Sunday, April 8, 2018

EndoArMo Took Root

[CW/TW: Depictions of self-harm, pain, reproductive organs, depression, & suicide]

There are all kinds of challenges/collective boot camps out there for writers and artists. NaNoWriMo gets you to produce a novel in a month. AcWriMo does the same thing for academic writing rather than fiction. An ArMo is for visual art. In the past I've done all three.

This March I did what I will always refer to as an EndoArMo. March being Endometriosis awareness month, someone had posted a month's worth of photo challenges. I think you were supposed to participate on Instagram, but I'm old and don't understand Instagram. So I did it on twitter and Facebook.

For mid-month, I already had surgery on the books for endometriosis, removal of a huge fibroid tumor (and some starts of tumors), and appendix (and other stuff). A coincidence I revised. EndoArMo.

People, friends and total strangers, started reaching out to me on social media and twitter. Some sent love, some had questions about the disease (IT IS A WEIRD DISEASE AND LARGELY CONFUSING TO ALL HUMANS!). Some expressed deep concern for me.

Basically: your art is making me worry about you and you don't seem okay. Well, good. I was communicating effectively. I wasn't okay. I was sitting on a painful (noncancerous) tumor, and my insides were all glued together. Of course I was NOT okay. I just hadn't said so.

I didn't want strangers, or friends, worrying about me. But I needed to be honest about endo.

Each day has "topics." Go search #theendophotochallenge. What you need to know: endometriosis is a disease that I have in/on/near my uterus. Anyone can get it, not just cis-women. It's complicated.

Positive reinforcement is not the norm for talking about one's uterus. Hell, having a uterus, or identifying as uterus-ish is a great way to catch hell on the internet. And IRL. I was taking a calculated risk in doing this, and I'm not good at math, so there we have it.

I started drawing as a way to keep busy when I was scared. As the countdown to surgery day started, I would wake up in the middle of the night thinking I was waking up, IRL, from anesthesia, thinking I had lost my uterus in surgery.

Panic and wailing in mourning until I realize it was only a nightmare. 3 to 6 times a night, everynight. Only a Nightmare.

My surgery was on the 14th, which was the cruelest of topics: "#14 a positive side to endo!" Well. That's both the mother of all coincidences, and the worst possible paradox to think on.

I had done some drawings presurgery. I knew I wouldn't be up for much. I skipped some days.

Once I could wield a phone, I made myself log in to social media, post, then slide into a nap.

The interactions that followed were a vital therapeutic lifeline in giving me a reason to get lucid. They were vital in giving me connections. If I try to explain the value of that I will sob and it still hurts too much to cry hard, so I can't try to explain it. Just thank you.

Early in my EndoArMo I joked with my doctors about how in anesthesia fog I might demand a letter of rec for med school to be a different kind of doctor, and work on endo. Ha ha. Medical school? No.

After that exchange I considered the tools I have, and how to use them on this disease.

Time moves, drawing/coloring/collage-ing starts helping me get my brain back. I learned about the graphic medicine community, its goals, and genres.

I need to get my hands on a copy of The Graphic Medicine Manifesto. (Not gonna be mad if a stranger mails me one to my office at Georgia Tech. Also, not gonna be mad if no one does. I'm still healing and way too tired to get idiomatically mad at much.)

I haven't really explained endo in this post, I know. I can't yet. Existing definitions are inadequate. I'm still healing and quite frankly I'm just thankful to be typing.

I started my EndoArMo without goals. I learned that I have a story I need to tell. A visual one.

This post is to show you some pictures, sentences frame them. I haven't hyperlinked where I should. This is the genre of oogy post-surgical writing. Forgive those conventions, and thank you for reading.

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Not Teaching Dirt: #ATLFoodLit

          Okay, the next things to explain about not teaching dirt.

Early in the semester, we had a visitor from the Mayor’s office of resiliency. He talked to my students about some of the food-goals, initiatives and related groups in Atlanta. (Resource list to follow)

We came in that day having read Wendell Berry’s “The Pleasures of Eating,” where we find the (now proverbial) phrase “eating is an agricultural act.” We also read a chapter of Eileen Schell’s in Rural Literacy, where we started to build our rhetorical toolkit for rhetorics of agriliteracy. We started there.

