Cappuccino Soul

Cappuccino Soul

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Coffee, Tea, and Helping Humanity

I gave up coffee back in May, but occasionally I make a visit to a coffee house to buy some type of tea drink. Lately, I've gone for the iced chai tea and Julia's Coffee on N. Wendover Road in Charlotte has one of the best chai drinks I’ve ever had. (I've never been to India, but I almost felt like I was there for a second after tasting the iced chai tea at Julia's.)

Julia's is just a couple of miles from where I live, so this could actually be dangerous for my coffee-free lifestyle. The place has provocative artwork on display throughout the shop, used books for sale, comfortable seating where you can sit, drink, read, and/or talk. Also, from what I understand, musicians perform in the place every now and then.

Another intriguing aspect to this coffee house is its connection to Habitat for Humanity. Julia's Coffee is physically attached to a Habitat for Humanity ReStore. All proceeds from Julia's Coffee go toward helping Habitat for Humanity families build their homes. The shop is named after Julia Maulden, the first volunteer executive director for Habitat for Humanity.

One of Julia's well-known comments shows how committed she was to her spiritual beliefs. She said, "You can't just sit around loving your neighbor abstractly; you have to get out and do something for him."

As a member of the Charlotte Mecklenburg school board from 1966-74, Julia was a pioneer in the efforts to desegregate the school system here. When she retired from the school board at the age of 60, she spent the next eighteen months teaching children in Zaire as a Peace Corps worker. She brought some of those students to the U.S. and paid their way through such schools as Columbia University and Davidson College.

In 1991 Julia told The Charlotte Observer that to ask yourself, "Am I better off? is the wrong question. Are we better off? is the question."

Click here to read about the farm in El Salvador where the coffee beans used in Julia's Coffee are grown.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Celebrating Our Loved Ones

If you're planning to be in Washington, D.C. in early October, don't miss the 3rd annual Capital BookFest, an event that celebrates the literary arts while promoting literacy in the D.C. metropolitan area. The event is produced by poet, playwright, and television producer, Kwame Alexander, and features award-winning writers and emerging talent.

Capital BookFest will also feature the unveiling of Family Pictures: Poems and Photographs Celebrating Our Loved Ones, which features poetry from such greats as E. Ethelbert Miller, Lucille Clifton, and Tony Medina. The book also includes poems by writers all over the world, including 11-year-old Washington, D.C. student Kyndall Brown, and me. Several of the poets featured in Family Pictures will read at the event.

I have to thank poet/performer Thandiwe Shiphrah for my poem, "Lost in America," which appears in the book. Thandiwe inspired me to write the piece at one of her motivating Women's Gatherings in Nashville. (God bless you Thandiwe!)

Lost in America
by Alicia Benjamin

I am the Geechee Girl. Lost in the English of America. Mangoes are what I like. Orange, green, and fleshy.

I prefer the heat, but when it's cold my grandfather talks to me from the walls of my house.

He says, "One day oona gwine see me agin. On dat day, we gwine rejoice fa true." Then I'm warm again.

My grandfather also tells me that I am the droplets of the Orishas, spilled into the womb of his wife. I carry the strength of my mamas, who were warriors, from Sierra Leone, Senegal and Angola.

Gather me mother and father. Gather me and give me the power to make my child the warrior she needs to be.

The Capital BookFest will be held on October 6, the Blvd. at the Capital Centre, 931A Capital Centre Blvd., Largo, Maryland from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Sunny Side Up

I’ve decided to take a walk on the sunny side of the street today.
Here are some people that I’m thankful for:

