30 Days of Women: Rosy Ricks
Making an Art Out of Making Do: Salvation Through Art and Home - Words by Rosy Ricks
I never wanted to come to Detroit in the first place. Five years ago, when my editor asked if I would consider participating in a Detroit-Milwaukee cultural exchange, I responded somewhere along the lines of "not a snowball's chance in hell." I was young, broke and black and living in one of the most segregated cities in the country. Why on earth would I want to go to a place where, more than likely, I would be worse off than I already was?
In some ways, Detroit has become my Nineveh; poverty and injustice became the belly of my whale. From the outside, Detroit in 2011 was the stateside equivalent of Palestine: impoverished, occupied, and likely to burst into flames at a moment's notice. For someone beneath the wheel -- especially if that someone was a black woman-- going to Detroit was, in effect, giving up. It is now 2016, late on a Thursday night. I am typing this on my cell phone, sprawled out on the floor of my temporary part-time bedroom. My clothes and skin reek of sweat and stir-fry, consequences of working the late shift at a posh vegan joint in the suburbs. Even though I can't afford to eat there, it's a good fit while I get myself situated. I am mentally, spiritually and financially preparing to tackle one of my grandest endeavors. In a few short months, I will be a homeowner, a dream I'd always imagined would be forever out of reach. For some folks, this isn't a big deal. But for someone who has spent the majority of their adult life in various states of homelessness, this is nothing short of a miracle. I've spent the last 12 years bouncing from room to room, couch to couch, city to country, and everywhere between. I've lived in the slums of Milwaukee, Chicago, and Detroit. I've waited tables, managed homeless shelters, done organic farming, peddled sex toys, and nannied children. I've been a freelance culture writer, program coordinator for a celebrity-branded youth program, assistant director for an interfaith arts organization. I did disaster education with the Red Cross, facilitated with a national youth nuclear abolitionist group, and coordinated volunteers for a high-profile gubernatorial recall campaign. Some of these jobs I held simultaneously, and often without a steady place to live. It's expensive to be poor, but I like to think I've made an art of making do. In spite of near constant struggles to pursue life, liberty, and happiness, my road has not been easy. When you come from nothing, it's almost guaranteed that you'll stay there; doubly so if you're a woman. Imagine my surprise when, upon arriving in Detroit with no place to go and not a cent to my name, I found sanctuary. As many women do, I sought that sanctuary first in the arms of lovers. I have given myself to scores of unworthy men, in the hopes that they might shield me from the unfortunate circumstances of having been born a poor girl. It was my hope that by tying myself to them I might find the stability for which I have fought my entire life. Unwavering service, acts of love and humility left me scarred, empty. Through loving boys wearing the clothing of men, I learned to find that strength in myself. I have learned to love and claim myself. I have learned to carry my home inside of me, to stitch together a joyful existence with discarded scraps from tables I will never be invited to sit at, and fine clothing I will never wear. In the urban decay of the Motor City, I have found a home surrounded on all sides by magical women of all colors waging love against a world hell-bent on snuffing out their light. Here, I find women who laugh and sing, in spite of hard times. Women who pray and dance. Women who catch babies and bake pies from fruits growing on trees forgotten a generation ago. Because of the economic conditions, I am actually able to buy a house here. Though it may not yet be inhabitable, and the journey hard, I am not without hope. I will kindle that spark for home, and from the ashes of doubt will come my sisters, and brothers too, who have not forgotten what it is to carry home in the secret places of their hearts. Together, we will build our visions, and invite the weary into our hearts, our homes, for a simple but satisfying meal. We will share our laughter, our stories, and our struggles. We will take our scraps and scars and stitch them together into blankets, and with them we will cover our babies and our grandparents. Our eyes will rest in the beauty of wilder places. Here, in the shadow of Motown, the forgotten Midwestern rust belt Mecca of great migration, we will sing and love and create together the homes we have always remembered and never known.
Rosy and her girl gang (click picture for her website) *One thing that I will always remember his how Rosy tricked me into eating the best chili of my life, the real kicker is that it was vegan. I didn't want to admit it but this lady has a knack for changing hearts and minds through her advice as well as food. here is a recipe you can get down with* - Flow Johnson Make it Work: Veggie Burgers for Hard Times 2 c. beans, any kind (especially black beans) 1 c. rice (any leftovers) 1.5 c. quick oats 1 banana (may substitute one egg) Seasonings of your choice, including -curry -adobo -sazon -salt, pepper, and garlic Oil for frying (whatever you have, grape seed is good, but vegetable oil works fine too) Combine all ingredients, less frying oil in a large mixing bowl. Using hands, combine ingredients , taking care so smash them into a stiff dough. Cover and refrigerate for an hour, allowing mixture to thicken enough to form into patties or meatball-sized bites ( depending on how many mouths you must feed or your preference for falafel-type veggie bites vs. traditional burgers). If dough mixture is too wet, add more oats, 1/4 cup at a time. If dough mixture is too dry, add more banana (or egg). When patties are formed, heat frying oil in a cast iron pan. If you do not have a cast iron, choose a deep pan and use a nonstick utensil. Cook on medium heat for 3-5 minutes per side, allowing the party to take a golden color. Drain oil from patties by placing them on a plate covered by paper towels or a brown paper grocery bag. Alternately, patties can be brushed with oil and cooked on a baking sheet in a 350 degree oven for 45 minutes, turned once for even browning. Serve warm, as you would regular burgers, but especially with barbecue sauce