the travels of the tanvi

rumbles of thunder

Reflections on Injustice in Baltimore City

I hear many people blame individuals in the inner city for the condition things are in. I want to take moment to express what I have experienced, which is very much to the contrary of what I hear from others (who have not experienced inner city Baltimore neighborhoods first hand). I have been to dozens and dozens of different community and neighborhood meetings throughout the ‘rough’ parts of West Baltimore in my outreach efforts. From what I saw and heard, neighborhood leaders and active members all knew the officers who walked their street, partnered with them, and spread the safety tips the officers offered, and organized neighborhood safety walks to help keep an eye on things and prevent crime in their neighborhoods. In addition to police presence in the neighborhood meetings, the Western Police District held regular meetings for the community and many engaged people came out to hear from the police and express their concerns. 

The people I met and heard from were passionate about protecting not only their own families an children, but helping their whole neighborhood. In the inner city, the people I met were lively, strong, dedicated, loving and passionate. They held each other close (and even new people who were trying to get involved like me) with open arms, open minds, and open hearts. They knew their elected officials personally and contacted them regularly. The interactions between these neighbors, and their elected officials, were that of family and close friends with warm intimacy. Hugs, not handshakes. The way the community worked together was not not formal, or professional, but personal. However, the police I saw in the community did remain professional. Not all police are brutal, but when there are concerns about the people we trust to protect us, these must be taken seriously. In a democracy like ours, no one is above the law. 

My work also took me to the neighborhood associations and community meetings in the suburbs of Baltimore County, where I actually grew up and currently work. I was disappointed in the difference I witnessed. The streets and homes look very different in the suburbs, much cleaner and greener and statistics say safer. But the level of involvement, engagement, commitment, and the energy individuals brought was frankly sad. Individuals who bothered to show up and speak out in the area I was focused on, only spoke up in their personal interest- against taxes. I heard no concerns or commitment about schools, public parks, infrastructure, or others in the community. I did hear some businesses concerned about their profit. I choose to live in Southwest Baltimore City. It’s an area that is not like the ones in the city I lived in before, with a concentration of educated young professionals and well-off students, with elegant urban amenities like trees, shops, night life and restaurants. The neighborhood I’m in now is much more of a mixed bag. But it is far more civic-ly engaged, active and alive. Problems are spoken about, addressed, and bring people together. Despite all the organized clean ups and greening, the streets are often full of trash. Despite the concentration of service centers and health centers, many are unemployed and addicted. Homes and lives are in blatant disrepair. What is the difference between the neighborhoods I have lived in? Urban residents have won over my heart, inspired me with their openness to life and others, their strength and focus on solving problems and forming solutions. People are awake, outside, in it together and active in their communities on many many levels. 

So why is there such a great divide? We must look back to the history of redlining, systemic oppression, institutional racism, and where public resources and attention has been directed to find the true causes of the blight and suffering people in inner city Baltimore face. As a society we have failed our neighbors. We fear and avoid rather than embrace and assist our fellow human beings Baltimore. I assumed growing up in the county that being able to feel safe outside on my street, to be able to get an education in a safe environment, to have access to grocery stores fully stocked with nutritious food. The city was a shock when I first arrived in my late teens. But having had the benefits of safety and health in my youth gave me the perspective that all people should have a basic right to education, health and security regardless of who their parents are, how much they earn, and where they were born. Every child should have the same access to the resources the government spends our tax dollars on from transportation, to clean water coming out of the pipe, to protected green spaces to recharge and exercise. In the past several years I have spent in Baltimore City the disparities and injustices became all to apparent and heartbreaking. I am glad and grateful to be aware and have first hand experiences with so many people on the ground who have been fighting daily on the ground to improve lives in these blighted, forgotten, abandoned and unsafe neighborhoods and that they have dedicated decades to this fight. I am glad that this much needed conversation is now taking place on a national platform.

