I started reading Michelle Obama’s book American Grown this morning. I wanted something somewhat “lighter” to read since what I usually read is not…well…”light.” Even the fiction I choose isn’t.
Anyway, as I turned the pages I thought to myself, okay, wow. Here is this beautiful and brilliant Black woman, growing crops by choice, in the lawn of the White House. Gardening by choice. Not for someone’s profit. Not as an owned object of someone else. In a house that she honestly was never meant to be in, if many in history, or even in 2008 and 2012 had their way. Just because she wants to eat healthy and encourage it for others. She doesn’t have to worry about her garden and land being burned down and people reneging on her deed that she doesn’t hold. She doesn’t have to sell the crops to survive.
Now certainly, her story is exceptional. Many Black women live in food desserts today in 2012. Fresh produce is a luxury for many. Thus, I do not pretend her story is all of our stories. Her story still matters to me, so much. It has impacted our culture more than we even know at the moment. So while (as usual) some White feminists will argue about her gardening because it’s not powerful enough, or business enough or political enough, this is actually incredibly political. It’s very powerful. Though it should be quite obvious, I find myself often having to reiterate how our freedom to do things and how we define our womanhood is entangled, but has differing histories for Black and White women.
Eh. Alice already let me know what’s up. So garden away Michelle. I’m good with it.
Oh, by the way…so far it is really good reading! The photographs (I’m a photographer, so I pay attention to this) are really great. My father has a garden himself; he started it with my mom before she passed away 11 years ago. I am lucky that I get to grab some of the fresh goodies from his garden. Lemongrass. Spinach. Broccoli. Tomatoes. Scotch bonnet peppers. Callaloo. Ackee. Pineapple. Peas. Sweet potato. Sorrel. Cabbage.
Being able to have access to fresh foods is so important.
One thing I do want to note is that as she and others focus on obesity in children, it has to involve environmental justice and food justice. It cannot solely be “they play X-Box too much” because that is not the whole story. For adults, I DO want the culture of “X weight = lazy, bad person” to end. This is inherently biased against Black women who deal with so much already. Look how healthy Michelle appears to be and her arms are objectified while her hips are insulted….hips that many Black women have, and yet are the beacons of health. We have to focus on unhealthiness as class-related and racialized and gendered, and deconstruct those myths and lies, but still focus on changes we can make in our own lives. It’s not an either/or thing. It’s both.