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Imani Dreamweaver's Lessons Lyrics & Litanies
Mittie Imani Dreamweaver
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i
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    Owning the Pond
    Ladybug Lessons, Lyrics and Litanies
    October 3, 2019

                   I don’t remember if it was in Dallas with a small group of
    Christian community developers or in Pittsburgh at the national
    Association conference of the same.  The place escapes me, but I will
    never forget the punch in my consciousness when the words crossed
    his lips.

                   “What have you been told?  Give a man fish…”  The gathered
    responded: “He will eat for a day.”  He smiled.  “Teach a man to
    fish…”  We boisterously blurted with pride: “He will eat forever.”  
    He punched us.  “Perish the thought.   He will eat as long as whoever
    owns the pond allows him to fish.”

                   It’s been over twenty years since John Perkins punched me
    and everyone else in the room upside our smug, Christian community
    outreach heads.  Very few of us were doing development, just pulling
    folk inside our walls while proclaiming to be reaching out.  

                   Whichever location it was, Dallas or Pittsburgh, I was there at
    the invitation and urging of my friend Kathy Dudley, a John Perkins
    protégé and longtime advocate and practitioner of empowering
    existing communities for ownership of their ponds.

                   Ownership of the earth that feeds was not a novice concept for
    me, personally.  I come from a long line of homeowners on properties
    that provided sufficient grounds for gardens yielding vegetables, fruit
    and flowers.  Before we were urban dwellers chickens, pigs, cows and
    horses were part of the family’s fold.

                   But in that moment, when Dr. Perkins made it perfectly clear
    that what we were doing was at best momentary solutions for lifetime
    concerns, I recognized the folly – not frivolity, because hungry people
    do need to eat – but certainly foolishness to continue to depend upon
    the charity of individuals, organizations and institutions who for
    whatever reasons – kindness, guilt or legislated corporate
    responsibilities – give of their expendable resources to rescue hungry
    and hurting people in time of their need.

                   I’ve been thinking a lot about Dr. Perkins lately and his
    poignant and punching proclamation of owning the pond.  Perhaps
    thoughts of him surface because the national CCDA conference
    convenes next week in Dallas, and once again I am unable to attend;
    or maybe because of the work with which I am immediately engaged,
    developing a congregation and community-owned and controlled
    orchard; or maybe it is because of all the current talk and activity
    around black philanthropy –in the vernacular of a local movement
    and exhibit, ‘giving black.’  

                   The truth of the matter is that none of those events channeled
    the reflection.  Rather it is my own financial struggles in owning and
    developing a business, and how a hand-out simply does not register
    to translate into a hand-up.
Site Map ~ www.kumbayashore.com
LL&L Archive
"In a Rich Man's World"
Father's Day, June 16, 2019
A Day in the Life
of a Ladybug
LLL Archive July 1, 2019
Nor Their Seed
Begging Bread
LLL Archive July 29, 2019
The First Time I Was Told
To Go Back!
LLL Archive August 23, 2019
A Year Before The Mayflower

    A Day in the Life of a Ladybug
           On Thursday September 26, 2019 The Cleveland Foundation's Annisfield-Wolf
    Awards honored the amazing, incomparable, 'can't touch this' Sonia Sanchez with the
    Lifetime Achievement Award.  The Award’s Chair Henry Louis Gates also presented
    awards to Tracy K. Smith for Poetry (Wade in the Water), Tommy Orange for Fiction
    (There, There) and Andrew Delbanco for Non-fiction (The War before the War: Fugitive
    Slaves and the Struggle for America's Soul).

           Best known for her volumes of publications and presentations of thought-piercing poetry,
    Sonia Sanchez is also a playwright, author of children’s stories, professor and lecturer at more
    than five hundred colleges and universities.

           As a student at Smith College, I had the joy of being in her sphere in both the classroom at
    Amherst College and around and about the Hampshire valley campuses that composed our Five
    College Consortium.  Too young to be our mother, she was embraced not only as a teacher, but
    also as a ‘big sister,’ said tongue in cheek because this giant barely stands five feet tall.

           Her class “The Black Woman” was so popular that its unlimited enrollment forced it out of
    the traditional classroom setting into the black cultural center where half of us ended up sitting
    on the floor, literally at her feet as she walked around the room engaging us in learning.  

