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The Briar Patch— Did we ask permission?

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—Elias Kelley, L-Tech

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Community development — in all its forms — is an imperative question for the governance of our village.

Recently, I was introduced to a wonderful human being of Kenyan descent. In the course of our gathering, around a sacred fire, he shared some of his childhood experiences. He explained that all children in his native village — regardless of gender identities — learn to play the drums at three years of age. He revealed that learning how to play as a tribe in rhythm and unity creates and builds the community’s harmony. This childhood rite of passage is important, as is selecting a spirit animal and spirit plant. These guides are essential in helping them fulfill their life’s purpose. His words bring me comfort. Maybe it’s the unifying process, or the mutual rhythm that transcends time and space seemingly resonating back and forth from our father star to our mother earth, and evident in the circular pattern of the Bakongo Cosmogram. The Cosmogram, part of my ancestral heritage, symbolizes the “four phases of human life between birth and death” and is where I found my answer to the question of community development: circles (cycles).

Our circles are crafted in similar spirit as those mighty Indigenous people of the Americas who still maintain stewardship over this land, despite who may occupy it. Circles, like ring shouts found in religious and sacred ceremonies in the South, evolved from Western African dance. Circles, ones we sometimes intrinsically walk in times of hope, fear, tribulation and liberation. 

My mother must have felt it at the end — or beginning. Since she made her transition almost two years ago, more and more, I find myself drawn towards her arc. Her room, now my place of comfort as I circle the next chapter of my existence. Her chair, a solace of energy only a mother could leave behind. Leave behind? What a funny notion.

Sitting in what was her chair, I look out the bay view windows. My eyes play the depth. First, three pine trees in our backyard that my father planted. An ecology remains thankful to this day that he did. Second, a new neighborhood grown from the cornfields of my childhood memory. Third, 28.7 degrees to my left a patch of trees in the distance that will be the site of a new housing development. I can only envision it now, but not for long.

Lately, with furrowed eyebrows, I anxiously examine the branches of our standing timber for any signs of the illness that overtook two of their siblings earlier this year. Were they warned of the illness killing their brothers and sisters? Did their vast network of roots alert each other? 

The recent news that the Village is in the process of annexing land for a future housing development leaves one introspective. So, what are the facts?  This new development is going to happen. The Village will have some agency in its growth. There will be more people amongst the Townies. Et cetera, et cetera.

However, I am unsettled by this. I am concerned for the future of the ecological systems that have resided here, who have ancestral legacy, but cannot speak at Village Council meetings. 

This “1.9 square miles” is a kind of circular equation in and of itself. It is our circle of habitat. And, it is inquiring, did we ask permission before gracing the soil with our capitalistic needs? Who will we send to answer?

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