Book Review: Tools to Cultivate the Promised Land

PromisedLandThe theme of “The Promised Land” runs throughout African-American history and culture. Enslaved people who accepted Christianity had faith that they, like the “Children of Israel,” would be liberated from bondage and live in the Promised Land. Searching for freedom and increased opportunities to carve out their own “American Dreams,” black migrants from the South fled their homeland for the industrial North during the Great Migration of the 20th century. In addition, on April 3, 1968, the night before his assassination, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. invoked the Promised Land three times in his “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech. King implied that he, like the prophet Moses, “may not get there with you,” but “we, as a people, will get to the promised land.”

In her book, Tools to Cultivate the Promised Land: Working Wisdom from My Grandparents’ Garden, Deborah L. Parker uses these biblical, historical and metaphorical references to discuss the contemporary search for the Promised Land. For African-Americans, the phrase has historically referred to “freedom” or a land of freedom, but Parker suggests no set definition, indicating varied and contested meanings. It can be a physical destination to which one escapes, but it can also be a mental and spiritual space. In fact, each person must mark his or her own “sacred space.”

Once that sacred space is claimed, it must be nurtured. Parker imparts the wisdom of the elders–lessons she learned growing up in a multi-generational family–to instruct readers on cultivating their Promised Land. Her narrative weaves in the practical advice of her maternal grandparents, Joseph Everett and Pearl Cargill Parker, and illustrates the usefulness of words and actions.

Tools to Cultivate the Promised Land is a motivational book interspersed with inspirational stories and family history. Parker is a great storyteller, and the the book is most compelling when she incorporates her own narrative into the discussion. For example, I found her chapter on racism (Weed-Whackers for Racism and Other Growth Stoppers) particularly interesting. She compares racism to weeds in a garden, which can prevent you from achieving your purpose, if you allow it. Although racism has reared its ugly head in her life, she found ways to overcome the obstacles placed in her path. She succeeded in spite of racism because she had the right “tools.”

Parker cherishes the memories of her grandparents and the lessons to be learned from both family and collective history. This book should cause readers to think about applying the lessons they’ve learned from their grandparents as well.




Having a Blue Christmas

Image courtesy of jannoon028/

Image courtesy of jannoon028/

As I noted in last week’s Wacky Wednesday post, I love Christmas, especially the decorations. But I understand that this time of year is not always joyful. In fact, there were times when I’ve had a “Blue Christmas” rather than “The Most Wonderful Time of the Year.” My Christmas wish was to be on a cruise to the Caribbean rather than sitting at home alone in my apartment, listening to sad songs and watching fictional characters make merry on television.

Feelings of loneliness are often compounded during Christmas, and it is just one of the reasons that the holidays can be difficult. On Sunday I called my mother, who I usually talk to daily, and discovered that she had been deep into her “holiday blues” for a couple of days. She hadn’t called because she didn’t want to burden me. She feared that she would make me sad as well.

For my mother, this season reminds her of the people she loves who have passed away, especially her parents. Both of her parents died in December, although it was years apart. I was only two-years-old when my grandfather died, so I can’t remember him or his death. But my grandmother’s death is etched in my memory, even though I was living hundreds of miles away when it happened. She died December 26, 1995.

On December 25, just as my grandmother, my mother, and their guests were about to sit down to Christmas dinner, my grandmother had a severe pain in her head which turned out to be a stroke. She was conscious as the paramedics were putting her into the ambulance, and that was right about the time that I called home. I was on my way to work that day, but I wanted to find out how Grandma liked my present.

She was in the emergency room for hours while doctors tried to lower her blood pressure, which was skyrocketing. According to my mother, however, they never really provided much treatment. Eventually, later that night, they released her. As my mother was driving Grandma home, she screamed and slumped over. My mother rushed her back to the hospital. Grandma had experienced a cerebral hemorrhage; she slipped into a coma and never regained consciousness. She was taken off life support the following day.

My mother feels things very deeply, so I understand how this season affects her. But I chastised her for not calling me. (Even though we live in different states, we are constantly in touch.) I am sure that not talking to anyone only deepens her feelings of aloneness and sadness.

There are so many people who are hurting during this time of year. I have opened this window into my world because I think it is an important topic. Please reach out to family and friends who may be having a hard time. And if you are sad, blue, melancholy, or depressed, you are certainly not alone. Reach out to your family and friends. Let them know how you are feeling. And if your depression is really serious, do not be too proud or afraid to see a counselor.