My children created their own illustrations to a story I wrote called The Top Goes Pop!
When my sister invited me to the 33rd Annual Making Brooklyn Bloom event, I didn’t know what to expect. Little did I know, Karen Washington, an urban farmer and food justice activist, who also sits on the board of the Mary Mitchell Center (where I work) was going to be the Keynote Speaker.
As time moved on, everyone in the Coffee Palm House (where most of the congregation gathered) conversation switch over to one main question, ‘are you going to the Keynote address’.
I didn’t know who the speaker was and I thought for sure I didn’t care. I was not planning to go until someone said, Karen Washington is speaking. I looked blankly at him and said, Oh, I know her. I should have said, I know of her.
Until then, I had only knew her on the surface. Even though I’ve seen her around the Mary Mitchell Center and at different events, our paths didn’t cross much. I knew her enough to know her name, face and had distant memories of her.
My ‘don’t care attitude’ became an automatic yes. I was eager to know who she really was and why so many people were excited to hear her speech.
I can’t say that I know her now, but I do know more about her.
She is a baby boomer who grew up in the Bronx in the NYCHA projects. Even though her grandparents and parents were not farmers, in 1985 she started her own garden. Her love for gardening extended to her love for her community. She found herself at community meetings with strong desire to change the mindset of the community and politicians who didn’t make a connection between food and justice.
Her speech was very welcoming and she set a family atmosphere in the room. Her main theme was the generational gap in the food movement. She asked the audience, ‘Who will be there [many years from now] to grow food in our community?’ She bought up many difficult topics like race and age, using humor like ‘I just got my AARP Card!’ and the truth like ‘yes, slavery happened but that’s not who we are today’ to avoid the sting in the room. There was no ‘icy chill’ in the room that one may feel in such circumstances. Everyone seemed to be open to talking about the differences and more importantly, the solutions.
The following is one of the statements Ms. Washington left with the crowd: ‘asking is powerful and silence is the weapon that keeps us from being engaged’. She made it clear that asking is not easy for anyone but it’s a task that has to be done. She encouraged everyone to continue to garden and grow but to ask the young and the old for help. She said, start a dialogue because if you don’t, those you don’t know will and our history will be forgotten.
Give New Yorkers- more specifically those in the Bronx- a warm day and give way to a gravel carpet! A silent competition. As oppose to a red carpet, this fashion show is more serious. Anyone can win. The rules are not written down but everyone knows whats accepted and whats just too much. Everything have to fit together, your outfit, your attitude, your posture, and even those around you have to have it up to par.
It’s everyday life! Without down jackets and heavy clothing to cover your main garb, the city’s eyes are on you and your full outfit. You are representing your neighborhood, your culture, and everything you associate yourself with as soon as your walk out the house.
Maria, I think, beat everyone in the neighborhood to the punch. It’s like she won the competition before it fully begun! To badddddd if you didn’t wear that spring outfit you were saving, it looks like Maria already won!
(A huge shout out to my my Sister, April, who invited me!)
Before I left home, I grabbed my camera, praying I will be inspired.
Inspired, I was! The very essence of inspiration was in the air. To start things off, the weather was simply beautiful.
And to tie into the spring feeling, there were so many people happy and eager to talk to you about their careers and how much gardening meant to them. I met gardeners, innovators, teachers, students, architects, historians, cooks, two happy babies, musicians, photographers, and to top things off I ran into Gustimo’s co-founder, Martina Kenworthy, who embarked on a new career with Slow Foods.
The love for healthy food brought us all together.
In the middle of the day I found myself in the garden’s auditorium listening to the president of the garden, Scot Medbury. He said, being around plants and beauty really brings you to your best self and I sat there hoping I would soon join this community of people who didn’t mind soil and seeds.