remembering soldiers on memorial day that a.m.e. church doesn’t care about.

 
 I said in a prior post that someone asked me what it was that made me want to save the graves in the ruins of the Ebenezer AME on Bacton Hill Road in East Whiteland or what old timers in East Whiteland like to call “that old black church”. What first moved me was the grave you see above of Private Joshua Johnson(1846-1916) who was a member of Company K of the 45th of the United States Colored Troops in the Civil War.

Today is Memorial Day so I thought I would take the time to recognize Private Joshua Johnson and the other Civil War Colored Troop Soldier buried in this graveyard OWNED and ABANDONED by the A.M.E. Church. The head of the East Whiteland Historical Society told me recently that there is yet another soldier in this graveyard. (And did you know there is another abandoned graveyard of unknown denomination behind Queen Appliance in Frazer? That is more of an aside, just pointing its existence out.)

Anyway, I still can’t believe that the A.M.E. Church doesn’t give a damn about the Ebenezer A.M.E. but after YEARS of trying to get them to pay attention and discovering all of the OTHER people also ignored in years gone by, I pretty much think they don’t care about the familial history of their members or enough about the history of their churches.  That makes me really sad. It also makes me wonder if I am just the wrong race and religion to be asking them about this? And if THAT is true (as has been implied by people I have spoken with) wow what a sorry state of affairs.
 

 The A.M.E. Church is celebrating a remarkable milestone this summer in Philadelphia, their bicentennial. One would THINK or HOPE or WISH they would give a damn about the dead in the decrepit and disgraceful graveyard at Chester County’s Ebenezer A.M.E. on Bacton Hill Road in Frazer, Pa but alas, they don’t. They want to talk about their history and the struggles of their people but if they truly valued the contributions and suffering of their membership the past 200 years they would respect their dead and at least regularly tidy up this graveyard, right?

The following article appeared recently in an out of state newspaper:

Indianapolis Recorder: African-American churches and their vision of faith and freedom

Posted: Friday, May 20, 2016 3:01 am

By ANGELIQUE WALKER-SMITH 

“Oh freedom, oh freedom, oh freedom over me. And before I’d be a slave I’ll be buried in my grave. And go home to my Lord and be free.”

This post-Civil War African-American freedom song, often associated with the 20th century Civil Rights Movement in the United States, provides a helpful historical lens for understanding why elections have been important to African-American churches. For these churches, voting and other methods of engaging their public voices have been important in their quest in obtaining freedom from social and legal racism in the U.S., while relying on the biblical promise of a transcendent freedom in the afterlife.

Albert Raboteau at Princeton University points out the following concerning religious formation of African-American churches: “These Christians appropriated Christianity on their own terms despite what they were told or not told by their slave holders and U.S. law. African slaves experienced dissonance between their dignified African identities and the disempowering and undignified messaging of White colonizers and missionaries.”

This kind of social marginalization and oppression of people of African descent, and the acceptance of the biblical narrative of struggle, deliverance, hope and faith, have provoked and encouraged the faith of people of African descent. Such faith has informed their vision and mission to fight for a dignified and equitable quality of life as evidence of earthly freedom.

OK so maybe I am being terribly politically incorrect,but does anyone else see the pure hypocracy  of a religious organization that can write things like the above and preach about the above and they can’t care for their dead in a relatively small old graveyard of land they own and probably pay no taxes on??

It’s Memorial Day and at a bare minimum they should respect those soldiers more!  

So A.M.E. Church, I double dog dare you. Prove me and others wrong – take care of your dead in this graveyard. Surely if you can foot the bill for a Bicentennial Convention and celebration you can afford to clean up one small and very historic  graveyard?

  

small and other gardens

When I had a small garden, I hung plants on fences.

I did not have a really big garden before moving to Chester County. I had decent sized gardens over the years, but mostly small gardens.

You can create a lot of beauty in a small space garden, you just have to use your imagination. Pots play a larger part, sometime pots on walls and fences. And you can put almost anything in a pot.

  
 
My great aunts had a house in South Philadelphia that was a big row house – and basically the entire rear “garden” was concrete. And every spring / summer/ fall it was loaded with flowers and herbs and tomato plants…and even grape vines! And a lot of what things were planted in were actually old pickle barrels and containers. But it worked!

When I had a small garden, I still had a lot of “flower power” . This floral arrangement from years ago was all flowers and plants i was growing in my quite literally postage stamp sized garden at the time.

 And one of my grandmothers who lived in another area of the city (North Philadelphia, actually and they call part of where my father grew up “Brewerytown” but all the factories weren’t breweries) near the factory my one grandfather owned with his brothers had an amazing garden. It actually had a great deep garden that was narrow but long. I remember as a little girl being out back there and looking over low fences at the neighbors’ gardens too. Gardens like that can be super cool!

