Earth Mothers: Parents Share Lessons & Victories in Environmental Justice Project

April 23, 2009

By Rochelle Davis, Founding Executive Director

Last Monday, I had the privilege of participating in the final event of our EPA Environmental Justice grant with parents from the Austin Wide Parent Network.  For the last two years, 12 parents from this low-income African-American community worked with HSC staff to learn about the connection between learning, health and the school environment and then work together to make improvements in four schools. 
 
After a delicious and healthy meal prepared by Real Men Cook, parents gave personal testimony on what they learned and the changes that they were able to make in their schools. I was very moved by the whole program.  I was so inspired by a poem written by Austin Wide Parent Network organizer Tracy that I wanted to share it with you.  The poem eloquently captures the essence of the work being done.  
 
Earth Mothers
 
When we hear the term earth mother,
Particularly in the black community,
It conjures up images of dreadlocks and fros, breathable fabrics flowing in the wind, composts, organics and canvas bags
 
We think of women who have given up so much,
Sacrificed conveniences and luxuries
To ensure that the earth will survive beyond their lifetimes and into perpetuity
 
But, I know other earth mothers
Who may not be cotton and linen clad every day
But whose existence breathes purpose and commitment
As they ensure that dust bunnies are shooed away and pests eased out, not poisoned out
To clear the air for the babies of Austin
 
I know other earth mothers
Whose hair may not be locked up as they say
But, for whom it is natural to tell school engineers in no uncertain terms to “Get rid of that bleach, Fabuloso and all the other toxic stuff. We’re trying to breathe up in here.”
 
I know other earth mothers
Whose homes may not be lead free
Because the Dollar Store is still the most affordable place in our communities and nobody cares enough to regulate the make-up of the inventory there
But, who are working magic with potions of vinegar, baking soda and water to keep the air in their home toxin free
 
I know other earth mothers
Who may just now be starting to investigate recycling options now that a drop-off center is kind of nearby and the City finally decided to put some blue carts out here
But you better believe they understand reuse
As in “Where are you taking the tablecloth? I’m going to use it for my No Child Left Behind meeting”
Or “You better hand me that foil pan. I’m using that for my family reunion.”
 
These are women whose faith compels them to weed out barriers to clear air in the Edens and Gesthemanes we call our homes and schools
 
These are warrior queens who are fighting to keep Mother Earth and all of her children alive and kicking
 
These are the mothers and grandmothers of the Austin Wide Parent Network.