As my team and I looked at building a space for women to come together to share their stories and co-create new collective ideals of just urban living, it occurred to us that profiling women at various stages of their journey (building a business, starting a campaign, choosing a healthy living practice) fulfilled a social emotional need as much of a leadership development opportunity. It’s one thing to know what folks do as a means of leveling the playing fields of urban standards and systems, but it’s another to understand why, particularly in spite of all the challenges and obstacles before them. In this issue, we introduce you to Shanae, the founder of Ivy’s Tea, Co. She epitomizes the Homesteadista profile - a creative, savvy, woman of color who successfully marries her cultural heritage, hip hop, and commitment to social impact within her community with a fresh approach to ancient tradition of tea drinking.
I have two distinct memories of tea drinking - sitting at the kitchen table with my mom drinking Lipton tea with sugar and lemon (this concoction always put order back into the world) and my first entry into the posh world of loose tea in NYC's Takashimaya Tea Room. Similarly, Shanae’s first tea experiences were centered on social communing around the kitchen table. For Shanae, a whip-smart Black American woman with British and Jamaican roots, tea was commonplace in her home and the diverse immigrant community she grew up in. Their tea was more on the level of Takashimaya’s - earthy, herbalist and loose, but without the posh Japanese vibe and of course with a spot of condensed milk. As a self-described grounded, funny, risky teacher, creating Ivy’s Tea, Co was a bold and natural jump into entrepreneurship. Based in DC and armed with a degree in African-American studies, Shanae’s product and business model of Ivy’s Tea needed to be reflective of place and her community members as much as selling good tea.
A few months ago during a Netflix binge, Michelle, a striking woman working toward her MSW full time and working as a server part-time watched the documentary, “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things,” which follows two successful young white men turned green lifestyle activist as they tour their book by a similarly entitled name (Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life) around the US. Michelle’s review of the flick went something like this: “I felt like they were preaching to the choir not only because pairing down is important to me, but because there was a cult-like way they seem to be recruiting viewers. Come to our side, hide your money, buy less stuff except for this book, be happy, because we know what happiness is and the world still revolves around our standards.” What she also noticed, the lack of people of color or even people for whom the choice to down size or reject consumerism did not exist. The counterculture of the 1960s was a wake-up call to activists of all manner and calling around the world. While the same movement gave rise to the likes of non-conformers, Janis Joplin and the Rolling Stones (the coquettish Mick Jagger displaying an early form of swagger), it showed the world another trend: minimalism. Did Mick, like the Minimalist duo miss an equally important point about less is more beyond their personal bliss? Fast forward to 2019 and while it may look like we are having similar conversations; we are initiating these dialogues with social justice and equity at the center of what we hope is just not another trend
Back in my day, the only excitement associated with nutritional instruction was about lunch boxes - not the contents, but the groovy characters embossed on the outside. My Judy Jetson lunchbox was a valuable commodity – certainly more than the baloney and yellow mustard sandwich crushed under the can of Fresca inside. Of course no lunch was more valuable than the lunch containing corner-store penny candy and Twinkies!