Our visitor explained what he sometimes describes as “the spiral,” It’s for understanding the moving parts in food sheds (urban or otherwise): Consumption, Reclamation, Manufacturing/ Distribution/ Aggregation, and Production.

These things are more complex than a circular flow chart. They must be thought of as a spiral. This is his metric, reach out to know more.

He talked through the stats on food deserts in Atlanta. It’s defined by a USDA metric that doesn’t include food sources/markets that are often strongly related to a community’s ethnic identity.

My critique is from a place of rhetoric and frustration. It is with the “rhetoric of lack[1].” The rhetoric of lack is a rhetoric applied to a rural area where things are thought to be lacking—education, sophistication, safety, money. Think Deliverance. That’s the stereotype fostered by a rhetoric of lack.

The phrase “food deserts” does the same thing. Implies a lack. Lack of water becomes lack of food. Lack of lush vegetation becomes lack of informed/monied, consumers. It’s not empowering to be told you live in a “food desert.” It’s not a new idea, it just isn’t very loud yet.

In my opinion, the words don’t fit the situations, and the politics of place. That’s my argument to have with the USDA (not our visitor, or the Mayor’s office). I think it’s wrong to be using metaphors that evoke naturalization in communities that don’t have high levels of food access. There’s nothing natural about not having access to food.

Moreover, desert, swamp or oasis all imply natural biosystems. And honey, there is nothing natural about a food desert/swamp/oasis. These are all the result of urban planning (or lack thereof), and capitalism. Period. We cannot naturalize poverty the way that was en vogue in the 1980’s. We know better. We need policy language that does better.

Same thing goes for “food swamp,” an area simply swamped with unhealthy choices. All the fast food you can dream of! Also not very empowering to be told you live in a “food swamp.” But “food oasis”? With a sparkly whole foods on every corner? That sounds very nice.

The focus of the visit wasn’t about “food desert literacy,” that’s just a tiny part of food literacy that matters to me. Our visitor’s mission isn’t to change the language, it’s to change the physical distance between consumers and food access—to make that space smaller. ]

Our visitor is coming back again this week to see some ideas we have for strengthening food access in Atlanta. More to come on that!

(if you are following along, or has something to add to our conversation jump in on twitter with #ATLFoodLit. Random tidbits, things that remind you of Atlanta food, food literacy, poetics of food, or any combination of things or questions)

So for a basic primer on what’s going on with food ideas, within the Atlanta system, I invite exploration of the following links!

“Welcome to AgLanta, your digital food hub for all things urban agriculture from the Mayor's Office of Resilience in the City of Atlanta. A city with a strong local food economy is a resilient city”

“The Common Market is a nonprofit regional food distributor with a mission to connect communities with good food from sustainable family farms. We strive to improve food security, farm viability, and community and ecological health. Currently operating in the Mid-Atlantic and Georgia, The Common Market is expanding to other U.S. regions to build a nation of vibrant regional food systems. Choose a location to become a customer, producer or to learn more about our local initiatives.”

USDA Map for Low Income and Low Access (national). NOTE: “This USDA website will not be updated during a lapse in federal funding. Content on this website will not be current or maintained until funding issues have been resolved.” Great.

“What if Georgians Ate Georgia Produce: $10 a week per household = $1.9 billion for state” 

“Wholesome Wave Georgia believes that all Georgians should have access to fresh, wholesome and locally-grown food. By increasing the affordability of healthy, locally-grown foods, WWG makes healthy, nourishing choices accessible for Georgia’s food insecure families.”

“Global Growers is the only organization in Georgia that connects the agricultural talent of the local refugee community to opportunities in sustainable agriculture. Global Growers specializes in providing comprehensive agricultural support including: farmland acquisition and management, aggregation and distribution services which facilitates market access and sales for partner farmers, as well as education and technical assistance in organic fruit and vegetable production. Global Growers is an independent 501c3 nonprofit organization based in Atlanta, GA.”

“Home for Dinner: Abiodun Henderson, founder of Gangstas to Growers”

Last but not least, THIS IS MY FAVORITE!, It’s like blueapron but Local GA food! I’m probably going to look much further into this…

[1] This phrase comes from Rural Literacies.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Not Teaching Dirt.

The time has come when the soil blog necessarily becomes a place to do some sharing of classroom work.