People are unifying from across the region to provide meals, to offer support, to clean up after the riots. It is very uplifting and speaks volumes about the true nature of this city. I hope this heightened attention and involvement sustains in order to create lasting change and address the roots of equality. I also ask that those who are ignorant of the situation of others consider spending some time in person not just casting judgments but immersing themselves among those who are making a difference. If I had just walked the streets of Park Heights, Mondawmin Mall, and the many neighborhoods of West Baltimore without attending the neighborhood meetings and connecting with the neighborhood leaders I would have very little hope and a great deal of heartbreak for the conditions in these neighborhoods. But I know, if we were all given a fair chance and equal treatment, we can rise out of the blight.

Wealth Gap Research (actually done weeks before the Wall St Protests)

wealth gap_ current stats (link to word doc)

wealth gap_ current stats (link to pdf)

 

 

the struggle for the seed

The Seed

Just as dramatic is the struggle for the seed. More than 1,000 independent seed companies were swallowed up by multinationals in the past four decades, so today just three—Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta—control about half the proprietary seed market worldwide.

Fueling the consolidation were three Supreme Court rulings since 1980—including one in 2002, with an opinion written by former Monsanto attorney Clarence Thomas—making it possible to patent life forms, including seeds. And in 1992 the Food and Drug Administration released its policy on genetically modified organisms, claiming that “the agency is not aware of any information showing that [GMO] foods…differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.”

The government’s green light fueled the rapid spread of GMOs and monopolies—so now most US corn and soybeans are GMO, with genes patented largely by one company: Monsanto. The FDA position helped make GMOs’ spread so invisible that most Americans still don’t believe they’ve ever eaten them—even though the grocery industry says they could be in 75 percent of processed food.

Even fewer Americans are aware that in 1999 attorney Steven Druker reported that in 40,000 pages of FDA files secured via a lawsuit, he found “memorandum after memorandum contain[ing] warnings about the unique hazards of genetically engineered food,” including the possibility that they could contain “unexpected toxins, carcinogens or allergens.”

Yet at the same time, public education campaigns have succeeded in confining almost 80 percent of GMO planting to just three countries: the United States, Brazil and Argentina. In more than two dozen countries and in the European Union they’ve helped pass mandatory GMO labeling. Even China requires it.

In Europe, the anti-GMO tipping point came in 1999. Jeffrey Smith, author of Seeds of Deception, expects that the same shift will happen here, as more Americans than ever actively oppose GMOs. This year the “non-GMO” label is the third-fastest-growing new health claim on food packaging. Smith is also encouraged that milk products produced with the genetically modified drug rBGH “have been kicked out of Wal-Mart, Starbucks, Yoplait, Dannon, and most American dairies.”

Around the world, millions are saying no to seed patenting as well. In homes and village seed banks, small farmers and gardeners are saving, sharing and protecting tens of thousands of seed varieties.

In the United States, the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, estimates that since 1975 members have shared roughly a million samples of rare garden seeds.

In the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh—known as the pesticide capital of the world—a women-led village movement, the Deccan Development Society, puts seed-saving at the heart of its work. After the crushing failure of GMO cotton and ill health linked to pesticides, the movement has helped 125 villages convert to more nutritious, traditional crop mixes, feeding 50,000 people.

On a larger scale, Vandana Shiva’s organization, Navdanya, has helped to free 500,000 farmers from chemical dependency and to save indigenous seeds—the group’s learning and research center protects 3,000 varieties of rice, plus other crops.

http://www.npr.org/2011/09/16/140528782/the-nation-the-power-and-possibilities-of-food

my hope that farming, done right, could help heal a battered environment and perhaps even remedy some of the world’s injustices.

“Before I moved to the farm, my to-do list as an environmental campaigner had been packed with conference calls, protest organizing, and press conferences. After arriving at the farm, my biggest priorities became keeping the onions free of weeds, thinning the young fruits on the apple trees, and waking up early to cook for 35 other aspiring farmers.

