I grew up in the ’70s when healthy fresh food was the norm and was both affordable and accessible. My mother made everything from scratch and fortunately for my waistline, she was a horrific baker, which meant we always had “home-cooked” whole meals and sugary treats were few and far in between. Despite a Whole Foods on every other select block and the news overload of healthy eating regimes from vegan to Keto, most folks, particularly those in disenfranchized communities are still nutrition ignorant and poor. Be it corner stores that won’t stock fruits and veggies or school curriculums that skip basic nutrition in the science programs, a healthy meal is yet to be determined and then found.
Tambra Raye Stevenson, founder, and CEO of WANDA - Women Advancing Nutrition, Dietetics, and Agriculture, is dedicated to making food health and wellbeing the norm, specifically for girls and women of color. If necessity is the mother of invention, motherhood was the driving force behind the creation of WANDA and her “I am Wanda” campaign, when she looked to address her daughter Ruby’s classroom junk-food treat born cavity. The root of the problem, no pun intended, was not simply one too many sweet treats, rather, systemic reinforcement of poor nutritional values and health education. As an interrupter of bias and neglect, WANDA, an education based advocacy organization aimed at establishing health justice was Tambra’s next step.
It’s an era of the ‘SHEROES’, ladies!
She - women of color, first-generation Americans, members of the LGBQT community, who, never imagined being the ‘leader’, was still paying off her student loan, or juggling single parenthood and working full-time is the She who is now holding court as an elected official.
The Nigerian constitution makes provision for laws guiding environmental justice and equity. However, even with these laws, the Nigerian female population encounters several challenges relating to environmental justice. The most prevalent environmental justice issue which Nigerian women face is domestic violence. About 30% of Nigerian women experience domestic violence from their sexual partners or spouses.
My love affair with renting was not always harmonious. I had favor with the housing Gods - almost always finding the right apartment at the right time (thank you universe), but the rate in which my rent would often skyrocket had me question if I was in the wrong housing relationship. After 9-11, I did what virtually every New Yorker does at some point in their mad housing experience. I sublet my bedroom in my one-bedroom Central Park South apartment. Now truth be told, my apartment was more CPS to the left (between 9th and 10th Ave), but it was nonetheless prime real estate that I wasn’t ready to let go of, even if I had to sleep on my sofa for months at a time. Eventually, I escaped the rent burden by moving out of the country, but the sting of being virtually priced out of my home still hurts. Rising rent burdens have turned many people in the United States into economic hostages. What’s worst is that studies and surveys periodically taken by Harvard University’s Joint Center for Housing Studies, and the Pew Journal show a striking picture of rental disparities that exist among White, Black, Hispanic, and Asian Americans. Simply put, if you are marginalized, you get the shortest end of the housing stick.
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!
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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?