So let me tell you a story.

Last semester I was planning my spring course. I wanted it to be about Dirt. (You only get three guesses as to why.)

At the same time I was having conversations with people here at Georgia Tech about how I was dreaming of a pie in the sky, food studies program, here. In a meeting where I shared such wishes, the topic of my spring course came up. To the point of, ‘if food studies and rhetoric is what you want to ultimately teach, why aren't you really doing it now?’

I didn’t have a good answer, so I switched topics (sorry students). I went from “The Rhetoric and Poetics of Dirt,” to “Food Literacy in Atlanta.”

As I was designing the course, a sound byte from teaching orientation stuck with me. Something like, “We want our teachers making brave choices in the classroom. Be brave. Be Bold. And then ask yourself if that is as brave as you can be.”

So I went to Kroger and bought a big box of bravery, and the spread above is the result. And then.

I tweeted this picture, with the course topic. I’m not going to say it went viral, but 99 likes is a big deal for me.

More importantly, some pretty rockstar scholars reached out to me, and offered many forms of academic kindness. #souphound doesn't name drop, but you can get the idea.

Other people asked for the reading list. I’ve been slow, but here we go! Here is the shell, basics, and reading list (kinda) of my class ENG 1102, “Food Literacy in Atlanta!” (Syllabus in full is still looking for a home).

Find me via email, here, or twitter if I can answer any questions!
(and my pup is found under #bookselfies with #souphound)

In the past decade Atlanta has undergone phenomenal changes in infrastructure, and food culture because of two things: being a beta-hub in the tech industry, and tax credits that have cultivated a thriving film industry. This influx of people, money, and innovation, restaurant culture has seen tremendous growth. This Serve Learn Sustain (SLS) course encourages students to learn the story of Atlanta through its food history. We move through four units: “Resources,” “Mapping Recipes,” “Food Deserts/Swamps,” and “Food Taxonomy and Lexicons.”
This course pairs with community engaged partners to pursue SLS Big Ideas. Through an organizational logic of sustainability, and community, we focus on the role of food systems thinking, and food justice, in food literacy. This course hopes to draw together guest speakers from SLS partners (such as Mario Cambardella, the Urban Agriculture Director for the Office of Resilience in the City of Atlanta). Moreover, this course is affiliated with the Poetry@Tech events, and those poets’ works (Aimee Nezhukumatathil, Christopher Collins, Bruce McEverStuart, Dischell, David Bottoms, and Tarfia Faizullah).
For these units, students will use a shared vocabulary for discussing the written, oral, visual, electronic and nonverbal modes of communication, by using a wide selection of sources, and community engaged projects. This approach (as emphasized in WOVENtext) gives us a framework for identifying and practicing these skills as we interact with the course readings, and on campus events. WOVENtext provides methods for analyzing our readings and course materials. There will also be exploratory and multimodal work for each unit in the course—inspired by the many different modalities reflected in the primary and secondary readings. Last, but not least, students are encouraged to attend Poetry@Tech readings, and community events.

                                                          Reading & Work Schedule                                                           

Week 1               Introductions; Common Video                                                  
                             -Review syllabus on Canvas, Doodle Poll for office hours
(GaTech specific)
Create an individual video (60-90 seconds) in which you articulate a challenge relating to one of the WOVEN modes (written, oral, visual, electronic, or nonverbal communication) specific to this semester’s class projects. Assignment due as a youtube link uploaded to canvas.
Students are strongly advised to make use of library resources (like the gadget library) and/or the four studios in the communications building.
                                                                        -Readings from our composition text
-Read this (short) essay, “Food Swamps Are the New Food Deserts”:

Week 2                                                                                                                                                                             
                                                                        -First Week Videos Due
                                                                        -Essays from Wendell Berry* (* means “on course management system”)
                                                                       -Selection from Rural Literacies*
-Familiarize yourself with the following website:
-Presentation and Tasking: Guest Speaker Mario Cambardella (Urban Ag / Mayoral office)

Week 3               Resource Infographic                                                                                                                       
                                                                        -Visit From Resource Librarian  
-Selection from The Archaeology and History of the Native
Georgia Tribes*
-Infographic assigned
                                                                        - Readings from our composition text
                                                                       -Selection From The Cooking Gene*
Week 4                                                                                                                                                                             
                                                                       -Selection from On The Rim of The Caribbean*
                                                                        -In Class Workshop
-Readings from our composition text
                                                                        -Infographic Due  
-Project 1 Assigned

