Growing A Global Heart
Belivie Rooks: educator, writer, producer, and veteran of the multiple civil rights and environmental justice movements around the world. You would think that speaking with her could be a rather intimidating for a 25 year old activist but talking with her was like talking with my mom. Her voice was surprisingly gentle and forceful at the same time. Her words rang with wisdom and experience. She spoke from a place love and responsibility. With decades of experience under her belt, this humble activist is taking a up a new charge: To help plant a million trees along the Trans-Atlantic slave route to Honor and remember the millions of unnamed , unheralded, and unremembered souls who were lost.
AH: What's your background in social justice?
BR: I have been active for decades. My partner and I were so active in both the social justice and environmentalist movement we were dubbed "black green". Some of my most memorable work stemmed from my heavy involvement in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. I was even invited by the Mandela government to be an election observer in south Africa when they were creating the new government.
BELVIE AND DEDAN AT THE DOOR OF NO RETURN
AH: What is the background behind this project?
BR: In September of 2007 my husband and I were in Ghana during the 50th anniversary of Ghana Independence. We stood in El Mina slave dungeon, on the Cape Coast of Ghana in West Africa, overwhelmed by despair, grief and rage. Without needing to verbalize it, we were both imagining what reaching this spot must have felt like for some long-ago. We thought of the un-remembered African ancestor as she stood trembling on the precipice of an unknown and terrifyingly uncertain future. Later, when we went to Goree Island we stood at the door of no return, where for over 300 years men and women and children were bought and sold on the soil we were standing on and I sat quietly in the women's dungeon in the midst of that profound despair which can only be compared to what my Jewish sisters and brothers describe their experience visiting Aushwitz. From there in the midst of the despair, I was asked "what would healing look like?" I was being challenged and I immediately was struck by the lack of identification of the unnamed, unsung, and unidentified Africans on the slave trade. I thought that honoring them with trees planted would symbolically be honorable and appropriate.
AH: But why tree's?
BR: The trees help give meaning to lives lost. trees are in many ways the love of the earth. It's indiscriminate in what it shares. A tree is life and provides treasure to all without awareness of color, sex, or religion. The wound of slavery is deep and the healing must be the healing of the whole. So when we think of solutions we must consider the solutions that unites not divides. For me there is no separation between people and the planet, the one planet should always be acknowledged. With these trees we acknowledge the wound but at the same time celebrate the solutions.
Our tree planting friends in the village of Popenguine Senegal
AH: You mention the education that is taking place around the connection between the African-Americans and Africans in Africa?
BR: This was our calling right now in life and what we see as paramount in all this is the educations and the building of connection between people. Beginning with initial planning meetings, speaking to African women we found that many of them considered themselves "victims of colonial education" and were yearning to learn what happened to their African sisters and bothers in America. So I found it important for them to learn about the stories of our remarkable teachers and educate them about the special women of the Diaspora such as Ella Jo. Baker
AH: What is special about today in our history as a people as it relates to such a dark period in our long ago?
BR: Everything now is extremely important because we are fighting to heal the planet. We are the planet and we need healing now. I am challenging myself to be more effective cutting through the viscous divides that separate us. Only then can we heal and save everything that we hold so near and dear. Healing of our planet has been interpreted as out there like the ozone layer, and the polar caps. WHAT I am called to heal is at the interpersonal level , between people between planet and people. There are no others. Politically it's hard but we have to begin by healing the conversation. Dr King and Mandela are beacons because they were able to see that. As an elder I have to share what it is I have learned. We must work to be as undiscriminating as the trees. The trees breathe for everyone, independent of party, race, religion. Trees are the lungs of the earth and at the end of the day change must always be about healing.
If you feel called to, please contact Growing A Global Heart so that together we can help bring this much needed healing vision into reality. BECOME A FRIEND! JOIN the extended community of support and receive regular updates, announcements and progress reports.
Abel is the Media Relations Manager at the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights. He is a big brother, traveler, and loyal Golden State Warrior Fan.
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