Oxy in New Orleans
Solidarity, Not Charity



I am not familiar with blogging courtesy or culture, but I won’t apologize for not following the standard on this post because of what I have taken from my time with Rebirth. It is easy to emerge from the scholastic tower of the academic world with the lens of observer and explorer, traipsing through wood and wildlife with notebook in hand, recording-not absorbing- the peculiar and deviant culture around you without considering the ripples you cause by being there… postulating… pondering… patronizing. So I write this story with the simple request to take it as it is… and only as it is. Although it will be difficult, I will attempt to deliver it with the utmost sincerity and absence of condescension of the “queer sight to behold” flavor that blogging naturally endows it. With this in mind, we can begin the true movement forward.

i had my hands in the dirt again. Not in the negative, police-tells-you-to-get-on-the-ground dorsal-exposed kind of way. Not in the uncovering-conspiracy kind of way either. i had my hands in the dirt at Our School at Blair Grocery. Just as the name reflects, i had my hands in the dirt in the empowering kind of way, heaving mounds of boo-boo fresh compost into wheelbarrows to be hauled to just another plot of evacuated land in the Lower Ninth that crunched of both hope and eeriness beneath your sneakers. Eerie because of how this plot of land was under several feet of water just five years ago, but hopeful because this plot of land will be covered by several feet of fresh, inspiring vegetables just five years from now. i am an optimist.

And you could even pretend that this compost pile was absorbing my hands and my crew’s hands and the NY2NO student’s hands in photosenthesis by the way it pulsated and warmed. It was sucking all of us in- the frustrated, the happy, the content, the missing, the confused, the underestimated, the grateful- and keeping only the good stuff. The bad stuff steamed into space. One of the NY2NO students mentioned how the clay in New Orleans stifles the nutrients from the soil just as the city seems to stifle the life of its youth. So you add compost to dilute the clay and foster growth. OSBG is compost for New Orleans.

As we worked, a local man approached one of the OSBG elders. The local man, an older, weather-worn soul with a sinking face was indulging his curiosity. He had been doing so in small steps all day- walking up and down Roman Street, letting his eyes absorb the OSBG house and the growing garden around it, while his mind let the phenomenon sink in like the process of exposure in a dark room. He took in the bustle of kids at work, the smell of the compost, the barking dogs and the clucking chickens. When the photo became clear enough for the man, he slowly sauntered up to the OSBG elder and asked what the kids were doing. “Smells like coffee grounds,” he clarified. The OSBG elder, the parallel of this man in lines and hardship, but opposite in melanin and accent, responded that the coffee grounds are just one piece of the formula of this compost. He continued to explain that through decomposing, our organic waste can become the potion to create and sustain life. Like Mother Nature’s truest Fountain of Youth, compost has the ability to rejuvenate the soil and the organisms that make it strong, to allow us to plant the things that keep us healthy and strong. It is our job only to give this potion a little time and energy to bring it there.

The weather-worn man responded that he knows nothing of these things. He admits that even though his family before him grew from the land, he hasn’t had the experience or the exposure to discover the inner dynamics of compost. He tells the OSBG elder that compost is foreign to him… he has never had the opportunity to learn. The OSBG elder understands… he says that people like himself and the man didn’t grow in a place of learning. The OSBG elder admits that the best way he retains a lesson is by doing, feeling, experiencing… tasting the smell of the compost on his tongue. The OSBG elder explains that he doesn’t learn best through books. The OSBG elder and the weather-worn man share a moment. Suddenly the steam of the compost in the air is filled from a moment of realization. Each man understands the other as just another ingredient of compost for New Orleans. The OSBG elder as white as an eggshell. The weather-worn man as black as coffee grounds. But together, the energy needed to revitalize a great World-City. Together, absorbing the goodness of this place in order to create the nutrients of organic change, hope, and strength.

We should all take a little time and energy to bring it there. We should all feel the heat of the compost.



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