Saturday, May 22, 2010

Aurora Harris: May 22, 2010: Detroit's Black Community Food Security Network and Urban Gardening

Earlier this week, I ran into my farmer friends Leslie and Cornelius, who started their urban farm on the east side of Detroit, across the street from the 4-H Club on McClellan Street. After seeing them, I decided to catch up on what's happening with Detroit's Black Community Food Security Network since there are plans to sell empty lots in the city to John Hantz, who wants to do commercial farming in the city. With all due respect to the DBCFSN, were they invited to attend meetings with Mayor or Hantz to discuss what is currently taking place by African American farmers and urban gardeners? From reading some of the articles on the internet regarding the sale of city lots, I haven't seen one that mentions grassroots farmers and gardeners included in the discussions.

From the Black Community Food Security Network's website


General meeting
Wednesday, June 9, 2010 at 7:00 pm
Northstar Community Development Corporation
3800 Puritan, between Dexter and Holmur

Will Allen visit !
June 4, 5 and 6, 2010
More Information

What's for Dinner?
Discussion series about issues of food security, urban farming, and food quality.
Each session will be held at:
The Detroit Public Library
5201 Woodward Avenue, Detroit, Michigan

Session 2 - Gardens As Resistance
Saturday, June 19, 2010
1:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Old Fine Arts Room

Go to web site to download "Gardens As Resistance" flyer

Mailing address:

3800 Puritan

Detroit, MIchigan 48221

The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (DBCFSN), a non-profit, grassroots, community organization aims to change our thinking about food, where it comes from, and who controls it.

DBCFSN was formed in 2006 for the following purposes:

* Influencing Public Policy
* Promoting Urban Agriculture
* Encouraging Co-operative Buying Habits
* Promoting Healthy Eating Habits
* Facilitating Mutual support and collective action among our members
* Encouraging young people to pursue careers in agriculture, aquaculture, animal husbandry, bee-keeping, and other food related fields.

DBCFSN has several key programs:

* D-Town Farm - our 2 acre model urban farm located in Rouge Park in Northwestern Detroit. The operation includes organic vegetable plots, two bee hives, a hoop house for year round food production, and a composting operation. Our produce is grown using sustainable, chemical-free practices, and sold at D-Town farm, Eastern Market, and urban growers markets throughout Detroit.
* Harvest Festival - an event held every year that showcases our farming operations.
* Ujamaa Cooperative Food Buying Club
* The Food Warriors Youth Development Program - our partnership with three African centered schools - Aisha Shule, Nsoromma Institute, and Timbuktu Academy - to introduce elementary school students to agriculture.

Go to website to get directions and map to the D-Town Farm


Do you wish to volunteer at D-Town Farm? Join us every Saturday and Sunday from 8am to noon at the farm. Work clothes, work boots, gloves, brimmed hat, water, bug repellent, and a great attitude are strongly encouraged!

Aurora Harris: May 22, 2010: 5:00 AM Waking Thoughts, Poetry, Theorizing, Education, Citizens' Rally in Detroit from 2-5 pm

I have been up since 5:00 a.m. listening to the birds that woke me with their morning chatter and song. Waking thoughts from half sleep: 1. I have over 50 pieces of poetry that I wrote in the last few weeks, most of them structured like a haiku, with 17 syllables, 2. images of family photos, 3. theorizing various papers I have written, 4. serving on a panel for a global womens' conference at WCCC.

Last Sunday at the Broadside reading for Denise Ervine, I read a few of the pieces and told the group that I was looking for polysyllabic words that would keep the 17 syllable count but use less words like traditional Japanese haiku. I read a few words from the list that I made and Stuart pointed out that they were words derived from Latin. I also spent a few days looking at the pieces and checking for kigo's.

A haiku traditionally contains a kigo, a defined word or phrase that symbolizes or implies the season of the poem. Like "frog" implies Spring or Summer, or, "snow" implies Winter.

Images of faminly photos...this waking thought is a reminder to go through the tons of photos I have and make choices for an exhibit.

Theorizing various papers... Yesterday morning I was organizing stacks of papers and files and found papers I wrote while in grad school. As I write this, I recall that sometime this week, I found a transcript that was sent from the university and after I found it, I dreamt about the report cards I found from what? 1965-1968? In the hazy dream, the manila colored report cards from elementary school were lined up next to the green EMU transcript. In the dream or waking thought, I was looking at the grades and remembered examining the transcripts of girls that were in a shelter that I worked in years ago...At that time, I could tell that the girls received good grades but at some point in their report cards or transcripts, they began failing in school...usually the drop in grades was related to some incident or trauma they experienced when they reached middle school...early teen years...I related these thoughts to Lisa Delpit's book "Schoolgirls."

I had a heavy feeling to develop a reading list, collect these papers and write something...perhaps this feeling had something to do with the news that the state of Arizona is banning ethnic studies from public school textbooks, in the sense that from the memory of my own report cards and transcripts, the underlying thought of my waking thought or dream dealt with memories of how histories were subjugated in textbooks when I was in elementary school in Detroit, and, how my own grades fluctuated during a time / reality of blatant racism, discrimination and police brutality in Detroit. What are the Latino/a children and educators of Arizona facing? In the history of histories in America, more subjugation of histories? From the time I was a child until now, there exists a great disconnect for school children of color. When they open a book, how are people of color presented? What do the children have to identify with?

