Name

Elias Attea

 

Current place of residence

Buffalo, NY

 

What is your current occupation/work?

School Garden Educator (previous)

Farm Steward and Caretaker (current)

 

When and where did you work with Maurice and for how long?

Raleigh, NC (2013) for 3 months during the summer

 

What kind of work did you do when you worked with Maurice?

Composting

More Composting

Vermicompost

Garden Bed Design and Build

Garden Planting and Maintenance

“Artist-in-residence”

Robin Thicke-look alike (according to Travis)

A helluva lot more composting

 

What kind of growth/transformation happened for you (and/or for the people you served) because of your work with Maurice?

After my experience with Mr. Maurice, I’ve come to see a garden as just a landscape until it becomes inhabited. All life is somewhat like this, but the magic that brings life back to a landscape, in the words of Mr. Maurice, is “curiousity.”  It’s curiousity of a garden that transforms an empty lot into a garden and it is curiosity that brings back the animals, insects, and humans alike. 

 

At the time of my internship (and even now) I was asking how do people congregate and connect over picking weeds or eating greens?  What is a “community garden” anyway?  I had been experienced in the production side of growing but was more interested about the community and social aspects of farming.   My work with Maurice helped shape the answer to those questions and ultimately influenced the direction of the next few years of my career.  Much of the most memorable experiences entailed the interactions with local residents, municipalities, and the invisible forces of social behavior and economics. I felt like I saw some of my first uplifting and damn discouraging parts of managing urban-placed and community-centered gardens. 

 

Most of all, I able to finally address a part of myself that contributed (and still contributes) to a larger problem in our society.  Attending a college that mostly existed in a middle class socio-economic bubble, I had been frustrated with the college's atmosphere of intolerance and ignorance, but what I wasn't aware of was the reality of how much white guilt and privilege I had possessed.  I remember one day, near five o’clock when there was still work to do.  Mr. Maurice kept working, alongside him was all of us, because the work needed to get done.  Someone mentioned something about it being five o’clock.  Mr. Maurice spoke up addressing one of the employees who lived in the area, “You can’t go home!  The interns can go, but you can’t leave here.”  At first I took that as an expectation of work ethic, but later realized that is the reality of volunteering and internships for people of privilege—they get a chance to look through the glass and then go home, but the folks who don’t live with that privilege just keep living as they are. 

 

I’ve learned to stop assuming, stop being the first to talk, just listen, ask questions, and ask how to help—the same way anyone would help their neighbor. 

 

How has working with Maurice benefitted you and/or uplifted you?

- "Don't get lazy," was something Mr. Maurice would always say and has become a reminder to me to do the work needed being done.

 

- Respect is earned in many ways, but out of fear shouldn’t be one of them.

 

- The importance of interacting life both in its energy, spirit, as well as its physical form.

 

- “Everyone is a puzzle piece.  You can’t force yourself to fit in. Changing who you are will make the picture look incomplete, so be yourself, don’t try to adapt to people just to fit in, let them accept you as you are. 

                 

What would you say to someone who is interested in working with Maurice in the future?

Walk in with respect, don’t say a word just yet; you don’t have to. 

Ask yourself beforehand, “what brings you here?”

Ask yourself again after meeting Mr. Maurice.

Ask yourself again and continue asking yourself every day and night of your life. 

 

Mr. Maurice is a purpose-driven spirit, or so I have come to understand him.  Nothing is done unintentionally, so your interactions should be as such.  He’s a rigid character with expectations that are high, but fair. Be confident. You’ll learn through the discipline. 

 

Memories and Stories

When Mr. Maurice thought I was a spy. 

 

The first time singing for the farmers at the farm

 

The day where we composted nothing but strawberries for 8 hours (or what felt like)

 

Meeting his family, so gracious, so incredible.

 

When I asked Mr. Maurice about his cologne, “Never in all my years has any of my interns asked about my perfume,” he looked down and admitted under his breath, “it’s French Opium.”

 

In 35 states, there is less than 1% of black or African American principle farm operators.

 

A Few Words…

Thinking back, I worked my ass off and was proud of it, but thinking about it more, I know I left my work undone. Whether it be a farm or be it an unjust society, there will always be struggles, there will always be work to do.  

 

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