This blog is a little challenging for me to write…and, if you know me, I always have something to say. I’ll do my best not to polarize with politics or preach a history lesson. My goal is to educate with love and show gratitude. Gratitude to a woman and her beautiful team doing all they can to make a difference locally, here in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania.
--First---allow me to define BIPOC - Black & Indigenous People of Color. It is an inclusive term to describe people who are not White.
--Second---thank you for continuing to read and for your support.
I needed to respond to the Black Lives Matter movement. I deeply felt all of the events that have happened...I am of mixed race (and I use that term loosely since race is a social construct) and have had a pretty privileged life growing up. I have not had the same experience that many of my darker-skinned brothers and sisters have had and I am conscious of this. I mention this to lend some context.
Because I am an artist by nature, I am prone to express how I feel in writing, poetry, design, and sometimes dance. I knew I needed to do SOMETHING for Black Lives Matter, but it had to make a difference, really count, and not get lost in the largess of The Movement.
I remember meeting Melanie Lino some 5 or 6 years ago in a business class. She immediately intrigued me. She had the coolest vibe---equal parts sharp wit, compassion, and a hyper-awareness of her own humaness. I knew she was going to do whatever she set out to do. And she certainly has...
Melanie, with her partner, created Lit Cafe in Bethlehem. It’s a laid back vibe that produces fresh roasted coffee, uh-mazing creative baked goods and savory bites. But she wasn’t about to stop there.
Seeing a real need to create a safe space for BIPOC to enjoy nature and the outdoors, she started a non-profit called Afros in Nature. And now that Afros in Nature is humming along, she is expanding on that concept with Afros Homestead & Cafe.
Afros Homestead & Cafe is a non profit that will host programs for children geared toward nature, living lessons, and youth leadership programs to prepare them for the working world. Afros Homestead will feature a community garden and CSA (community supported agriculture), with a focus on teaching business and marketing skills. Additionally, Afros Homestead will serve the community with fresh produce, making it affordable for those who cannot afford it.
Quite honestly, I could gush about what Melanie is building all day. For me growing up, being in nature was an everyday experience. And it always felt safe. Everyone should feel that way. Nature is healing. Nature is restorative. (I write this as I sit on my back porch, birds chirping riotously, breeze in my hair.) Nature is for everyone. And to combine that with teaching our youth an appreciation for nature, wrapped in with business skills, mindfulness, a safe place to grow, AND provide for their community, well, that sounds like the perfect utopia to me.
Afros Homestead and Cafe is based right here in Allentown, Pennsylvania—-the state’s 3rd largest city but also one with of the state's highest inner city poverty rates. Homestead looks to lift up the surrounding community by helping at the grass roots level. Melanie’s beautiful vision of humanity is one that I can really get behind—-and I hope you can too. That is why I’m so proud to create and donate to her cause —the cause—in a way that will really make a difference in so many lives in a direct and meaningful way.