Digging within the Soil

By Carmelle Nitereka


We are all taught to think immediately -it a strategic tool- so we learn to live believing our achievements, our freedom, is our own. Consequently, we believe that our demise and bondage is ultimately ours alone to fight (and when we don't find a way out, we become a faulted people). This reality reflects within our institutions, architecture, policies, interest, as well as daily person to person interactions coded with assumptions. Our immediate way of processing life has led to a domino effect of quick-fix patches. Cool, so now some of us are getting on board and questioning the bigger hole dug up by these ineffective solutions, but we still fail to ask the simple questions of the life before us. Who do we make provisions for? What foundations have been laid here?

Look at nature. A dendrologist, who studies trees, does not simply make absolute conclusions based on the fallen branches. They get on their knees and dig within the soil that surrounds it. They search for answers at the roots. They explore beneath the surface. As a dendrologist, it would be obvious that rich soil nurtures roots and allows for the tree to thrive. Equally uncontested, a tree nurtured under beds of concrete would be suffocated from its ability to thrive. Drawing from experience, our need for immediate knowledge has most of us looking to the fallen branches for our answers.  

Not to go on a tangent, but the weather’s been wonderful and it seems like all bike lovers are back. Especially in Atlanta, where you can walk ten minutes and be surrounded by a different neighborhood with a starkly different feel, it’s been noticeable that bike lovers seem to live in distinct areas (i.e. Grant Park). To generalize,  neighborhoods and areas that reflect more suburban lifestyles tend to have greater use for bicycles for leisure and active transport. It’s not uncommon to see a few families bicycling around their neighborhoods, but how often have you seen a family in 'urban' areas entertain the same form of leisure? The assumption may be that it’s simply a difference surrounding culture, but sometimes cultures are influenced by the provisions and architecture available. What bike provisions are available in suburban areas? Do these mirror the provisions available in ‘urban’ areas? Where can we find architecture (i.e. bicycle lanes, racks) to support active transport? Who has access to best practices and safety information? Where are the accessible park trails located? Where are the bike coops located, who has access to that information? Essentially, where have the foundations been laid to support a bicycle culture? In exploring these questions, it becomes difficult to remain with surface level assumptions. I use this as an example to preface the many daily assumptions or realities we accept without question. It is easy to walk into a space and see things as they are. It is even easier to claim our observations as culture, because we seek answers, but authentic answers require deeper questions. 

So I’m still sporadically discovering what it means to ask the questions to what shaped the life around me. It all circles back to our interconnected life.Tell me your freedom is yours when you can justify that you single-handedly nurtured your own soil.

A World Lived in Circle

By Carmelle Nitereka


“The world does not need to be saved, it needs to be loved – that’s what will save it.” – unknown


The Restorative Justice Workshop and circle process was a beautiful experience. It started with two early mornings, but the warm tea (I had excessive amounts) and the welcome we received made it more bearable to have had rolled out of the comfort of my bed. The first day of the workshop, I felt a sense of wonder for what was to come- I felt grace in a circle of strangers. To paraphrase our insightful Restorative Justice facilitator, Jamie, whoever is in the circle is meant to be there. And I felt it, there was synchronicity within the room.   

While the concept of restorative justice was not completely new, the workshop experience was.  Unlike criminal justice, which implies that an infraction has been committed and warrants punishment, restorative justice implies that there is a hurt or brokenness and a need for healing. The process is facilitated through peacemaking circles, derived from indigenous traditions that have been adopted to offer safe healing spaces. Quanshay (a.k.a old wise soul) reminded us that the circle is a sacred place. For the duration of the training we sat in that sacredness, offering pieces of ourselves to one another.

The mindfulness of peacemaking circles is something I would like to cultivate even when I am not physically in circle. Something I appreciate about Priscilla is how she naturally exudes that mindfulness; she has a gentle way of inviting people in her circle.  Circles can draw people into a community; it unveils our unique and collective brokenness.

Jamie fervently believes that one could never be asked to leave a circle. I think thats powerful, it goes against the grain; even the most resistant spirit is fragile and it resonated with me to know that circles let people heal in their own time.

How can I invite people in circle? That’s a real question I want to keep exploring.