Raíces Spotlight on Eco-Warrior Kira Herzog

by Francisco G.Gómez

We affectionately call her Kirita Bug because she’s always moving from task to task in almost total silence and never quits!

This young lady has proven herself in so many ways, to be humble, loyal, hardworking, talented, unassuming, selfless and super intelligent. There’s just so much more we could say about her wonderful attributes, and we shall!

Whether it’s doing a river cleanup at one of our environmental projects, helping to hang eco-art at one of our presentations or manning a table at a field activity, she’s always eager and willing to do what is required to make the task a success.

She’s the consummate organizer who works in silent diligence to get any job done. She is loved by her peers and respected by her elders for being so astute. Oh yea, we old folk love her too!

 

If it’s an environmental march, her enthusiasm and dedication to getting a message out on a banner or poster to the powers that be are admirable.

 

And, what a wonderful musician. She is one of Raíces’ best student musicians; learning to play batá and cuá with such incredible focus – OK, so she doesn’t always get it right in a performance, but that’s ok too!

Wow, I almost forgot to tell you one of the most extraordinary things about Kirita; this kid can eat Pupusas like there’s no tomorrow. I’ve seen her eat at least 3 or 4, but I’ve been told that she can down, at best, 6. You would never believe it, given how thin she is – Unbelievable!

All in all, this kid is simply a model young lady, and we imagine that her future will be bright and filled with many successes, given her determination to do the best job she can; her love for the people around her and her exceptional care for the environment – She is truly the all around eco-warrior!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


		

Water is Life Exhibit – Post Presentation Reflections

by Francisco G. Gómez

Water is Life Presentation – Highland Park, New Jersey – October 28, 2017

Time is always a great factor when doing an arts installation show, and I was at the mercy of the clock! I briefly gave a rushed adaptation from the Ifá corpus at our “Water is Life” art exhibit and presentation that Raíces just finished last month. I want to tell the story here in its entirety so that it can be better understood; if you were at the presentation, you would know what I mean, A!

Olofín (The big Is, God, Source, Jah, the creator goes by many other names) decided that life should come forth from Oro Iña (Mother Earth), so the creator summoned Eleguá, the trickster, the shape shifter, the knower of all things and the keeper of the crossroads. When Eleguá arrived, he bowed before Olofín, not losing eye contact and asked:

“ How may I serve you, Eternal Source of the Universe?”

Olofín looked into Elegua’s eyes and said:
“ I have decided to create life on Oro Iña; you will deliver two prayers to my daughters down below; the first prayer is for Yemayá, and the second prayer is for Ochún”.
Eleguá lowered his head and queried the Creator again:
“ May I ask what these prayers contain, Master of all that Is?”
Olofín smiled as he looked away and said:
“ Come and examine the two sacred bundles that you will deliver very soon!”

Eleguá took the first bundle and opened it and let out a hardy chuckle. He then took the second bundle, and as he read the instructions for Ochún, he bid Olofín farewell. His laughter was heard well after he disappeared into the ether. You see, Eleguá, being the knower of all things, understood that all the creatures about to be born would keep the sanctity of the prayers, except one and that one would attempt to subdue Oro Iña until destruction would only be the fate of the would be subduer.

When Eleguá arrived on the southern shores of all that Olofín had created, what would one day be Africa, he made ebbó (an offering) to Yemayá of coconuts, coffee and white flowers, before he ascended into the abyss to deliver the prayer bundle.

Upon reaching the upper depths of the ocean, there sat Yemayá on her watery throne inside a castle made completely of water. Eleguá greeted Yemayá as only a loving son could:

“ Yemayá, my dear mother, I have come bearing a sacred prayer bundle from the great spirit Olofín. He has instructed me to tell you that you are to whisper the prayer contained in the bundle to all the Oro Iña children who will be born of your womb. In this way they shall always remember and cherish where they came from and thereby respect, protect and provide care for the source of all life that’s to come in the future.”