When I was in grad school, I had a class where students who were teachers teamed up to examine and present books and learning materials from a cultural perspective for K-12 students. One of the criticisms that came out of this exercise was that none of the books or magazines showed any person of color in a modern, 21st century setting, whether it related to professions, home or daily life. Most of the books pertaining to Native American and Mexican/ Latino/a, Hispanic life showed most people of color as farmers, tortilla makers, basket weavers, jewelry makers, potters, or working in modern times as service oriented workers that promoted sterotypes. A couple of years ago, I was at a community meeting in Detroit to discuss diversity and multiculturalism in education. At the meeting, when we discussed the content of textbooks, one white guy pointed out that he didn't have the same problem as other educators finding things to teach or read because he was of European descent and his european history was documnented. "I can find myself and am proud of my history" was one of his statements. Here, this man was echoing something similar to what I heard from primarily white students talking about disparities and differences between teachers that teach in urban settings versus teachers in the suburbs..."We don't have the same problems as you, we have everything that we need in our schools to educate our students."

With these memories, other sources that I remember reading while I was at EMU that can be used to theorize are:

1. J. Bank's Teaching strategies for ethnic studies. (8th ed.). Boston: Allyn and Bacon.

2. Bennett de Marrais, K. & LeCompte, M. The way schools work

3. Lisa Delpit's Other people’s children: Cultural conflict in the classroom. New York: The New Press. 1995

4. Anything by Jonathan Kozol.

End of this section.

Sidenote: I read my blog entry from yesterday. I am still sad from the news of Ai's death. She passed away 2 months ago, while my mother was in the hospital and I was working to remove her from hospice. In addition to these things, the City of Detroit...the violence that killed a 17 year old boy while he waited for the bus after school and the 7 year old girl who was killed while sleeping on her couch after the policeman's gun discharged...the police were looking for the shooter of the 17 year the past month, every weekend a citizen or police officer has been killed...I hate watching local news. When I heard of the deaths of the school children, I thought about the poem that I wrote in in the early 1990's called "Two Bodies" that is written in 3 parts and found in Larry Smith's Brooding the Hearlands: Poets of the Midwest by Bottom Dog Press (1998). The poem is about my seeing two bodies on the street and a fictional account of what the mothers dealt with... the voices for the mothers in the poem were inspired by mothers at a SOSAD meeting I attended. SOSAD stands for Save Our Sons and Daughters...the poet Ron Allen and I sponsored a 24 hour poetry reading against violence at the Central United Methodist years ago...

Yesterday, I received an e-mail from City Councilwoman Joann Watson inviting me to attend a Citizens' rally at 2 Woodward Av, downtown Detroit, Coleman A. Young Building in front of the Spirit of Detroit statue from 2-4 PM. The rally is supposed to inform the citizens of what is taking place in Detroit regarding repopulating the city, the new rail system, schools, violence, etc....on Woodward, near my home, the street is being torn out...I heard from a neighbor that it is being done for the new rail system that will be built

Friday, May 21, 2010

Aurora Harris: May 21, 2010: On The Death of the Poet AI

Yesterday morning, I was awakened by a strong feeling to contact the poet AI and send her some of my poems. After I had coffee, I was shocked to find that at the age of 62, she passed away in March, shortly after Lucille Clifton. Again, I am saddened from the news of another great poet's death. Many years ago, when I was in California searching for the poetry of bi-racial, Afro-Asian/ African American Asian poets that I could compare my work to and gain inspiration from, Ai was one of the first poets I discovered and read. I came across her books in used book stores and bought them. One collection had a monologue about a Filipino house-boy that worked with Imelda Marcos. I found a connection to that poem since I returned to the P.I. in the 1980's for my grandmother's funeral and went to the palace that the Marcos' lived in. Ai's work inspired me to keep writing the raw truths of life. I loved the way she wrote. Though some called her work "haunting,"she wrote with such a clarity that I could almost hear the speaker/character of the monologue through her choice of words and rhythm of her lines.

See the following links:
Poet Ai dies at 62 | Books |
Mar 25, 2010 ... The National Book Award-winning poet Ai, who renamed herself after the Japanese word for love, died on Saturday. -

Blackland: Ai died and i am broken-hearted.
Mar 23, 2010 ... Ai died and i am broken-hearted. a powerhouse. a reckoning. she died march 19th. i just found out this morning. my heart got tight as i read ... -

Ai, an Unflinching Poetic Channel of Hard Lives, Dies at 62 ...
Mar 27, 2010 ... The poet Ai's work — known for its raw power, jagged edges and unflinching examination of violence and despair — stood as a damning ... -
Poet Ai Dies at 62 | Reading Copy Book Blog
Mar 25, 2010 ... Ai, the American poet and professor who took her name for the Japanese word for love, died on March 20th. She was known for her blunt, ... -
Poet Ai Dies (1947-2010) - theblackbottom
Mar 23, 2010 ... Last week we featured the Poet Ai as our Tuesday Poet. Sadly we learned that she died this past Saturday March 20, 2010 in Stillwater, ... -
Fiery poet, Ai, dies at 62 | Ann Arbor District Library
Mar 28, 2010 ... Fiery poet, Ai, dies at 62. Ai,a poet known for her grimly beautiful writing, died eight days ago in Stillwagon, Oklahoma. ... -
Poetry News | Smartish Pace (a poetry review)
Ai Dies. March 24th, 2010. Poet Ai, who was born Florence Anthony, died on Saturday in Oklahoma at the age 62. The author of seven collections including ... -