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March 11: Flash Fiction Challenge

March 11An old brick house sits on Amador Hill among twisting branches of old apple trees, overlooking preserved prairie of Minnesota’s St. Croix River valley. Inside that house is a large circle of mismatched rocking chairs in a large room by a fireplace — the remnants of hearth and home. Women typically were the keepers of hearth cooking and rocking chair councils. Even in modern cultures, women remain vulnerable to food inequities as child bearers and parents.

Just what is food inequity? It’s a lack of access to clean, fresh, healthful food. In urban centers, great numbers of people live in food deserts. Concrete covers the ground and corner gas stations sell candy bars, white bread, chips and soda. Food shelves stock what they are given — often discarded canned goods people clean out of their pantries once a year or day-old-donuts from suburban bakeries. Even if people donated garden tomatoes or kale, food shelves typically lack fresh food storage. And marginalized people often lack kitchen stoves, pots and pans.

Conversely, food justice is defined as:

“Food Justice is the right of all communities to produce, process, distribute, access and eat good food, regardless of race, class gender, ethnicity, citizenship, ability, religion or community.” ~F.R.E.E. Milwaukee

Thus the Women’s Environmental Institute (WEI) on Amador Hill focuses its mission of food justice on women, children and marginalized communities. It provides educational outreach to develop urban and rural food growing; environmental justice research when governments fail to do so; and an organic demonstration farm.  Its board gathers in those rocking chairs.

As I excitedly prepare for my own garden, I’ve had food and bullies on my mind. Not the school bully who twists arms to steal lunch money, but the city governments and developers who ignore the plight of those living in a food desert. Everyone should have access to growing food, whether it’s education on container gardening, organizing apartment rooftop gardens, establishing community gardens in vacant lots or helping rural families develop acreage for growing food.

And that connects us to the next upcoming #1000Speak for compassion blog events — “Building from Bullies.” After a successful launch of compassionate blogging on February 20, bloggers are asked to write about the anti-bullying theme on March 20.

As writers, we are vulnerable to cyber bullies. An advocate for food justice, historian and writer Michael W. Twitty, is even more vulnerable because he takes on topics that not everyone is open to discuss, such as the vital contributions of enslaved African Americans to southern cuisine. In a recent interview on MUNCHIES (if you are a foodie, this is a big deal kind of like getting a short story in The New Yorker) he brushed off the cyber bullies with humor and wit.

Micheal’s highroad attitude is at the heart of “Building from Bullies.” He gave me permission to post his Facebook status to show you the appalling bullying directed at him in the comments section of his MUNCHIES video story. Warning, rough language, but applicable to witnessing the power of his defiance by not engaging or succumbing to bullies:

“Never read the comments, but when you do…have a sense of humor and wit about you. The comments on the Munchies video are kinda predictable. One individual said “this guy needs to get his head out of his crack,” another said “this nigga done enslaved his refrigerator,” another, “he wears sunglasses inside?” “Is he blind?” “Yeah, that’s why he’s dressed as a clown.” My personal favorite was “nothing makes white people feel better than a Black person giving the ‘we’re all family speech rather than confronting white supremacy.” Not one novel criticism. Just behind the screen blather. 27,000 views though…..

Do I scare people that much? If so, I’m doing the right thing. One made reference to my cleavage….lol..fat Black gay Jewish guys with a purpose in life sure scare the hell out of people with pre-packaged identities and no ambition. I don’t care, I feel right in myself.”

That last phrase is where the building blocks are made: “I feel right in myself.” To build from bullies is to first accept what they cannot. You do not have to conform to bullies. You do not have to wear their hate, eat their wonderbread or be denied earth to plant seeds. Gather around the hearth in a circle of rocking chair solidarity and be one of those #1000Speak for compassion.

March 11, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that shows the bully mentality countered with a different, unexpected or kind action. Bullies can be known or incognito; Goliaths or small-minded; in-person or online. Think of ways to unplug a bully’s power. Show characters with strength and dignity and even humor.

Respond by March 17, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

As writers, we know the power of words. I was inspired by a high school student who opposed a bully’s action and started a community movement. It reminded me of when my eldest slathered my house with sticky-notes during a low time in my life. Her words built me up. I thought back to high school when my Washo classmate was bullied so pitilessly. Yet she always smiled and shared Farley Mowat books with me.  She showed me what it was to be right with yourself.

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Velma’s Requital by Charli Mills

Students thronged the hallway tight as Kokanee. Velma pressed a path to her locker covered with sticky-notes.

“Velly has a HUGE belly!”

“Go back to the rez!”

She plucked each note, words stinging like bee bites the long bus ride home to her reservation.

Mother was cooking beans. Grandmother hunched on the floor, shelling pine nuts, and Velma snuggled against her. No words were spoken, just the aromas of home and fellowship of family. She decided what to do. She’d show them.

The next day with a hall pass, Velma fastened a sticky-note on every locker.

“You are loved.”

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