• My daughter, who is healthy (thank God!), beautiful, gifted, and very wise for her age.
• My mom and dad, who are there for me through all kinds of weather.
• My soul sister, Cheryl the Pearl, who has been through all the highways, hills, valleys, and detours with me.
• My aunties and uncles who’ve held me on their knees, dressed me, changed me, laughed with me, and comforted me with their smiles and hugs when things have gone wrong.
• My homegirls from Rosegate who I carry with me in my heart, no matter where I am. I can still see us playing football, dancing, and singing in the streets. (We are family …)
• Madear in Nashville who has supported me through the really tough times this year. (I know you’ll always be there!)
• My family in Nashville and Atlanta just for being there and loving me through it all.
• Pastors Keith and Contessa McNeal, who saved me months, maybe even years of uncertainty with my first meeting with them and the powerful lessons they taught at the True Worship Restoration Center in Madison, Tenn. (I’m still searching Charlotte for something that comes close to that kind of spirituality. I hope I find it soon!)
• My friends in Nashville who listened while I cried and sobbed my way back to sanity.
• My friend O., who reminded me how beautiful and special I am. I truly had forgotten. Thanks man.
• My dear friend Annette, who called just at the right time to reconnect our friendship and feed me with her strong sense of the Word and God.
• My ancestors and friends who have passed away but have taught me things from the other side.
• And God, for keeping me healthy, loving me, and giving me the strength, wisdom, and understanding to make the tough decisions, and to do the hard things. Praise God.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Lifting Me Up

I'm praying that the defilement, humiliation, anger brought on by insensitive comments made by people who don't seem to know better, anxiety brought on by abandonment, betrayal and neglect; low self-esteem, loss of family, and callousness, will all continue to be washed away. God, I know you didn't bring me this far to leave me. I can feel you lifting me up out of the fire when I ask you to. Thank you.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Seeing Red: Rebirth and Dirt in North Carolina

I've been living in Charlotte, North Carolina for almost two weeks now and something about the place that fascinates me and brings back memories is the red dirt that's all around here. During my childhood visits to Norwood, a small town about 50 minutes from Charlotte, I remember seeing the red dirt and noticed how it seemed to cling to people's shoes and clothes more stubbornly than the brown dirt found in other places.

Since I've been here, I've wondered what makes the dirt red, but can’t seem to find a really good, thorough explanation. I've asked relatives who grew up in North Carolina why the dirt here is so vibrant and lifelike, but they don’t seem to know. From the bit of research that I've done, I've found that North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, and a few other places in the United States, including parts of Texas, have red dirt.

A 1986 article in the The Piedmont Naturalist talks a bit about red dirt or clay and farming practices, but it still doesn't really explain why the dirt is red.

Also, a documentary about African-American farmers and land loss called Homecoming: Sometimes I am Haunted by Red Dirt and Clay, pays homage to the vibrant red earth.

The film's creator, Charlene Gilbert, paints a poignant picture of how the red dirt affected her:

When I was five my family left the South. My mother went home to Montezuma to say goodbye. I don't remember anyone telling me we were going or how long we would be, but I do remember playing in the dirt out by the barn. I remember making mud pies with the red dirt and begging my grandmother for a fresh egg, a key ingredient to any good mud pie. When they called me to leave I scooped up all the dirt I could pack and took it with me to the car. I don't think my mother found the dirt until long after we had left. I'm sure she threw it out and never thought twice about it. I, on the other hand, think about that red dirt every time I look down at my feet. –- Charlene Gilbert

I’ve also heard and read about the pottery and face paintings that Native Americans created with red clay. And there are the stories of women who ate (some who still eat) red dirt or clay. Evidently, some mothers have passed down the practice to their daughters. My daughter has come home several days now with the red dirt on her legs, face, and clothes. The remnants of it can be found on her washcloths and in her bathwater.

When I saw the red dirt again after moving to Charlotte and traveling from our apartment to my parents' small rural hometown about 50 minutes away, I've fantasized about why the dirt is red. Could it be the blood of the overworked and abused African-Americans, or the slaughtered Native Americans, whose bodies are buried in the dirt? Could the red dirt be God’s way of telling us that this part of the country is fertile for new growth and magical happenings? Yeah, I think this is so.

If you have any information about why red dirt is so prevalent in the Carolinas, please post a message here and let me know. I would really appreciate the information.