Week 5                             Project 1: Recipe Map                                                                                                    
                                                                        -Selections from Aimee Nezhukumatathil*
                                                                        -Readings from our composition text
                                                                        -Selections from The Potlikker Papers*

Week 6               (Skype with Julia Turshen)                                                    
                                                                        -Selections from Bruce McEver*
                                                                        -Q & A lesson/prep for talk with Julia Turshen

                                                                        -Feed The Resistance (p 1-51)
-In Class Workshop
-Skype Q & A with Julia Turshen!
-Feed The Resistance (p 52-105)
-In Class Workshop
-Readings from our composition text

Week 7                             Project 2: Food Deserts                                                                                                  
-Project 1 Due
-Selections from Christopher Collins*  
-Project 2 Assigned
-Readings from our composition text
-Selection from Spaces of Global Capitalism*
-Workshop in Class
Th 2/22 Poetry@tech event 7:30 PM Kress Auditorium

                                                                        -“Pedagogy of The Oppressed”*
-Feed The Resistance (p 108-143)

Week 8                                                                                                                                                                             
                                                                        -Selections from Atlanta Rising*
                                                                        -Selection from White Flight*
                                                                        -Workshop in Class
Week 9                                                                                                                                                                             
                                                                        -Workshop in Class
                                                                        -Presentations to, and Assessment by Mario Cambardella
                                                                        -Proposal/action plan for this week’s revisions  (based on
              feedback from 3/7)
Week 10                           Revisions    /   Project 3: Food Lexicon Podcast                                                           
                                                                        -Visit from Charlie Bennet (date subject to change)
                                                                        -Selections from The Age of Wire and String (“Food”)*
                                                                        -Project 3 Assigned
Week 11             No Classes (spring break)                                                                                                                

Week 12             Project 3: Food Lexicon Podcast                                                                                                   
                                                                       -Introduce “Gravy” (From the Southern Foodways Alliance)
- In class workshop
                                                                        -Readings from our composition text
                                                                        -White Papers/Food Alliance documents*                                                                                                 -Readings from our composition text
Week 13                                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                        -Selections from Tarfia Faizullah*
                                                                        -In Class Workshop
                                           -Revisions of Project 2 Due: Presentations in Class
Week 14                                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                        -Selections from David Bottoms*
-In Class Workshop
                                                                        -Selections from Stuart Dischell*              
-In Class Workshop

              Th 4/12 Poetry@tech event 7:30 Kress Auditorium

                                                                        -Project 3: Lexicon Due
Week 15             Portfolio/Revisions                                                                                                                           
              -in class work on portfolios
Week 16                                                                                                                                                                           
                                                                        -play apples to apples (I have a method)

Description of Projects
Common First Week Assignment                                                                
Create an individual video (60-90 seconds) in which you articulate a challenge relating to one of the WOVEN modes (written, oral, visual, electronic, or nonverbal communication) specific to this semester’s class projects.
Resource Infographic                                                                                       
1: Recipe Map                                                                        
Students will work in small groups (determined by instructor) to create a map of an Atlanta-specific food or drink. Groups will submit a proposal for approval, create the multimodal artifact, write a statement of contribution, and present the artifact to the class.
2: Food Deserts in Atlanta                                                               
Students will work in groups to create a multimodal solution to either food deserts or food swaps in Atlanta. Groups will submit a proposal for approval, create the multimodal artifact, and write individual reflections. Ultimately, these projects will be presented to the class and Mario Cambardella (the Urban Ag Director of the Mayoral office). Mr. Cambardella will be present to provide feedback on presentations, with which students can use for the final draft of their artifacts.

3: Lexicon         (Podcast)                                                                  

Students will work in small groups (determined by instructor) to create podcasts in response to currently existing food lexicons in Atlanta. Groups will submit a proposal for approval, create the multimodal artifact, write both a statement of contribution and an artist’s statement. The combined lexicons will come together as whole class project.  

That's all, folks! #souphound says to go wiggle, because it's Friday and we should always wiggle.