Some things haven’t changed since the early 70’s except the sandwiches are stuffed with organic grilled chicken or tofu strips and depending on how your house rolls, are either wrapped in collar green or a gluten-free grain alternative. Mothers still struggle to provide quick, kid-friendly and nutritious lunches for their children; and children are still trading sandwiches for game cards and sugary treats. What’s up with that
I have traveled extensively and even lived abroad in cultures that were quite homogeneous and where I was one of few, if not the only one who "did not belong". While I'll difference were easily identifiable based on external indicators alone, the sense of being surrounded by others did not send me into a mad anxiety attack (ok, once in a very crowded Beijing mall, I had a bout of cultural claustrophobia) or fear for my life. Yet, last year while walking in my hometown, l lost breath in a terrified gasp, when I turned a corner downtown and walked smack into a pack of male university students sporting red caps and sweatshirts. Was it the passage through rowdy young men that almost stopped me in my tracks, or was it the recently internalized halt at a red hat sighting? It should be noted, they were wearing university logo hats, not the other ones
Jasmine, who wanted to be a movie director/actress since childhood and worked within the television industry for years, finally reached a breaking point as most visionaries do, and decided to tell her story. Jasmine, merged her passion for filmmaking with her vegan practice to create The Invisible Vegan to fill a void in mainstream wellness documentaries and to give voice to her experience and a growing movement of other African-American vegans. So how does one set about to making a dynamic vegan film that initiates dialogue about race and economics as much as it does animal rights and health? “Just do it. That’s the plan.” Jasmine did not have the resources of a major studio, despite her years in television, but she had the drive and resilience (attributes which were perhaps harnessed while growing in a marginalized community, much like the ones she is committed to outreaching to). “I have a camera, friends and a credit limit. Too many people have great ideas and let them depreciate because the stars have to align perfectly before they get started. I’m the total opposite. I look at what I have and I make it work. The plan is go. The plan is do it. The plan is take control over my destiny. The plan is have the courage to construct my vision.” Amen!
© Raw Pixel
Let’s see a show of hands - How many of you ladies have had an annual comprehensive wellness check? If you are like me, you wait until something is terribly amiss before you step foot into a doctors office, like last summer when I had crazy chest pains and spent part of a Sunday afternoon in the emergency room - turns out it was agita often caused by too much BBQ and a looming fellowship deadline. Nothing a little sugar and grain detox and extra sleep couldn't help. And if you are like me, you likely engage in all kinds of wellness mind-body treatments - some with real preventative or curative medical value (hello good night’s sleep, regular exercise and cupping) and some that just feel good (mani-pedis)— because a healthy mind is a healthy body. Most of the time this self-care doesn’t leave the theory zone into the practice arena. Sorry Louise Hay! Thankfully, my genes and good habits have kept me incredibly healthy and well. Nonetheless, after that ER visit, I was armed with not only a will to be exceeding well, but a checklist of health points to discuss with my MD. After all, it's my body, right?
© Gift Habeshaw
In a regressive society, people usually perceive men equal to human and women equal to women! This is because more often than not, that societal mindset ‘inadvertently’ thinks women can never rub shoulders with men.
Considering a dogged patriarchal attempt to demand women and girls to stay in their mansplained lane, our equality may be better and more safely demonstrated away from men. There’s no shame in confessing that women-only spaces are quite relevant and a constructive effort for combating the constant physical and verbal harassments women so often endure. The truth is this seemingly neoteric ‘women-only’ arrangement is not such a new or male-directed positioning
Though it might seem least unlikely, and despite what we protest about individuality and celebrating our authentic self, people, especially urban women tend to change more quickly and thoroughly in groups than they do on their own. Especially if they are marginalized women. Much to the chagrin of mainstream green, particularly health and wellness programs and organizations, the basic assumption that behavior will change individual by individual falls flat on its back. Yet, those gaps are often bridged by an unshakeable urge to compete and stand out, not to belong (community and sisterhood), unless you are poor, a woman of color, or otherwise disenfranchised. Within the environmental justice movement and their impact, vulnerable communities are only stronger, healthier, happier, safer, and more prosperous together
Defining “Environmental Justice” can be like trying to explain trust, hunger, or love. It's complex, universal, and yet so subjective. And yet, when seeing environmental justice through an intersectional lens, that complex, universal subjectivity shrinks down to a a simple contrast of bias and equity. It doesn't end there. Expand the "environmental" concept to include all shared spaces, naturally made and human-constructed and the questions of rights, responsibility, finite resources , and safety organically follow. While it would be easy to contain the focus on recycling, composting, and solar panels, it would be complicit in perpetuating the negative impact of siloing issues and areas of concern. Marginalized folk, especially women and girls get hit hardest as they are still systemically treated as second and third class citizens. How they can and will ultimately navigate the space is not factored in to the equation, much less prioritized. But what does this have to do with environmental justice? Or urban sustainability? Everything.