I recently visited drought affected rural California and met some social change agents who have not given up trying to instill hope among young black kids who have been abandoned by USA government for all practical purpose despite a Black president. Prof Jef Romm, UCB, and a friend of over 35 years, took me around these places. I met 30-35 years old grandmothers who took pride in that fact. Why should a developed country, (whether it is really developed is an issue we should ask) be so callous about the destiny of its forgotten generation?
I am amazed at the level of indifference that a material resource rich country can show towards it natural as well as human resources. one can find unlined irrigation channels when large number of farmers are suffering drought and workers have written in bold letters, ” no job, no work, no food “. But then if water is wasted, then it is not some thing that US water management leaders bother at all. Many Indian irrigation channels are undoubtedly better managed than that. Though no doubt a great deal remains to be done in water managment in india.
Coming to the main story that i wanted to share. I want to talk about shyaam , indian sounding name of a black maverick, At 70 years of age, he is as hopeful of revival of his community as some one would be one third of his age. he has set up an organization called eco village which is trying to restore the spirit of children who may otherwise be lost to the world of crime and insanity!. Eco Village Farm Center is open to the public. for those who need to know more about his efforts, visit:
Shyaam M. Shabaka, M.P.H.
Director and Founder, http://www.ecovillagefarm.org , 21 Laurel Lane
Richmond, California 94803, firstname.lastname@example.org
i talked to some of the children working there in gardening , as a therapy , as a training to nurture and be nurtured. One of them asked, do children in India also grow with gang wars. What else will he ask, when people can be killed just because they happen to be on the wrong side of a street at wrong time. Half a dozen people had lost lives a few weeks ago in a nearby place in iron triangle area. No ethnic or class war, just territorial expression of one gang\\\\\\\’s strength over another. I told that India has more than 500 million people who get less than pone dollar a day per capita and he could not believe it. He asked, whether 700 usd will be a good sum. and i said, yes, it will have one survival rather alright, if not too well. He started dreaming of coming to india one day with that money. Will India become a place of destination, as Dr. Kalam asks often, for such people who might find respite in our motherland from severe exploitation and disorder they face at home.
Shyaam gave me a a booklet,” Tuskegee Movable School” by B D Mayberry ( ahri history 65(2) 1991 about a “movable school, as a means of reaching “th ehard to reach” and serving the needs of the people left behind”. This was a system started in 1890 to provide education to Negro children. In 1896 dr George Washington Carver , a great scientist ( whose work on groundnut deserves separate column) became head of Dept of Agri at Tuskegee univ. he designed a coach, a caryy all horse carriage which had all the demonstration material and lecturers for rural farm folks.
Dr Shyaam M. Shabaka is building a replica of the same carriage in 2009 with teh help of a kind white neighbor. We visited his workshop and saw the extraordinary workmanship of this kind neghbour.
Dr Shyaam wants to rekindle the spirit of “can do” and is engaged with this and many other missions unaffected by the news of murders and gang wars. He brings children having difficulty in schools and then tries to mentor them. One of these students had been taught by Jeff Romm;s son who is a teacher in a nearby school.
May his tribe also increase and may the compassion shown by his neighbor also increase. if there is a hope for humanity, then it is in such neighborhood.
In next column about i will write about a Black anthropologist who is encouraging black children and adults to grow vegetables and flowers on the side of old rail roads. Any one can pick up the vegetables, and consume these. Sounds utopian, pl visit Richmond next time you go to California and see for yourself these gardens. But no official guide and conference organizer will take you there. You need kind and empathetic professors like Jef Romm to take you there. May the tribe of such professors also increase, Amen!!
Anil K Gupta