‘Of Sea and Thunder and Spring’ was the theme of an Earth Day gathering I recently attended at the University of Michigan. This intellectual retreat on Black Women and the Environment brought together the University of Michigan’s ECO Girls and students of the BlackGirlLandProject at Michigan State University. The group discussed women’s ties to the natural world, and shared personal and culturally relevant stories on perceptions of nature, and uses of land, which they juxtaposed to present political and environmental movements. It was beautiful watching and being a part of the sharing.
More and more we recognize and value the power in hearing and sharing stories; they breath life to ideas and bridge the past to the present with an eye to the future. During the retreat, I heard how a person’s connection to the earth varies depending on experiences. For example, one student shared that her great grandmother spoke of painful memories from picking cotton on the land, compared to her own experience of growing fresh vegetables in a communal garden where people celebrate good fresh food locally grown. For sure, our relationship with the out of doors, our land and our water, is complicated and varied but we know the earth sustains us and caring for the environment is critical to all movement(s) toward a desirable future. Healing from painful memories is an important part of the process.
The biggest treat of the day was a video conversation with Lauret Savoy, author of Trace: Memory, History, Race and the American Landscape. It was a wonderful experience and I hope to share more, after I read the book!!!
-Written by Erma Leaphart, Sierra Club Organizer, Great Lakes Warrior, ROS Blogger