The switch blew my mind. As I worked in the fields and the orchards I could suddenly see the myriad interconnections that knit together a farming ecosystem; ecology went from an abstraction to a visceral reality. Perhaps more important, living with a few dozen other industrial society dissidents gave me a new appreciation for the ideals of solidarity and the practice of community. The time I spent at the UCSC Farm & Garden deepened my hope that farming, done right, could help heal a battered environment and perhaps even remedy some of the world’s injustices.”

–Jusin Marks, Civil Eats

http://civileats.com/2011/09/12/government-austerity-measures-threaten-the-country%E2%80%99s-oldest-organic-farming-program/

Relationship and Healing

Relationship and Healing
By Andrew Kimbrell

I have no panacea for addressing the growing threats of cold evil, entwined as they are with so much of our daily lives in our technological society. However the first step is awareness. As we confront the terrorists’ “hot” evil, we must not use the fact that the vast majority of us are not involved in this kind of evil as a vindication of our own society or our personal ethics. Rather we must avoid this trap and finally confront the cold evil with which we are complicit and recognize the potential catastrophic threat it represents to ourselves and Creation.

As for dealing with cold evil directly, I know that there cannot be healing or atonement without relationship. And to restore our relationships to one another and the natural world we must shatter the distancing so critical for cold evil. A first step could be to cease distancing ourselves as “consumers.” The word “consume” means to destroy (as in a consuming fire) or waste (tuberculosis was called consumption because it wastes away the body). We must no longer be mere consumers, destroying and wasting the natural world. We must no longer be complicit in the crimes of our industrial system. To face cold evil we must become “creators” not consumers. We must break our techno-cocoons and truly see that each action we take in deciding which products we buy, or services we use, creates a very different future for ourselves and the earth. We must take responsibility for the consequences of how we fulfill our basic human needs.

We must also change our relationship to work. We can no longer be content with mere jobs and the wage blackmail through which cold evil works. Despite the often overwhelming economic pressures, we must at least attempt to seek a vocation, a “calling,” that expresses our values and fits our needs. Our work should be a “profession,” a profession of our beliefs-good work whose consequences we can embrace.

Ultimately confronting cold evil requires us to begin dismantling the structures and systems in which it thrives. Author Kirkpatrick Sale has urged us to reconsider the importance of “human scale.” Moving toward the restoration of human scale in our social and production systems as alternatives to current global scale organizations and technologies may be the only way to permanently defeat the distancing that has been such a moral disaster for modern man.

In the memorable phrase of Father Thomas Berry, our current economic and technological system has turned all of nature from a community of subjects into a collection of objects. To restore relationship and begin healing we must again treat the living kingdom as a community of subjects, each with its own meaning and destiny, none as merely exploitable objects or means of production. Moving towards this new moral community involves nothing less than replacing the infrastructure of cold evil with technologies and human systems which are responsive to our physical and spiritual needs and the needs of the rest of the biotic community. This means evolving a means of production and social organization for which we can take true responsibility. It is a daunting, almost overwhelming task, but the alternative is to continue to live in state of cold evil, complicit in the current system’s crimes and distanced from relationship and healing. This we can no longer do.

navigation

I love where I am. I love where I work, I love where I live.

I appreciate it.

I wake up eager to stroll through one of the most lovely and livable neighborhoods I’ve ever witnessed. (disregarding some disturbingly snooty privileged vibes, juxtaposed with the park vagrants. how can we live like this?)

My commute: a mere 2 blocks. The organization I work for: built on a purpose, a vision, and an ethical standard which match my own. I get to work with those I admire the most on the causes that stir my heart. I get to study and research topics I am most curious about. I find my meetings, conferences, reading and calls fascinating. For this I’m told I’m lucky, even enviable.

I do feel lucky; I appreciate, count my blessings continually. I do find joy in where I am.

Ephemeral joy, no pure bliss. In fact, maybe one of my most defining characteristics is my continual discontentment. Never am I fully content with my decisions, my positions, my surroundings or even myself. Never am I at peace with the world around me or my current state of personal progress. However, I do accredit my savory situation to this restlessness, this constant critical analysis, this ceaseless seeking. My unwillingness to compromise, settle for anything less than what I wish, wishing always for what is not.  No acceptance of the status quo, the set standards. I am resistant, defiant, critical, yes, perhaps overly anxious, strict, and lofty with my ethics, ideals.