Of course, Yemayá became very happy with the gift and honor that Olofín had bestowed upon her and thanked her son for having delivered the prayer bundle. But, as always, Eleguá, being the mischievous childlike individual he always was, decided to give Yemayá a look see into the future. After all, Eleguá is somewhat of an oracle himself when you get right down to it. Couple that with his need to put everything to a test, he asked his mother to open the bundle and look inside. As she took a gander at the contents, she quickly turned away from the gift horrified, and her face turned very sad, and she began to cry as if in pain. It could be the reason why women who give birth experience that same sadness of pain as they go through the birthing process!

Remember the would be subduer a few paragraphs back?  Well, what Yemayá saw in the bundle was a little something that Eleguá had added to the bundle as a prank, but prophecy to the core. She saw the only species to be born of her who would walk on two legs, be able to talk and communicate in words and would have a very large brain size – all to no avail of course! The species would be called human, and it would multiply in greater numbers than all the rest of the other animals, and it would attempt to bring about the destruction of all that it greedily surveyed in Oro Iña.

Time passed rather quickly, and humans began to cover Oro Iña in numbers like the stars. They did exactly what Eleguá had stated in his prophecy, and it was time for him to deliver the second bundle to Yemaya’s little sister, Ochún.

As Eleguá headed inland to see his aunt at one of the great rivers where she resides, he became furious and sad seeing all the horrible things that humans had done to Oro Iña, especially the rivers, streams, lakes and waterfalls. He saw his aunt in the distance, sitting on the river bank, and she was also sad as she surveyed all that humans had done to her beautiful sweet waters because of their avarice and neglect. As he approached her, he called out to her:

“Greetings, my dear aunt Ochún, I have come bearing a sacred prayer bundle from the creator Olofín. He has instructed me to tell you not to lose faith and hope for the renewal of your sweet waters, and that you are to whisper the prayer contained in the sacred prayer bundle to all humans you meet on the banks of your rivers, streams, lakes and waterfalls.”

As Ochún opened the bundle and looked inside, her sadness disappeared and a big smile shown on her face as she said:

“ I will use all my power to do as Olofín has instructed, my nephew. I feel hope and happiness that all may yet be saved in Oro Iña after reading this prayer and seeing what it can change in humans.“

Of course the trickster, the shape shifter and knower of all things, had added a little something to Ochún’s prayer bundle as well. He bid his aunt a fond farewell, but as he walked into the forest to meet his brothers Ochosi, Osaín and Ogún he turned to Ochún one last time and in a burst of laughter, he said:

“ The creator of all that is, Olofín, has given all that lives and breathes in Oro Iña the answers to achieve a life of peace and harmony, but if I were you, I would take it with a grain of salt when it comes to humans. These creatures are a plague to everything including themselves, but as you already know, there is hope, isn’t there?”

Eleguá let out another cackle as he disappeared behind a giant Baobab tree, and an echo was heard:

“But will they listen…….But will they listen……But will they listen……..”

After Thoughts –
1. Water is Life; Water is living; Water is necessary, and Water must be taken care of!

2.If you’re interested in knowing what the prayers are in the bundles, you can text me at:
fuyo@raicesculturalcenter.org  Just be patient, I’ll get back to you as quickly as I can. Warning, Ifá prayers many times read like Japanese Haiku!

3. I know, you still don’t understand what the Ifá Corpus is:
Ifá is a system of divination and refers to the verses of the literary corpus known as the Odu Ifá.

Water Is Life Update – Okeanos Indigenous Sailing Canoe

Raíces Cultural Center, along with more than a dozen community collaborators and co-sponsors and over fifty local and international artists, is gearing up for this weekend’s Water Is Life Art Exhibit Series Opening Reception. The Okeanos Foundation for the Sea team recently installed their model of a vaka, a Polynesian indigenous sailing canoe. Check out the photos from the installation and more info from Okeanos below:

“The mission of Okeanos Foundation for the Sea is to implement a fossil fuel-free sustainable sea transportation network of modernized Pacific sailing canoes (vakas) through public service and social entrepreneurship activities in the Pacific islands. This vaka model was built in the spring of 2017 to exhibit at the March for Science in NYC and Climate March in Washington DC.”