 

Another photo from my small garden years ago. I hung plants in the arms of my Japanese Maple.


 

When my sister and I were little and my parents lived in Society Hill, we had a wonderful city garden. In retrospect, it was probably smaller than I remember it (I was 11 when we moved to the Main Line), but it was along one side of the house and behind the house. My father had to excavate the privy pit from the early 19th century to plant it. 

My first garden was carefully laid out. I remember two trees, and one flowered but I am not sure of what they were (maybe a Magnolia, but too long ago). There was a sand laid brick patio in the back and the bricks were old. In those days when houses were  being torn down in Society Hill you could get just about anything out of the demolition sites, most times for free: brick, stone, windows, shutters, doors, hardware, trim, flooring, etc. we even ended up with an antique doll house as a result.

Posing in a corner of the then garden under construction with my mother. My best guess this was between 1968-1970.

Around the patio in an almost circular fashion were planting beds. Shrubs, my first rose (hybrid tea John F. Kennedy had recently been introduced), herbs, flowers. Along the side of the house was another side garden and a brick path leading to a side door with more shade loving plants like rhododendron and azaleas. 

The entire garden was walled in. Neighbors houses on either side, and high city garden walls where houses weren’t. There were also pots filled with annuals. I wish I had more photos of that garden, but few survived. The one photo I am about to post is of the garden a year or so ago off a realtor page when the house was most recently for sale. Today, the side yard part of the garden and other parts no longer exist because of additions subsequent owners added. But you still see part of my late father’s and grandfather’s handiwork and that is pretty cool.

My childhood garden in Society Hill in Philadelphia circa 2015 and a couple of additional homeowners later.

My parents then had larger gardens with suburban homes, and with two I was mostly conscripted slave labor, and the final one I planted easily 80% of it.

My parents final suburban garden was around their late 19th / early 20th century clapboard house. There I recreated essentially a period garden and for the most part plants you would have found when the house was built. It felt a little bit like Sissinghurst’s white garden because my mother the benevolent dictator had a thing about essentially all white gardens. I was able to work in some very pale pink and yellow antique garden roses everytime they went on vacation or traveled, but that was about it for color other than white.

My parents’ last garden in Haverford that I planted most of.

But I still loved that garden. It was marvelous I thought. I had over 50 different rose cultivars. And wonderful white hydrangeas, and Japanese maples, and a giant puffy flowering Kwanzan cherry tree in the front, and boxwood and azaleas and hollies and Itea. Piers Japonica and host as as well. Herbs in beds and in pots and a rose arch that also had the white clematis Henryii along with the Meilland rose “Eden Climber” that I had bought from Witerthur when they used to sell plants. I wish I had more photos of that garden, it was cool.

Roses and perennials and shrubs flowed over the edges of flower beds.

Unfortunately, the people who bought my parents’ last suburban house tore it all out. Even the Kwanzan Cherry Tree. I wish I could remember the name of the landscape company that did it.  I still think they probably made a fortune re-selling the plants. Nothing was distressed or over grown and so much was specimen planting. The company had “new” in the name. Their design was uninspired and somewhat dumb for a clapboard house with original clapboards. We never planted right up to the house because it was clapboard (wood). We always kept air circulation.

After that garden I had two much smaller gardens before Chester County. They were small like little city gardens. But you got creative and you could plant all sort of things. I utilized a lot of pots, but I still had my favorite garden elements, even Japanese maples I grew from seedlings. I hope those trees still survive, they were lovely.

Smaller gardens can pack just as big a punch as a big garden. And almost anything you can plant in the ground you can plant in a pot. 

Who says pots have to be planted with everything you “expect”? Think of pots as alternative planting beds.

 I will admit every garden I have had I have layered. For season, for bloom time, for effect. I like a lushness of plantings, not the constipated shrubbing I see that has become trendy and makes everything look like you are living in a Toll Brothers development. I don’t want predictable little plant soldiers all lined up in a row, I want a riot of plants; sensory overload.

And you can do that in small spaces. With my current garden, it’s large, but I still maintain the intimacy of smaller gardens in different corners of it.

Here a small head which broke off someone’s garden statue found a new life peeking out of a flower pot.

Design your garden so you see something new every time you step out into it, large or small.  And take the time to figure out what inspires you for your garden space. Your garden, like your home, is your sanctuary, so make it count.

Thanks for stopping by on another rainy Saturday. I think if it doesn’t stop raining soon, I will be spending the rest of the summer weeding…..

Somehow in every garden, large or small, I have to have a few zinnias.