But all this has brought me to where I am, an amazing place. Exactly where I sought to arrive. From here where do I seek to go?

I seek to find peace along with this purpose. To be content with I am, to trust that I am deserving of love, and trust my love deserving enough to share. Peace is complete trust. Trusting myself, and the world to open up to. This does not mean I must compromise my commitment to instigating positive change, seeking solutions to our ills. Rather, this means overcoming ego. Above all, cultivating compassion. I am always desiring just what I cannot have, and sure this instinct has brought me this far. But to find peace, to enjoy where I have arrived, calls for letting go of attachment, of ego.  No seeking personal power, dominance, desires, pride. To put other’s needs before my own. To serve the greater good, rather than personal whims. To enjoy life, to connect with others, to love myself- for the sake of positivity, I must work to progress, to change. Improve.

I write for myself, but post a public and running reminder of where I will take myself next.

In the spirit of appreciating and loving my life: This week’s picks for favorite things about life in DC-

  • ‘Vegetable Garden’- Organic, healthy, creative asian food at a low-key setting
  • Jazz in the sculpture garden, the national mall has truly beautiful architecture & landscaping. I stare like a tourist every time even though I live few blocks away & drink in the scenery routinely.
  • The parks & public spaces prevalent in this place
  • Volunteering with the many inspirational initiatives- this week: rooftop garden at Bread for the City
  • Discovering new ways to give back to the community & needy
  • Having a reason to play dress up now & then
  • the tools and resources to find & follow my inspiration & passion! =)
  •  Eastern. Flea/Art/Farmer’s Market. Every. Week.
  • The existence of so many places serving amazing seasonal local noms.
  • Outside perspectives (when childhood friends who stayed in greener Germany genuinely adore and admire my living situation, it really does mean something to me, considering all my longings to return to a more sustainable and traditional way of life from which I originated)
  • Talking to my grandparents in India… heartwarming/heartbreaking (aging is a fact of life, inspired to live every moment to the fullest, to practice enjoying it all with abandon, laugh at everything, accept others and include friends and colleagues more fully in my life, and to sharpen and develop my intellect. I have an inspiring family.)
  • Proximity & transit-ability to the sahahome.
  • Staying connected with oldschool friends. =)
  • The opportunity to meet and discuss with endless new people who share my values. (good food, anyone, everyone?)

grassroots movement: move grass. grow food.

Whenever there are in any country uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right. The earth is given as a common stock for man to labor and live on. The small landowners are the most precious part of a state.

Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) Third president of the United States.

Cultivation and Culinary Adventures

I went for an early morning stroll/run in the cool after the rain and before the sun’s intensity and came across the community garden.  The gate was open this time, so wandered inside to take a look within the ivy covered fence. Inside I found a white-haired british man tending to his plot. As expected, this capitol hill garden- like most urban community gardens- has a long long waiting list. However, this gentleman I spoke with brokered a deal with me.  I will tend to his home garden, as he as his wife will be traveling a lot and won’t be able to do so. I earn some extra money and get to do some gardening.  Obstacle: Landlord lameo not permitting me to garden where I live, overcome!

I had been excited about tending the neglected yard outside the grand old row house I moved into.  After looking into backyard sharing programs in DC and recruiting some friends, neighbors, and coworkers to help me to start a garden, a bleak roadblock popped up: the landlord didn’t want me to creat a garden. The house, being situated on a corner next to a green square next to Pennsylvania Ave just a street over from the Capitol building and Library of Congress, is too visible. All the perks of my location working against me!

I shall overcome! I have visited the fabulous rooftop garden after gleaning with Bread for the City, and spoke with representatives of the GWU community garden in foggy bottom and the Common Good City Farm CSA and have high hopes for vesting some time and energy outdoors doing some cultivation. I might even sign up for a CSA share at Common Good… and see if I can’t volunteer to teach some youngsters, while I’m at it, being a teacher transplant and all.