Be A Part of Our Upcoming Water Is Life Exhibit: Thunderbird Woman Coloring Page

Be a part of our upcoming Water Is Life Art Exhibit Series. Click on the Thunderbird Woman coloring page below to open a printable version, color and return to Tiger Art Supply (427 Raritan Ave.) or Blank Space Highland Park (414 Raritan Ave.) to have your page added to the Thunderbird Woman Wall for the Opening Reception.

Can’t make it into town before the show? Bring it with you to the opening and we will hang it on site! More on the exhibit linked below.

Thanks to Eva Abreu of Blank Space Highland Park who created and shared the coloring page and Veronica Winford of Tiger Art Supply for coming up with the idea. Extra special thanks to artist Isaac Murdoch for his willingness to collaborate on this project and jumping on every new project idea that has come along. Happy coloring!

 

Thunderbird Woman Water Is Life Coloring Page, Art by Isaac Murdoch.

 
Become a Community Sponsor

Make a donation or pre-purchase prints, t-shirts, tote bags and stickers to help support the project, as well as the ecological initiatives at Raíces Cultural Center and Christi and Isaac’s language and culture camp Nimkii Aazhibikong.



 

Native Nations Rise March on Washington, March 10, 2017

On March 10, 2017, Raíces EcoCulture participated in the Native Nations Rise March on Washington. We do not have many words to share about this march, we were there as allies with and for those whose land was stolen. It was a sad and somber gathering, the pain of centuries of genocide and colonial trauma hung in the air as we moved through the city of Washington, D.C.. We marched because water is life, earth is life, air is life, and we stand with our indigenous and first nations relatives in seeking earth justice and a more balanced, harmonious relationship with our environment and each other. We continue to move forward in our work of building a culture of caring and respect for the Earth and all of her creatures. Here is a little more about the march, as described by the organizers, and you can find our photo gallery below:

From http://nativenationsrise.org/:

“We are Tribal Nations and grassroots Indigenous communities rising to the call set forth by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to defend our inherent rights to protect Unci Maka and our water: Mni Wiconi…

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and Indigenous grassroots leaders call on our allies across the United States and around the world to peacefully March on Washington DC. We ask that you rise in solidarity with the Indigenous peoples of the world whose rights protect Unci Maka (Grandmother Earth) for the future generations of all.”


PHOTO ALBUM: Native Nations Rise – March on Washington, D.C., March 10, 2017

 

Raíces EcoCulture Community Action Team Meeting Notes – May 21, 2017

Raíces EcoCulture Community Action Team
Meeting Notes
5/21/17

Attendees: Nicole Wines, Francisco G. Gómez, Paul A, Daniel C, Kira H, Rocío H, Chad H, Sylvia H, Amanda H, Paul S, Chris T, Elizabeth T

1. Resource Lists

-Subcommittee members: Liz, Kira, Amanda, Paul A.
-Liz reported that she is researching what already exists and creating a shared google doc to enter data. Once there is an accumulation of data, she will create a wiki, starting with a focus on Middlesex County and then spreading it statewide by networking with other activists
ACTION ITEM: Nicole contacted Junior Romero from Food and Water Watch and he emailed us a list of current elected officials in Central NJ Counties
ACTION ITEM: Before next meeting, Liz hopes to have a list of politicians (Junior already sent it!) and a list of headings for categories. She will also research different wiki sites to see which makes the most sense for our group to use.

