Greetings, My Sista Queens!

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by Chris Omni

Greetings, My Sista Queens!

Greetings, My Bruthas!

Greetings to everyone here to bear witness to the power of voice and agency of a Black woman.

In this moment, I breathe for the vessels of vessels and by this I mean that I breathe for the Big Mommas, the Mamas, the MeMas. I breathe for the GiGis, the Glammies, and the Glam Glams. I breathe for the Abuelas, the Nanas, and the Omas. In particular, I breathe for my Grandma, Frances Johnson, who is no longer on this Earthly plane and for my Granny, Alma Allen, who just celebrated 96 trips around the sun on March 21, 2022. If you have a memory of your grandma, collectively, let’s breathe.

One of the beautiful things about grandmas is that the older they are, the more wisdom they tend to possess

No matter what you call your “vessels of vessels,” grandmas tend to have a special place in our hearts. Ordinarily they are loving, supportive, nurturing and, if you ask them, a tad bit spoiling. One of the beautiful things about grandmas is that the older they are, the more wisdom they tend to possess. My Granny is no exception to this rule. After being on this Earth for 96 years, she’s definitely seen more than a few things and more than a few things have definitely brought her joy. But, if you were to ask anyone in her circle, what brings her TRUE JOY, outside of family, of course, they would all respond “gardening”. So, Granny, if you are watching, listening or reading, from right there in Pensacola, Florida, this moment is for you. With all pun intended, I want to give you your flowers NOW while you can enjoy them. Welcome to Granny’s Garden.

At Granny’s Garden you don’t need a green thumb. As a matter of fact, we strongly encourage you to remove that word from your vocabulary and replace it with ‘green heart’ because a green heart is a lot more spiritual. According to the heart chakra mantra, “my heart is open to receive the energy of love, I radiate this essence, I walk my path with ease and grace.” Growing with love makes all the difference at Granny’s Garden and we certainly love what we grow.

In our garden, you see the regulars – fruits, vegetables, succulents, and for Granny, of course flowers. But, at Granny’s Garden we grow something extra special. We grow Black Joy. Now, I know everyone is familiar with the regulars but you may be less familiar with growing Black Joy. If that is the case, let me explain it to you poetically.

What is Black Joy?

Black Joy is a Statement
Black Joy is a Stride
Black Joy is Permission
Black Joy is Pride
Black Joy is a form of Resistance
Black Joy is a form of Rest
Black Joy is anything you need it to be
Because Black Joy is the truly best!

And, the unique feature of growing Black Joy is that you don’t even need to be Black to appreciate it. Sounds confusing? Well, think about it: you don’t need to be a vegetarian to grow or appreciate vegetables, now do you? Not at all.

Now that you have a better understanding of what Black Joy is, it is equally imperative for you to understand WHY we grow Black Joy. That answer is simple – to provide a counter narrative.

We are Queens and Kings with royal stories of True Joy!!


At Granny’s Garden, we are tired of the typical deficit narrative that tends to surround Black people. We are so much more than your nightly news headlines. We are so much more than the sadness portrayed on social media. And, we are certainly much more than the trauma that is always featured in textbooks. For we are Queens and Kings with royal stories of True Joy!! If the world isn’t going to tell the story, at Granny’s Garden, we sure will.

Sadly, just like when growing regulars, weeds pop up. Weeds are invasive and strangle, killing the beauty of the landscape. And, when it comes to growing Black Joy, weeds pop up too. Those weeds take the form of police brutality, mass incarceration, health disparities, and other forms of systemic racism. Unfortunately, we can’t prevent weeds from popping up, but we do have the power to expand our community of Black Joy farmers by creating a Granny’s Garden in every city in the United States. It is through our individual efforts that we add to the collective narrative of focusing on what’s right with Black people. And that’s why we grow Black Joy.

The idea of having a collective counter narrative about Black Joy. YES!

I don’t know about ya, but that part right there excites me. The idea of having a collective counter narrative about Black Joy. YES! So, now that you know what it is and you know why we grow it, it is time to get to the garden and learn how to grow Black Joy. But, before we enter the garden, I must share some Granny wisdom that will lay the foundation of the four basic steps of growing Black Joy:

This wisdom occurred on November 25, 2021, Thanksgiving Day. I was sitting next to Granny as we were waiting to hear the call, “time to eat!” At that moment, I decided to do a little investigation. Now, I knew that I got my love of gardening from my Dad. But, Dad got it from somewhere, right? That “somewhere” was sitting right next to me. So, I turned to Granny and asked, “Granny, what is it about gardening that you love so much?” Ya know that Granny is 96, but what you don’t know is that she also has dementia. But in that moment, with all clarity and sincerity, she looked at me and said, “There is something about growing something that makes you feel alive.”

“There is something about growing something that makes you feel alive.”