           Over the past 44 years we have been in and out of touch, sometimes crossing paths in
    significant ways.  In the mid-1980’s I was able to “pay forward” her ‘big sister’ legacy when I
    became the same for her son when he attended Oberlin College where I was on staff.

           After Sister Sonia accepted the award and graced us with two powerful poems, she
    challenged the 3,000+ audience by asking "Will you RESIST! Knowing exactly what she was
    talking about we screamed yes and cheered, even before she pressed us to get out the vote!  We
    don’t know if the Cleveland Foundation had signed up for that end of program rally, but in the
    words of Walter Moseley’s “Mouse” in Devil in a Blue Dress,  “Zeke, if you didn’t want anybody
    killed then why’d you send for me?”  

           Sister Sonia, at 85, is going to always be authentically Sonia: mother, sister, poet, teacher,
    advocate, woman-warrior.  Under no circumstances was she going to accept the award, say
    thank you and just walk off that stage without calling us to the urgency of the moment in “this
    place called America.”  

           Here are few photos from the evening, including one where I am joined by close friends as I
    sit at her feet once more. It was good to bask in her aura again, if only for a moment.





                  From 1977 to 2001, my work was in the non-profit sectors
    of cultural affairs, higher education, art institutions and ministry.  
    A significant portion of that time – nearly 20 of the 24 years, was
    spent in roles that required me to raise funds for the organizations
    I served.  I did so successfully, securing significant dollars for purposes
    as fleeting as a two-day cultural arts festival in Cleveland, and as long-
    lasting as programming and staffing a multi-faceted arts institution in
    Dallas.  As I have noted before, many people gladly give to programs
    and projects without hesitation – especially when tax write-offs are
    involved, but seemingly, the same philanthropic spirit does not extend
    to entrepreneurial efforts.  In fact, many philanthropies exclude
    funding staffing and “brick and mortar” campaigns by even non-
    profits.  They are willing to fund the programs, but not the buildings
    and jobs.  
            I think this is one of the reasons why I often think of Dr. Perkins
    and his life-long leadership in inspiring and training communities
    toward owning their ponds.  Mostly, I think about the man behind the
    developer who rose to become a stellar example of achievement
    despite humble beginnings and difficult circumstances.              

                Never knowing the mother who birthed him and died before he
    was a year old; abandoned by his father; raised by an extended family
    of sharecroppers; and having to flee his Mississippi hometown at the
    age of 17 after his brother was shot and killed by a white police, John
    Perkins is a minister, civil rights activist, community developer,
    author of 18 books, has served on the task forces of five United States
    presidents, founded four local ministries operating stores, health
    clinics, housing cooperatives, youth centers and a school, and is
    co-founder of the Christian Community Development Association,
    a national organization of community developers “committed to seeing
    people and communities holistically restored… Not just spiritually, but
    emotionally, physically, economically and socially.”

                Dropping out of school at third grade to work with his
    sharecropping family, Perkins has received numerous medals
    and awards including 16 honorary doctorates from colleges and
    universities in the US and Canada, and three academic fellowship
    programs named in his honor, but his guidance in reframing our
    community development mindset is his most enduring, endearing
    and treasured legacy.  

    I am encouraged and persuaded by John Perkins’ tenacity and
    courage to overcome and thrive despite life’s deficiencies.  As we
    program Kumbaya Café as a space where stories of events, issues
    and efforts that impact our individual and communal lives are shared,
    it is important that we keep such legacies in mind that we might be
    inspired to move toward communities of understanding, equity and
    opportunity for all, not just for a coveted, chosen few.

    I look forward to seeing you on the Shore.

    ~ Mittie Imani
John Perkins
Photo Credit Seattle Pacific University
For more information about
Dr. John M. Perkins visit
John & Vera Mae Perkins Foundation
at
www.jvmpf.org and  
Christian Community
Development Association
at
www.ccda.org
standing l - r: Moran Sanchez, Alicia Graves, Wanda
Jordan Birch, Sonia Sanchez, Delores Person Lairet
(peeking from back), Alice and Alan Seifullah
sitting: Mittie Imani Jordan
Photo Credits: Mittie Imani Jordan
Charles Burkett (Sonia & Mittie)
Sonia's Assistant (Sonia, Mittie & friends)