“I love to think of nature as unlimited broadcasting stations, through which God speaks to us every day, every hour.” ~Dr. George Washington Carver, Tuskegee University, 1887
The Queen Mothers of Kroboland, Ghana, questioned their Black American students in disbelief, “Is it true that in the United States, a farmer will put the seed into the ground and not pour any libations, offer any prayers, sing, or dance, and expect that seed to grow?” Met with ashamed silence, they continued, “That is why you are all sick! Because you see the earth as a thing and not a being.”
Ecological humility is part of the cultural heritage of Black people. While more than 400 years of immersion in racial capitalism has attempted to squash that connection to the sacred earth, there are those who persist in believing that the land and waters are family members, and who act accordingly. In Black Earth Wisdom, Leah Penniman weaves together the lessons from today’s most respected Black environmentalists, those who have cultivated the skill of listening to the lessons that Earth has whispered to them. Together, we embark on a sensory journey through Black ecological thought.
In this time, we are acutely aware of the fractures in our system of runaway consumption and corporate insatiability. We feel the hot winds of wildfire, the disruptions of pandemic, and the choked breath of the victims of state violence. We know there is no going back to “normal.” The path forward demands that we take our rightful places as the younger siblings in creation, deferring to the oceans, forests, and mountains as our teachers.
Those whose skin is the color of soil are reviving their ancestral and ancient practice of listening to the Earth to know which way to go. As Dr. Carver explained, “How do I talk to a little flower? Through it I talk to the Infinite. And what is the Infinite? It is that silent, small force . . .that still small voice.”
This program meets live online. This program is part of the Women and the Environment Series. Register for the other sessions.
Friday, March 10: Gidinawendimin: We Are All Connected with Dr. Wendy Makoons Geniusz
Friday, March 17: Conserving Biodiversity with Dr. Tanisha Williams, founder of #blackbotanistsweek
Friday, March 24: The Legacy of May Watts with Cindy Crosby and Rita Hassert
Friday, March 31: Soil Sisters: How Local Women Are Caring for the Land with Heather Lynch
Speaker: Leah Penniman
Age: 16 and older