Speaking of teaching, and gleaning, when I excited shared my wonder gleaning experience I got many a bewildered response. What is gleaning? It’s simply the act of harvesting produce which was not sold or collected due to supply/demand. Rather than let good, local produce go to waste, we collected it for ourselves, and much much more for homeless and needy in the city.

With a copious amount of veggies gleaned from the brink of disposal, it meant a whole lot of cooking this week.

On Day 1 I sliced up squash, eggplant, potatoes, and peppers to roast in the oven, with olive oil and herbs I collected as well. Though I had incredible smoked gouda from a wonderful Virginian farmer I had to stop over Yes! Organic Market for some feta to really make it right.

Day 2 I prepared some cousous with tomatoes and scallions and ground some peppercorn and tossed in some feta to go along with the caramelized onions and squash I had prepared with a side of brussel sprouts. There has been the stirrings of admiration, jealousy (or rather, I hope, inspiration) amongst housemates and coworkers!

Day 3 I went back to my stir frying ways with some mushrooms then boiled some beets to have along with feta. By the time the beets were done, I had rearranged the entire kitchen, and by the time I finished boiling some corn, I wasn’t even hungry any more! So I’ll have the rest for lunch, as I’ve been doing everyday, seeing as I’m cookin for one. I’m saving my brussel sprouts for the biggest fan of my foods, if he ever visits!

transplanted teacher

The realization suddenly entered my mind. I missed the children. Sure I was well aware of missing being in nature, missing hiking every day, missing the peaceful contentment the secluded nature sanctuary presented and the warm acceptance of the education team. Transplanted to the heart of the competitive capital, behind a desk in a cubical all day, abruptly urban living in a stuffy city with a shortage of friendly faces, of course I knew, something surely was amiss. But suddenly, it was the children I missed.

Guiding groups of thirty third graders out to roll over rotten logs and collect insects. Hiking in all kinds of weather, with complaining complacent teens, bird watching without a bird in sight, sure it could be a pain. But gardening in school courtyards with middle schoolers, transforming schoolyards into habitats- and transforming their playgrounds into critters’ homes in the eyes of first graders; laughing with the popular princess high schoolers’ attempts at handling flailing life fish straight from the bay… Now, there is something truly transformative about that.

It is the teaching I miss, not just the beautiful waterfront on my door step, the old growth forest hugging my home/classroom combination. The creaky old creepy empty mansion on dark cold nights. The line of kayaks awaiting my leisure, the quiet evenings of yoga and art, the friendships shared, the conversations enjoyed, the meals savored. I left a lot I would pine for. But the children were the joy, the challenge, the reward. Their eager neediness, exactly what I needed.

As much as being a naturalist, an educator was perfect, a more perfect opportunity presented itself.
To arrive at an organization where my typically radical views became the norm, our name announced in the media became routine, name dropping renown environmental and political figures calling on Line Three became another daily task. Influencing national and international policy and understanding, healing the subsistence of our lives, our food, but of course it’s all very compelling. Intellectually inspiring, philosophically fascinating, spiritually satisfying work to be done. Mending the broken system, fighting corporate forces and corrupt institutions with truth and knowledge, advocacy and litigation. It’s stand up work to be sure. The kind of exposure I dreamt of for years. But now, I restlessly wonder what I can fulfil from behind the desk, how can I possibly connect on this infamous hill, where I’m surrounded by people and feeling more alone than ever.
I traded sanctuary for a sea of like minded admirable people; traded engineered crops for organic policy. Somehow it’s startled out me of all those feelings of self worth I filled myself up with. Regression. Read the rest of this entry »

Cherishing memories & honoring the legacy

Rest in Complete Peace

a loving, kind, beautiful aunt
my inspiration

…the one who intorduced me to the bliss of spirituality,
the nourishment of mindful eating,
the beauty of organic culitvation,
the fulfillment of empowering others to protect our earth

may we all learn from her wisdom

i will always value all my memories and all the seeds she planted in my heart, that i devote my life to nuturing

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