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  • Writer's pictureTannur Ali

Alabama Neighbors

There is something about the vibe in this place - Solomon's Garden - that makes me have to shut up and sit down. It makes me quiet and suddenly, I begin to see auras and orbs around me. Living in Alabama is not something I ever thought I'd do. I have too many pre-conceived notions about what it means and how it must feel. To live in a place with such a history steeped in oppression, discrimination and death. Then, I am patiently reminded by the people who have built lives here, Like my neighbor, Mr. Gordon, that Alabama was the home of the great Dr. Martin Luther King. It was a place where the people refused to accept their oppression laying down.

Riding down a county road with Mr. Gordon a few weeks ago on the way to the farmer's co-op, I asked about the history of this county. As he spoke on the process of organizing marches in a rural area in the time before social media and cell phones, I watched as the terrain shifted. The beautiful pine forest began to look like a jungle. It was as though his speaking of the struggles and strengths of rural neighbors in the early sixties transported me to a time long before that.

I imagined my ancestors in these parts... Hiding in the brambles.

Trudging through the road-side swamps.

Hushing children as patty-wagons rolled by.

Learning their capacity for survival was strong enough for slavery AND strong enough for freedom.

I thought of what it means to cross the unnamed river "...where they used to drown Black folks they had a problem with". Mr. Gordon made sure I understood that this river separated our very Black county from the very white one we were entering.

The process of learning to listen to the silence and listen to the wild animals stalking through the woods behind our home has not been the most easy transition from my home town- or even my most recent diggs. I am so used to the sound of sirens and laughing neighbors on the porch. I am so used to running out to the store in the traditional, but ever-unaccepted pajama pants that made a quick run for milk and smokes so quick and easy.

I am used to knowing what I'm dealing with.

What I'm not used to is the time that people are taking with me, to learn about who I am and where I'm coming from. Now, I'm not naive. I understand that most of the people doing so are gentlemen of a certain age. I know they look at me and wonder what sort of interesting creature has stumbled over to their side of town. Either way, they are respectful and helpful.

Another neighbor and local preacher who I met through a friend has become intrigued with the project and has begun to help with things like tilling the land and offering gardening advice from his own experience. Here's a little video I made about Mr. Eddie and his help.

Enjoy the clip and stay tuned for updates on Spring Planting 2018!

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