Those words were vibrational then and equally powerful now as I share them with you, our expanded community of Black Joy farmers. And as you prepare to enter the garden and learn the four steps, never forget Granny’s wisdom because there is truly something about growing Black Joy that makes you feel alive. Let’s Get Growing!.

There are four basic steps to grow Black Joy and they all start with the letter “s.” We like to keep it simple here.

Step #1: Soil

For that beauty that resides above would not be possible without the beauty that resides below.

The next time you go outside, I invite you to look at the trees (I admit, I’m biased – I love trees). Look at their height, their branches, their bark; look at how they dance in the wind. Notice the various shades of green; take your eyes all the way to the top and see their crowns. Then, draw your attention all the way down and see what the rest of the world is not paying attention to. For that beauty that resides above would not be possible without the beauty that resides below. That tree is rooted in a nutrient rich, dark brown or black soil. The soil makes it possible. As Black Joy farmers we give thanks to the soil for we see what the rest of the world overlooks.

Step #2: Seed

We have a potential that rests deep within each and everyone of us.

Since you know I have a thing for trees, this should come as no surprise. I also like their seeds. Think about an acorn. An acorn is all of 2” long but with the proper growing conditions and time, that 2” seed grows to be an oak tree that is up to 80’ tall and between 80’ and 100’ wide. Seeds are magical. Well, only to the outside world because that tiny seed knew its true potential even when the rest of the world didn’t see it. It was deep within the whole time. Black Joy farmers, we are that seed. We have a potential that rests deep within each and everyone of us. And with the proper growing conditions and time, we too will rise above and expand wide where the world will have to stop and take notice. Plus, we know that the growth of the tree wouldn’t be possible without the soil.

Step #3: Self-Expression 

I am a third generation Black Joy Farmer. My Granny, generation 1, grew flowers. She loved the aroma, the colors, and the ease of propagation. My Dad, generation 2, he doesn’t grow flowers, he grows vegetables. I think it is beautifully poetic because at his core, Dad is a giver and literally he grows to give. I asked him about his growing practice and he said he loves to share his crop with his neighbors and church family. Enter me, third generation, I don’t grow flowers and I don’t grow vegetables; I grow rescues. I can’t walk by a trash pile and ignore a discarded plant that someone no longer saw value in. When they see dead branches and leaves, I look for the slightest sign of life and bring it home. Now, we are working on a fourth generation. My baby girl is 26-years old. She doesn’t grow flowers, vegetables, or rescues. She likes succulents. She likes their low maintenance and high beauty. We haven’t advanced to the “love” stage but she’ll get there. 

As a Black Joy Farmer, just like our four generations, you will find a form of self-expression that works best for you. And don’t worry if it doesn’t work for anyone else. Remember, your individual efforts add to the collective narrative of growing Black Joy.

Step #4: Slow Down and Be Present 

Black Joy Farmers, all of the steps are important, but this one, I need you to truly listen to with your ears and that open heart we talked about earlier because I’m about to pour love into your spirit. You must slow down. I promise you, the rest of the world will keep spinning. I promise you, the demands of the day will keep piling up, but you must take the time to check in with yourself and see what YOU need. To couple Step #4 with Granny’s wisdom, I share my last story:

We, too, must listen to the nonverbal communication of our bodies.

Granny told me that she would visit her garden multiple times a day and spend hours. She would notice that if a plant was leaning too much to one side that it might need more water. That if it was turning brown and the leaves were wrinkled, it was getting too much sun. She would also notice the slightest change of green and know that THAT was the right growing spot for that plant. Understanding the nonverbal communication of her plants was only possible because she made it a point to slow down and be present. This step is ESSENTIAL when it comes to growing Black Joy. We, too, must listen to the nonverbal communication of our bodies.

So, there you have it. Now you know “what” Black Joy is. You know “why” we grow Black Joy. And, you just learned “how” to grow it. That leaves me with one thing. WHEN!

NOW is the time to Blacktivate Joy.

NOW is the time to Blacktivate Joy. To activate a new conversation about what’s right with Black people rather than perpetuating the typical deficit narrative. So, if you are ready to start a Granny’s Garden in your community, I extend my hand to you, I wrap you in a warm embrace of love and welcome you to the family. More specifically, I welcome you to Granny’s Garden where we know that “there is something about growing something that makes you feel alive.”

Thank you. Happy Growing. 


 

Chris Omni values the unapologetic use of her voice and agency to speak life, love, and Light to all people with a particular emphasis on Black people. As others have stated, “Chris is a whole vibe!”

In addition to being a “whole vibe,” Chris is an eco-spiritualist, two-timeTEDx speaker, Black women’s health researcher, and internationally recognized nature writer. Chris holds two master’s degrees – Public Health and Liberal Arts, and is currently a doctoral candidate at Florida State University where she is researching Black Joy in Green Spaces through the methodologies of auto-ethnography and visual narrative inquiry.

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