Friday, June 19, 2020

Is America Listening?

There was a time around 2014 and 2015 that my optimism for what programs like ours can do for the nation was at its peak. I was seeing the impact that teaching kids from different economic and racial backgrounds how to apply sankofa, the African concept of reaching back into history and bringing forward that which is good and useful. to today's world.

This is not some silly nostalgia. This is not reaching back to a time when everyone "knew their place." This is reaching back to bring forward skills, beliefs, values and practices that connect us to who we are, by learning who we were.

This is the teaching of the things that connect us--to nature, to farming, to livestock, to art, to music---to everything that made us human.  I was watching it happen with the students from Rivermont School. The boys were primarily black kids from the city and had not been exposed to life in the woods or in the pasture. Suburban kids (and adults) in the program had minimal exposure to the lives that some of these boys led.

But the simple act of clearing land, cutting down trees, moving brush, planting pasture and riding horses brought a close connection in less time than I had ever seen between people of such different background.

My role model has been the Henderson School in Marion, Virginia and before that the Fox Fire Project. Cultural educational institutions can be important part of the building blocks in building a just society.

So can Mill Swamp Indian Horses--both directly and indirectly. On a direct level I plan to expand the reach of our program to bring in a more diverse set of kids. One of the worst things that the established horse world has done to our nation is to turn horses into toys for little rich white girls and pricing them out of reach of the rest of society. We do not follow such wicked practices.

But secondly, if I can maintain the energy to keep it going and if I can keep our program alive through the time of this violence and sickness and financial hardship, I want to reach out to other programs that teach the historical, cultural skills that give meaning to individual lives and bring people.

I want to see how we, working togehter can promote this kind of vital cultural understanding.

And as hard as it will be to keep so many things afloat at the same time I believe that this is the time to move on such a mission. The irony is that while the nation appears splintered and divided on the surface, the reality is that the protests are multi racial events. The reality is that there has been a massive change in white understanding of the reality of black life in America. And it is happening fast and we must strike while the fire is hot.

I write on June 19th, the day in 1865 when enslaved people in Texas learned that they were free. But I am writing on June 19, 2021, at a time when so many white people across the nation have finally come to understand what freedom must mean.

Once again, it is time for the nation to experience a new birth of freedom. It might be really difficult to understand that teaching black and white kids to tame wild horses together can bring about that new birth of freedom.

But it will. That is what sankofa can bring us.

1 comment:

Mary Batten Bland said...

So much wisdom in your post. Thanks, Steve. The multi-ethnic protests give me hope that a tipping point has been reached. We the people have the momentum and the passion to transform our country and, at last, make it better. No going back this time!