2. Eco-Art

Water is Life Thunderbird Woman

-Subcommittee members: Paul S., Mark, Dan, Rocío, Liz
-Raíces will be holding a series of eco-art related events, and would love support and assistance from our EcoCulture Community Action Team.
NOTE: We have since held a subcommittee meeting cross between the Eco-Art subcommittee and the Revive the Raritan/Mill Brook clean up committee. It was decided that a critical mass event/festival would be something to work towards instead of trying to create immediately. Through messaging, marketing, fundraising programs, and educational events, we hope to begin to educate community members and network with additional organizations, residents and groups to build up to a critical mass. The Raíces Eco-Art programs and events will help with this messaging initiative.
-Current programs in planning process – Eco-Art exhibit including clean up and workshop with Lisa Bagwell (October), Water Is Life Art exhibit (September)

3. Mill Brook Clean Up/Revive the Raritan Initiative

-Subcommittee members: Francisco, Nicole, Chris, Liz, Dan, Sylvia, Paul S., Mark
-Our watershed is 41% impervious surface.
-It will take long term planning to recover/repair the river, and it can only be done incrementally.
-On a micro scale, there are already clean-ups happening (ex: RCHP has adopted a section of the Mill Brook, Mark Lesko also adopted a section on his own, and does almost daily clean ups along the river). It was expressed that in order to have a meaningful and lasting impact, instead of having a handful of people doing many small cleanups, we would need to have a critical mass of people at larger events.
-On a macro scale we can look to a critical mass style clean up event to clean whole Mill Brook or large sections of river front, ID contamination sites (mapping project where we create a history of contamination and destruction to educate the community), slow the course of the Mill Brook (resident rain gardens to reduce storm run off, long term planning to decrease amount of impervious surface in our watershed).
-We have since had two additional meetings of this sub-group, one where we screened and discussed Rescuing the River: The Raritan and one which was a cross group meeting with the Eco-Art committee to begin planning an educational messaging campaign. We want to motivate residents and community members, and be pro-active in connecting people to the river to help create a culture of caring about our waterways.
-Additional notes on clean-ups when we are ready for critical mass events:

  • someone suggested researching inmate/community service
  • Sylvia will maintain connections to volunteers from RU, HP Gives a Hoot, etc.
  • Dan mentioned an environmental history class at RU where they talked about the river offered through the Department of Human Ecology
  • someone mentioned data on mosquito control actions back to the 1910’s being accessible in Alexander Library Special Collections connecting to the Lower Rarity Watershed Project about the history of the river, as some of their interns and partners have already done some of that work. Might be able to continue it collaboratively, or work together to share data and resources.

 

4. Compost Collective/Cooperative

-Subcommittee members: Liz, Francisco, Linda, Nicole, Amanda, Mark, Paul S, Chris
-Liz presented the research she had done since the last meeting. Models she found included a monthly fee for participants of $15-$30. Different prices for pickup vs. delivery/drop off. Current models include distributed boxes/holders for food compost.
-Would be human powered
-Would need space
-Would need a full business plan including financing/grants for start up.
-There is currently an RU Compost Operators class offered at Duke Farms.
-Paul A. has a business plan from when he owned which he will send us.
-This working group will need to have it’s own separate meetings to start the planning process.

5. Outreach

-Subcommittee members: Sylvia, Liz, Paul A., Dan, Fuyo, Mark, Chris, Nicole
-This committee does not require additional meetings at this time. Members will work on getting the word out about our programs, events, actions and initiatives, as well as network with other groups and organizations. Spread the word through social media, sending delegates to other environmental and ecological groups’ meetings and programs, tabling at events and festivals, etc.

6. Grant Crew

-Subcommittee members: Fuyo, Nicole, Amanda, Kira, Liz
-This working group will need to have it’s own separate meetings to start working on raising funds through grants.

7. EV Cars

-Fuyo gave an initial introduction to the idea of an Electric Vehicle collective
-The initiative would include mechanics, cooperative solar, administrative workers

8. New Business

-Chad-will post compost idea
-Paul-biking interest
-Amanda-mentioned bike repair (NB Bike Exchange behind PRAB, which would be a social justice connection). Chris knows the person who runs the bike exchange and will connect Amanda to that person.
-Mark asked for an opinion vote over the terms plastic free waters vs. trash free waters. Vote came out 8 to 4 for plastic free waters.
-Next meetings will be subcommittee based meetings, and we will reconvene the larger group for report backs quarterly instead of monthly.

