I went from Minnesota to Mississippi and I'm glad to be back home in Georgia

In April when I was putting little seedlings in the ground.  Now old cucumber vines are baking in the August heat, the kitchen counter is overflowing with figs, tomatoes, and okra, and the fruit flies insist that I attend to the harvest. I will get back to jam making, chopping, and pickling. But, the best place to be right now is in the air-conditioned dining room, thinking back on the summer and looking forward to autumn.

At the beginning of August, I took a trip to Mississippi. I used up every last drop of my Louisville Institute study grant to pay for gas and a writing retreat with the Southern Foodways Alliance.  It was such an honor to meet and work with John T Edge and Sara Camp Milam and the other 5 writers who are exploring intersections of food, race, history, farming, migration, economics and culture through the lens of southern food.  I worked on a piece about growing Purple Kingsessing beans in my Georgia garden and all the memories it conjured up about the years I lived in the Kingsessing neighborhood of Philadelphia.

I think the piece will be another chapter in my book which I might name

South Facing: Memories of Reverse Migration
South Facing: Seeds of Love and Healing in a Divided Land  

(Let me know what you think about titles in the comments)

On my way to the Southern Foodways workshop, I stopped off at the campus of the University of Mississippi in Oxford and interviewed Jemar Tisby about his new book The Color of Compromise: The Truth about the American Church's Complicity in Racism.  I'm working on writing that up and will share the interview once it's published. It was such a gift to begin that time in Mississippi with a conversation about history that was so deeply connected to current events.  I have been following Tisby's work with The Witness for a few years, and I'm glad we could sit down and talk in person. The convergence of the ICE raids in the chicken plants in Mississippi, the anniversary of the killing of Mike Brown, Emmett Till's murder and Toni Morrison's passing hung so heavy in the August air.  My dad also reminded me that enslaved members of our Bailey family from Eastern shore Maryland were forcibly displaced to Mississippi in the 1800s, and we never heard from them again.

I wrote up these two interviews with women who crossed into the United States in recent years. They wanted their stories told to counter the fear and hatred, especially from people who claim to be following Jesus.

I wrote this book review for Sojourners Magazine on Jennifer Berry Hawes' book Grace Will Lead Us Home: The Charleston Church Massacre and the Hard, Inspiring Journey to Forgiveness,

Alice Walker turned 75 and came back to Georgia for a birthday celebration in Eatonton, Georgia.  I felt a little overwhelmed by the convergence of talented people that gathered in that space and incredibly thankful to be writing and living in Georgia.

The summer started with a workshop in June at Collegeville Institute called Identity and (dis)Belonging with Enuma Okoro.  We talked about essays by James Baldwin, Adrienne Rich and this piece called The Ungrateful Refugee which I wish were required reading for anyone who has done work with refugee resettlement. I left refreshed, challenged and thankful for that space and the 12 brilliant women who shared that experience.

I also drove up and down to Ohio twice to see my parents, visit my grandmother's grave and keep my kids connected with their cousins and the joy of rolling in northern green grass.  When we drove into my parents' town the kids all noticed the particular green smell of their hilly Ohio Valley home.

I wouldn't have been able to do any of those trips without dear my dear husband, friends, neighbors and family members keeping up with our children and chickens. I love our extended village.

Upcoming Projects:
This fall I'll begin conducting Oral History interviews about refugee resettlement in Georgia for the Richard B Russell Special Collections Library at the University of Georgia.  Please contact me if you have suggestions of people to contact in Georgia.  I've been here eight years now and I'm thankful for all the connections I already have made, and I plan to build on those, but I'm always eager to meet more people who have a good story.

I'm also working with my friend and neighbor Jennifer Drago Smith with the Comer New Neighbor's Network to curate a few conversations on immigration and citizenship.  The Georgia Council on Disabilities is nurturing the Real Communities project.  It's a very simple and beautiful concept that our communities can be healthier and become more inclusive if we start by having conversations with one another.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts