It all began in 2008 under a different name: 19more. I'd recently started working in outdoor experiential programming. In 100% Jéhan fashion I was working for a program where I could see how to make things better, but I didn't have the power to do so. I eventually turned what was happening where I was into a thing I believed in. Ever since I heard how Milton Hershey went bankrupt five times while pursuing businesses that worked I knew I was meant to fail. I was working for a program that failed in forseeable ways. It succeeded in ways that are important to me. I formed 19more then. In the moments I watched colonization, anti-Black racism thrive in outdoor programming. Eventually I left the east coast in search of bigger mountains and different rivers.
Named such because Harriet Tubman, who I call the original backpacker, took (at least) 19 trips into the deep south to free the enslaved. Harriet took people from literal enslavement to literal freedom.
decolonizing wild spaces and the bodies that pass through them means slowing down, pulling apart the pieces of yourself that you've constructed with meaning, but in opposition to oppressive constructs rather than simply in accordance with yourself; examining those pieces and winnowing the lot. decolonizing is consenting to those pieces.
When I moved to Seattle in 2010 my visions for decolonizing wild spaces changed and so did my company.
2010- I spent 72/90 days leading young men of color on backpacking trips. I was attending grad school at Prescott College at the time. I remember leaving a 14 day trip early so I could hike out 4 or so miles to the car my eventual boyfriend and also wilderness instructor left for me in the parking lot. I drove the four or so hours back to Seattle. Made my way to the airport. I have never flown as such a stinky human in my life. Apologies to everyone on the plane. I flew to Arizona to attend colloquim for the long weekend. Then I flew to Pennsylvania so I could pick up my beloved dog, Garvey. We drove across the Northen United States in 3.5 days. I returned in time to lead my next course of young men.
2011 - I started working as an outdoor and environmental educator for a rural non profit in Washington State. I was a certified Wilderness First Responder and up-to-date on my certifications. I spent my time leading wilderness trips, teaching environmental science in both the Cascades and Olympics. In the Hoh Rainforest, I paddled a 26 person canoes on Lake Crescent with elementary through adult participants. Then race on the Peninsula got weird. People got bold. My friend Teddy said to me, "You can always come home." I was eventually furloughed due to seasonal weather on the Peninsula. My wilderness educator boyfriend at the time and I moved into his truck with our dogs and we circumnavigated the United States. My same friend Teddy, sent me a link to a job application. I flew across the country to for an eventual interview. They'd already had someone in mind for the job so they created two positions for me. That's when I began working for Seattle Public Schools as a Service Learning and Reporting Coordinator.
2013- my grandfather got sick. I left my job with the district to deal with grief around family and connection. I also spent time in Chicago performing Sala Kakuhle, Mama. It was a solo show about coming of age Blackness as opposed to being West Indian. Even though I'd been leading wilderness trips for years there was apart of me that felt undereducated. I wanted to pursue formal wilderness, outdoor, and adventure education. I was awarded NOLS' Gateway Partnership Fellowship. I eventually completed my Outdoor Educator Course for NOLS in Backpacking and Whitewater canoeing. (P.S. I don't like kayaking. more later but it's about how you have to sit in the boat vs. how I need to sit as a solo canoeist to manuever and read water down river).
2013- 2015 - I spent time working at NOLS Southwest. Eventually I would also work at NOLS in Driggs, ID and NOLS in Conway WA, Most of the year I spent working in Arizona.
earthseed - At some point before here Princess Shareef handed me a copy of Octavia E. Butler's Parable of the Sower.
From 2016, onward things got, interesting. In this body and the stories it tells with and without my consent and the election of the cesspool of bigotry that is the 45th POTUS, my time in the wilderness had to change. It was no longer safe for me to frolick in the Cascades, or drive solo across the country with my dog, a few maps, and a prayer. I made adjustments to earthseed's work and
In 2017, the now defunct Theater Schmeater, produced my autobiographical solo show, yankee pickney. It was about how state sanctioned violence against Black bodies prevented me from leaving the house. It helped me metabolize Blackness as it was evolving within and around me. Later that year, it was nominated for Gregory Award much to my surprise and delight. In that same year I was awarded funding from Artists' Trust to prepare yankee pickney and myself for a regional tour. I purchased supplies and prepared an education guide.
In 2019 earthseed was awarded funding from Seattle's Office of Arts and Culture. I hired two young people to write a theatre piece focused on grief. They, Grace and Jennifer, chose to focus on address gentrification. We spent 5 1/2 weeks writing, filming, interviewing, and rehearsing. Eventually our work turned into Grief: A 2019 Wail.
In September of 2019 I went to AADK Spain to be in residency with artists from around the world. During the residency I completed a brand new theatre piece written in three languages (English, Jamaican Patwa, and Spanish). The piece explored intergenerational trauma. I also completed a 50,000 word memoir that I genuinely haven't looked at since I got back in early 2020. My final month there I worked with two bailarinas from Chile to incorporate movement and dance into a new poem.
Upon my return to the states I was handed the keys to earthseed's new brick and mortar location in Beacon Hill. One month after I got the keys a care home in Kirkland registered the first case of Covid 19 in the United States. Governor Inslee issued the Stay Home and Stay Healthy order. That meant that the tour of Yankee Pickney was canceled and my plan to launch earthseed as both a theatre and a workshop wouldn't work. We stayed in the space for another year and then decided to close our doors. There was no telling when the pandemic was over. Now that I'm writing this from 2022 it's clear that this pandemic(s) may never be over. Read my interview with American Theatre magazine to learn more.
In 2023, earthseed will reopen our online store so we can get back to selling the things we make. With social media shifting and changing as it is, it's important to me to have a consistent platform where I can keep people like you apprised of what's going on in my world. Thanks for being here and thanks for caring.
With So Much Love,
multi-day canoe trip Susquehanna river 2009
Artist-in-Residence: IslandWood 2011
Garvey was the best dog ever, truly.
Facilitating service learning and youth development workshops for the Teen Services Librarians at Seattle Public Libraries.
Solo canoeing on Lake Washington
My friend Jodi-Ann Burey wanted to know how to solo backpack so I showed her.