Eco Responsibility vs. Cognitive Dissonance

by Francisco G. Gómez

Having electricity at the flick of a switch, running water at the turn of a faucet knob or gas heat by raising the thermostat really makes us subconsciously irresponsible to a fault. Those of us who do this continually would beg to differ, simply because we don’t really care or suffer from something called “ cognitive dissonance.” Webster’s dictionary defines it as: psychological conflict resulting from simultaneously held incongruous beliefs and attitudes (as a fondness for smoking and a belief that it is harmful).

Do you have that significant other or children who know the truth behind fossil fuel consumption, environmental sustainability and the inevitable economic collapse that is shortly to arrive? You know, the ones that walk through the house leaving a light or two on in every room, as well as the TV, computer or any of the other things that are supposed to make our life easier?

The one that really gets me is my morning tea ritual; I get up and do the normal things that most semi conscious people do at 7 in the morning. I get the kettle going, wait for the water to boil. Meanwhile, I eat a piece of fruit, grab my book or pre-charged computer and get ready to sit down in my customary chair in the living room. Mind you, I’ve done all of this without turning on the ceiling fan that has three 60 watt bulbs screwed into the sockets. Yes, I know, I’ve turned the gas stove on for a period of 3 minutes, but at least give me credit for not using the fan and lights! Along comes the significant other or son and flicks on the light switch just as I put the honey in the tea. I say good morning and why do you have to turn the lights on; answer is always “I can’t see.” Of course there’s a picture window in my kitchen that lets in plenty of light – talk about getting pissed off!

Here’s the other one that makes me absolutely crazy; the dinner dishes must be done, the stack sits on the counter next to the kitchen sink, on comes the water, lever completely open and does not stop until every dish and utensil is rinsed off. I ask, What about water consumption, haven’t we talked about this before and you agree that saving water is wise?” Answer is, “ You do the dishes your way and I do it my way!” I ask again, “What about using less water?” no answer.

Here’s a good one; my son usually has the light and ceiling fan going every minute that he’s in the toxic zone that he calls his bedroom. I constantly complain, but my protestations fall upon deaf ears. The night comes and the temperature can fall to about 49 degrees on average during the Spring. Of course, the fan is still going all night and into the day. The conversation goes something like this:

“Hey, kid, the temp really fell last night, wouldn’t you say? Answer, “ So what are you
trying to say, dad?” Answer, “It was freaking cold last night; why did you leave the
fan on?” Answer, “I was hot” “But you have all the windows open.” Answer, “ Yea, I
know, it’s the sound, it helps me sleep.” I say, “why don’t you record the sound and
loop it for hours? Answer, “It’s not the same, dad.” I say, “ It’s a hell of lot cheaper,
son.” Answer, “Yea I know, but it’s not the same.”

The vein in my forehead wants to explode and my eyes start to twitch uncontrollably
The problem is cognitive dissonance created by years and years of abundance that is rapidly coming to an end, but most of us here in the mid eastern side of the United States choose to zone out to this reality. In other words, you know that the cost of water, electricity and consumer goods have sky rocketed, but you chose to put it out of sight and mind because of your CD!

As Climate Change continues to impact the planet at an alarming rate, we have been fortunate not to see climate migration like some places in Africa, ice melts in the polar ice caps that are displacing animals, or the simple fact that we still have running water coming through our faucets; even if it isn’t wise to drink the water, not even filtered! There’s a water war taking place on our earth; just take a look and see how the Spring and bottled water businesses have proliferated.

We can’t forget that the powers that be in Washington have sold out to the big fossil fuel companies and will attempt to keep an outdated, dirty and very dangerous industry alive. And, now that our government has rolled back small environmental strides made in past years, because of their climate denial, it may become more apparent and frighteningly clear that we must stop over consumption of precious resources and we must relearn what it means to live in harmony with Mother Nature if we are to survive as a species on this tiny blue globe.

