Women's History Month - Women in Agriculture #8 - Queen Frye
My story begins, well it begins with me just simply being born. I have been all FIYA and no ice my whole entire life. More optimistic than the glass is full. I really believe that I can change the world, for I have the ability to change my own and I remind others that they posses the same power. Now, I show people how they have that power through plants. Seven generations ago my ancestors were sharecroppers on an island in Cape Verde and even on the continent of Africa in Senegal. I claim this to be in my blood even though I was born in Texas. From the day that I could walk I was put in the soil. To laugh, to play, to chase, to wonder, to be instructed and to listen with what my grandmother was teaching me. I learned these skills in the Franklin Field Projects of Boston, Dorchester, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts is a state for the indigenous people. Massachusett is a Native tribe and the name comes from the Massachusett language a term for "At the Great Hill," referring to the Blue Hills overlooking the Boston Harbor from the south. Which is where my family spent a considerable amount of time traveling on Blue Hill Ave to Mattapan Square as we would run our errands. Blue Hill Avenue in Dorchester is a four-mile-long street stretching from Dudley Street in Roxbury through Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan to end in Mattapan Square. My Father believes that his Father's bloodline comes from this linage. You see, Massachusett people were some of the first to make contact with European explorers in New England. Similar to other stories the Massachusett territories were more fertile and on the coastlines with access to coastal resources that were soon taken over by English colonists. There was a forced act of submission to the colonial laws and assimilation to European culture and the Massachusett language became extinct by the early 19th century. Probably most unforgiving the remaining Massachusett were forced to then live in poorer communities with the segregated Black Americans.
This is the soil that first touched my hands and my feet. This is the soil from which my first fruits came from. Resilient doesn't even begin to spell my name. I am more than a rose that has grown from the concrete because before me, my parents had to live here and before them their parents had to live here. TO LIVE, to sustain themselves. To feed themselves and their families. My grandparents could write the book on the food landscape of Boston Mass and the impact that racism was having on their access to fresh locally grown food and it's then impact on the health of those individuals that lived in their community in their time. There I was, 2, 3 & 4 years old and older learning the life skill of how to feed myself and my family for a lifetime and giving access to food to those in my community with just my hands. The Power of Plants!
As each season returns I am taught the history of the soil on this earth. Gardening is not what I do. It is how I live, eat and pray. Somehow, through the gardens that we grew in our backyards to being a garden mentor in St. Paul, MN and now the Lead Farmer of R. Roots Garden in North Minneapolis, I am never tired , nor do I want to quit growing the food that I love the most. As a woman, I feel like the soil is an umbilical cord helping to supply the nutrients and oxygen to the developing plants. After the fruit or vegetable grows, the umbilical cord is no longer needed, so it's clamped and snipped and this leaves behind a short stump. Next time you eat a cucumber, strawberry, onion, watermelon, you name it. look for its belly button and see if I'm lying ;) To be a woman helping seeds to find their way to the soil and bearing good fruit to me is like birthing babies. Creating the change that I want to see in the world. Through gardening and sharing this sustainable skill I am teaching others how to give life, speak life into themselves and others through the power of plants.
My name is Queen and I am delighted to have heard and shared my story and others as I was so proud to celebrate women in agricultural history during this lovely month of March!