In the United States, the 4th of July is a day to celebrate independence from colonialism and tyranny. While independence (in the sense of liberation and autonomy) is valuable, it leaves us with an incomplete story. We are not, and cannot ever be, fully independent. So July 4th is also a good day to meditate on ubuntu, and ways that we can make ubuntu central to the communities we create.
Ubuntu is is the essential truth of inter-being and interdependent co-arising that manifests everywhere.
No human child thrives without supportive others. No human adult is fully healthy without living in community. And of course, the air we breathe and the food we eat would not be possible without the generosity of plants, living in community with the fungi, animals and bacteria that enable them to thrive. Recognition of this interdependence can provide the seeds for growing more vibrant relationships, communities and societies.
Declaring Our INTERdependence
Ten years ago, some friends proposed re-imagining America’s annual 4th of July celebration to foreground a celebration of Interdependence. We described a full ritual involving retelling and discussion of the history of the Declaration of Independence and the meaning of the American Revolution, along with the reading and discussion of a New Declaration, and the sharing of special foods.
We drafted two versions of a New Declaration of Interdependence, one longer version that mirrored the structure and language of the original Declaration of Independence, and a version that was more concise. Both spoke about reconnecting humans with the rest of Nature (the thinking that led Michelle to further develop ideas around agaya and ubuntu, and eventually start Novasutras).
Sharing food is one of the most fundamental human expressions of ubuntu.
Our suggestions around foods for an Interdependence Day celebration included providing a dish prepared to highlight the “Three Sisters” of Native American agriculture: corn, beans, and squash. This combination represents the strength, resilience and vitality we find in diverse communities of sharing, and truly celebrates ubuntu.
The Three Sisters are a classic set of companion plants, traditionally planted together because they help one another grow. The beans fix nitrogen in the soil to encourage the growth of all three plants. The corn provides a tall stalk on which the beans can climb. The squash shades the ground to help retain water and prevent the growth of weeds. These foods were shared by the native farmers of the Americas with the European colonists that immigrated to their lands, and the Europeans brought them back to the “Old World.” So, for both botanical and cultural reasons, these three foods together are a beautiful illustration of the concept of Interdependence and the importance of community.
A lovely dish to celebrate ubuntu is this Three Sisters Novasutras Casserole, made with cornmeal, three kinds of beans, green summer squash, and some greens (and maybe blueberries or blue corn) for color.
- Start with a cornbread or polenta base, using your favorite recipe, so that it fills your round casserole dish about halfway.
- Outline the Novasutras symbol with black beans (refried, mashed or blendered beans are easiest to apply, although whole beans could work if well-drained). You may add a small dash of hot-sauce to your beans first (especially a dark chipotle-based sauce or molé), to give a little spice to this section. Make this outline come nearly to the top of your casserole dish.
- Mash or blender white beans (cannellini or navy beans) to fill in the bottom section. Reserve some white beans to further blend with blueberries or blue corn (cooked blue cornmeal, or even just a handful of blue corn tortilla chips), to fill in the ‘blue’ parts.
- Fill the brown ‘trunk’ of the symbol with refried beans (or pinto or other plain brown beans, which could be whole, blended or mashed). You may add a favorite red salsa or hot-sauce to give a little spice to this section. (Lots of leftover beans? Great, you now have the makings of a tasty bean dip — add salsa or hot-sauce and enjoy with chips or cut veggies!)
- Saute a green summer squash (zucchini or courgette) along with your favorite dark, leafy greens (spinach, collard greens or white chard work well here). You might add a little onion and/or herbs, tomatillos or green chilies to your saute, as well. This completes the green ‘treetop’ portion of the symbol.
- Enjoy hot or chilled as the center of a hearty feast with family and friends (as appropriate for safety, given the prevalence of COVID-19 where you are)! Celebrate UBUNTU!
“…I am human because I belong, I participate, and I share. A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good…”~Archbishop Desmond Tutu
Novasutras is an Interdependent Organization
To celebrate the Novasutras movement’s first Interdependence Day in 2018, and to invite the power of ubuntu to sustain us, we launched a Patreon campaign. Our Patreon campaign allows those who wish to support the continued growth and vitality of the Novasutras movement to do so through a monthly subscription at a level of their own choosing.
With support from Patreon members, the Novasutras movement can remain viable, including regular online events and conversations, newsletters, blog posts and social media activity. With enough support, we can develop even more content, and work more actively to grow the community so that we can reach larger goals, and begin to develop long-term projects. For as little as US$1 per month, you can join at the ‘Universal Ubuntu’ amount and be among the founding partners in this movement.
Of course, there are many different ways you can contribute to the Novasutras movement, not just through money. We hope that you will participate in the co-creation of a movement that remains adaptable, deeply democratic and egalitarian, open to both science and ceremony, and so beautifully compelling that it can powerfully transform the way humans live together in our biosphere.
In loving memory of Judy Bloomgardener.