It’s 3 o clock; we just finished an early dinner. The dishes are stacked next to the kitchen sink. My significant other says, “Leave the dishes there, I’ll do them.” I say, “no” of course without having to state why. I proceed towards the ceramic heap and a dialogue ensues anyway. I say “Why must you waste so much water when you wash the dishes?” She answers very dissonant and very cognitively, “I like the way all the water feels over my hands!” Go figure………

Photo Gallery: Intro to Solar Energy Workshop

On May 21, Raíces Cultural Center’s EcoCulture program held an Introduction to Solar Energy workshop as part of our Sustainable Living Workshop Series. This workshop followed our Intro to Seed Saving workshop, and taught participants basic principles about how solar energy technology works-including both off-grid and grid-connected systems, the diverse range of applications for solar and other renewable energies, and the wide varieties of opportunities to create green jobs, including locally owned solar community coops and smaller, local businesses. Workshop presenter Laura Waldman, of Sun Blue Energy, also went over some of the upcoming advances in the solar industry and how to identify sites that would make sense for solar energy installations. Participants were able to ask questions and dialogue about solar technology and its many applications. Raíces Cultural Center would like to thank Laura Waldman for sharing her knowledge with us. We look forward to working more together in the future!

The Sustainable Living Workshop Series is co-sponsored by Sustainable Highland Park and funded by Highland Park’s Park Partners Grant Program as well as by individual donations. For a full workshop schedule visit the Sustainable Living Workshop Series Info Page.

 

PHOTO GALLERY: INTRO TO SOLAR ENERGY

May 21, 2017
Eugene Young Environmental Education Center
Highland Park, NJ

Photo Gallery: Intro to Seed Saving Workshop

On May 21, Raíces Cultural Center’s EcoCulture program held an Introduction to Seed Saving workshop as part of our Sustainable Living Workshop Series. Participants in the workshop learned about the importance of saving seed and building bio-diverse local and regional seed libraries and seed banks. Workshop presenter Rachel Dawn Davis, of Green Dawn Solutions, also went over some of the basics of seed saving with workshop participants, including a hands-on bean seed saving activity, where participants shelled, sorted, and saved four different varieties of bean seeds. Participants were able to choose varieties of seeds to grow, save, and share in their own home gardens. Raíces Cultural Center would like to thank Rachel for sharing her knowledge and experiences on the topic of seed saving.

The Sustainable Living Workshop Series is co-sponsored by Sustainable Highland Park and funded by Highland Park’s Park Partners Grant Program as well as by individual donations. For a full workshop schedule visit the Sustainable Living Workshop Series Info Page.

Want to be a seed saver? Join the Raíces EcoCulture Seed Library and save seeds with us! Learn more and register here and we will be in touch with details on becoming a member and borrowing seed to get started!

PHOTO GALLERY: INTRO TO SEED SAVING WORKSHOP

May 21, 2017
Eugene Young Environmental Education Center
Highland Park, NJ

Raíces EcoCulture Garden Crew Spring Update

by Nicole Wines

The Raíces Garden Crew is growing. Members of our recently formed Community Action Team as well as students from the Highland Park High School Environmental Club have been volunteering to transplant herbs and perennials, start seedlings, work on the Raíces Seed Library, and even create new gardens at their own homes.

We are hoping to collaborate with the High School’s Green Team to keep the school gardens in town taken care of throughout the summer, as well as find new places to plant in our community. It has been inspiring and exciting to see the enthusiasm of our crew as they get their hands into the soil and work to green our community, promote pollinators, and raise food production awareness, one seed and one plant at a time.

Looking for plants for your garden? Support Raíces EcoCulture’s efforts and make an order in our annual plant sale. Want to get involved with our garden crew or the Raíces Seed Library? Email us at raices [at] raicesculturalcenter [dot] org. We are looking forward to hearing from you!

Photo Gallery: Raíces Garden Crew, Spring 2017