Picking Greens & Being Green: Lessons from Black Mamas on Culture, Conservation and Community 

Photographs of the author, with her Mother

By Adrienne L. Hollis, PhD, JD — Chisholm Legacy Project Advisory Committee

As children, our kinfolks, particularly the women – mothers, grandmothers, aunts, cousins and others, shared their sage wisdom and customs with us; about safety, love, intelligence, community, the environment and more. That wisdom and knowledge and those beliefs and customs, passed from generation to generation, become family traditions. This is also known as memetics, a single word used to describe information, ideas, and culture passed or transferred from person-to-person and between generations.

In honor of Mother’s Day and in celebration of the roles that mothers and others have had and continue to have on our lives, today the Chisholm Legacy Project introduced its upcoming webinar and blog series entitled “Picking Greens & Being Green: Lessons from Black Mamas on Culture, Conservation and Community.”

The act of sharing knowledge is an important part of our growth and development. It not only keeps traditions alive, but the information imparted to us shapes us and informs our life choices. It helps develop our morals, values and ethics and hone our ability to discern the truth and make good life choices.

Interestingly, while there may be phrases common to people everywhere, some are race, area (region) and/or culture specific. For example, in the Black community, we “pick greens” which literally means examining every leaf for worms and removing or ‘picking’ the offending object off of the leaf. However, when I mentioned this to a non-Black person, they actually thought I was outside picking greens from the garden. Another example is “shelling pecans” which in the South was known as “cracking” pecans. Culture is everything.

To gather this wonderful collection of lessons, admonitions and traditions, a number of people were invited to share their experiences, through either a live interview, a video clip or by providing written answers to questions. They eagerly and generously shared memories from the women who were so influential in their lives, some living and some who have, in the words of the elders “moved on to a better place”.

Whether it was from Mama, Ma, Mother, Mom, Momma, Mommy, Mommie, Madear, Ma Mary, Momma Lola, Big Momma, Grandma Hattie, Grandmom, Grandma, Nana, Mama Bowie, Mama Jean, Aunt Pansie, Aunt Bee, Wilhemena, Essie Bell, Sister Delia, Ginnie Mae, Mrs. Robinson or someone else, our elders shaped our thinking, our behavior and our decisions. We are excited to take you on a monthly journey where we share the lessons we learned and we discuss how those lessons intersect with issues around culture, conservation and community. Enjoy!