t like port a potties though, they are too far to walk.  The one closest to us wasn’t that far, though it is too far in the middle of the night when it’s pitch black.

The next day, Friday, I attended the meeting for Tenders.  Tender is the name given to those who work the tents in Unity Village.  We welcome the women, explain the purpose of the tent, and tend the hearth fire.  These are the tents in the village: The Hearth, The Red Tent, Sister Love Tent and Wise Maidens Tent.  The Hearth Tent held classes and the Diversity Talking Stick circle for all women with Ola Obasi, Red Tent is for women of all ages and stages, Wise Maidens for girls 13-17, and Sister Love for women of color.  The tents were warm and inviting and decorated beautifully.  I knew that I would enjoy working in the tent.

At 1pm, the women began to arrive.  I saw some of the women from the Immersion; Nancy, Daria and Dana.  It was so good to see them!  There was a Welcome Jam at Unity Village from 1-2pm.  We gathered around the hearth fire and sang songs. It was a time of bonding.  The welcoming ceremony was from 7:30-8:15pm.   I couldn’t attend because I worked the tent from 4-8pm.  From 4:30-6pm, there was a Talking Stick for women of color in the Sister Love tent with Ola.  Afterwards she stayed and spoke with the women there.  All women were invited into the tent on that night. Ola lives in Pittsburgh.  She is an herbalist, health educator, community leader, and owns Ola’s Herb Shop.  She was raised in Africa by her parents, who are from Kenya and Nigeria.  Ola is a “seer”.  She could see things for the women and she shared them.  She is also a teacher who helps people to dig deeper.

I took her “Our Indigenous Roots” class on Saturday morning. The class explores honoring our ancestral relationship with the earth, with our past and our future.   Before we started, Ola asked if we had any stories to share that would describe how we saw life.  I shared one that is considered how a Shaman experiences life.  It was a wonderful class.  On Saturday afternoon at 1:30pm, Ola held a Diversity Talking stick for ALL women.  The purpose is” to come together in dialogue about differences and similarities; discuss issues of racial and ethnic tensions and to heal past wounds.” 

Ola asked us to state why we were there.  One woman spoke about how coming from Arizona to the South was a cultural shock for her.  She said that there was no racism there, but in the South, she was told not to go into certain parts of town, not to look at African Americans, etc.  She went on to say that the population in Arizona consisted mainly of Hopi and Navajo Indians and how happy they were.  I felt some type of way when she said that but I remained quiet.  Ola asked, “And they are happy?”  The woman responded in the affirmative and Ola asked again.  Another European was quite angry with the woman and said so.  Ola asked where did the Native Americans live.  The woman said on the reservations, which prompted Ola to ask once more, “And they are happy?”  

The woman said that they were free to leave at any time and how some had done so and made more money than she.  These were friends of hers, she said.  Ola told the woman that her prospective would be different than hers (Ola).  Ola asked the woman if she would want to live on a reservation.  The woman became very defensive and said she was being attacked.  She asked for an apology and when none was forthcoming, she got up and left.  Ola asks the hard questions to make one think about what it is being said.  She wants people to dig deeper because this is how we reach common ground.  The class proceeded without further incident and in fact ran over.

Later I took a class by Angelique Moss-Greer called, “Herbs, Slavery and the South”.  Angelique is a certified holistic nutritionist, generational herbalist, consultant, educator, and owner of Natural Choices Botanica, the only African American hand-blended gourmet tea company in the South.  Sobande, as she is called, offered a class rich in cultural healing and oral traditions passed down from her grandmothers.  She informed us of the healing plant remedies her grandmother shared with her. 

She told us about a medicine a college professor taught the class.  She was so excited because it had the properties her grandmother used in her potions, tinctures and/ or salves.  Sobande called her grandmother with this ‘discovery”.   Her grandmother said, “Chile, don’t you tell me about something some white man told you when I already taught you that!  What, now it has authority?”  Sobande quickly learned how to share with her grandmother what she was learning.  Her class was light hearted, funny and factual.

Before Sobande started her class, she poured libations to the ancestors.  She then asked an elder for permission to speak as her assistant served 3 of the home brewed teas.   The elder and I were served first since we were the oldest there.  I have never been honored as an elder as much as I was this weekend.  It was a blessing and something that has been lost.  I was called Mother by the younger women as they addressed me, and I was not offended by it.  I wear the crone crown proudly.  I have earned the right to be revered as an elder as I too revere my elders.  When something went amiss on Saturday night after I retired, Jaki, who was a tender, refused to awaken me.  I was in a leadership position and she could have, but she said if she had to wake an elder without doing all she could first, it would have been a catastrophe.

Saturday night I worked the Sister Love tent again.  It seemed to be a place of refuge because it was very full.  The conversation was lively.  I have mixed feelings about the tent which I will share once I have processed everything.  I would like to attend again next year.  Amanda and I would like for the women who formed a bond at the Immersion to camp together.  We are not certain if we will work exchange again, although I enjoyed doing so.  There is more time for yourself if you’re not working though.  I was supposed to be there and I’m glad I went.  I was told some things by Ola and now I need to act on them.  It is time to move forward.

Until next Sunday (although it’s Tuesday),

Merry part and merry meet again,
Blessed be,

Gypsi Mama Michelle




  1. You have inherited Aunt Alma's gift of oration. Your posts allow the reader an opportunity to 'live' what you regale.

    I am always amazed by how Europeans ascribe our feelings for us. One has to wonder if this is done to assuage their conscientious, or, if that is their real ‘distorted’ view of how non-Europeans are supposed to think, feel, or be grateful for what they allow us.

    A few years ago I had the pleasure of witnessing a conversation (the last unfortunately) between my mother and her beloved oldest sister (Aileen). Mama asked Aileen what it was like to be 80 and Aileen replied “it is somewhat difficult because we live in a youth-oriented society where age is not viewed favorably.” Her response would have been different if we lived in any other society where age is celebrated and rewarded. You are blessed to have experienced such honor and respect, if only for a weekend.

    1. Thank you Debbie. Yes I was blessed to be honored. Our society wants to kick us to the curb it seems. Mom was right.

  2. Hey.. It's been a while..
    Cool read, its interesting because at EarthHaven, you would have liked more diversity, racially. And on this trip, not only is it a bit more diversified, you went International! Without having to cross the atlantic.

    I wish you saw a wild bear, from a distance, cause I am sure seeing it while in that tent, would have been a scary sighting. Although I think they like to lurk around and scavenge at night. Bears are universally interesting, just at how they shut their internal system down during hibernation, then wake back up.

    Racial tension is a big topic, and one that isn't really discussed in reference to the Native Indians. I just found out that some Indians owned some of the largest plantations in the south and out west. That was a shocker, cause for so long I was delighted to say that my great great granny was Cherokee. I still am, but I think twice about my roots now. ;-)

    Loved the read, and good to see you up and about.

    When I shop or buy things from the store I think of you and your GMO advice. I think "What is going to happen inside my body, once I eat this "healthy" apple"
    I have a puppy now, and I tried to switch him to a natural diet (no by products, chemicals and etc) but his body wont take the NATURAL food. He literally needs the chemically modified food made from a major dog food chain, and I asked his breeder who owns every dog in the bloodline since the 80's, and that's what she feeds her dogs.
    So it's a genetic thing, which in a way it is unfortunate. Although he is just a dog, I feel bad that in order to keep his stomach full, I have to feed him food thats modified, nothing natural.

    It makes me think of us humans, and the things we eat, sometime crave.

    Anywho, good to see your rolling on your journey with self. I wrote on my blog for the first time in a while, let me know if you want the link.

    Til then, Namaste


    1. Hi Brandon. Yes I want the link. I'm so glad that information I give can be helpful. Sorry about your dog. It happens with humans too. Keep choosing wisely. Namaste and Blessed be!

    2. Thanks, in regards to the puppy. He's okay. Just sad that the "good and natural food" leaves me with a stinky house.. ;-) Got to pull the fans out..

      Here is the link:

      You got me back into the mood of blogging and sharing different experiences, thoughts..

      See ya soon..

  3. Dearest Mother Michelle: It is such a pleasure to read this. I am reminded of your eloquence, your essence and strong presence. I only wish you joy, abundance, love and wellbeing. Let's keep in touch. Ase!

    1. Thank you Ola. I loved meeting you and your girls/young women. You have an open, genuine aura. I was happy to be in your company. Thanks for the reading. Ase!