A really cool event is happening Wednesday at Fresno’s Holistic Cultural and and Education Wellness Center. Libertad is a new, monthly series dedicated to sharing information and improving individual physical and mental well being through ancestral knowledge.
Tomorrow’s session will be a storytelling featuring Freedom Fighter Harriet Tubman, as portrayed by historical re-enactor Nancy Whittle. In advance of the event, I asked coordinator Devoya Mayo a few questions about Libertad and about the Holistic Cultural and and Education Wellness Center itself.
Me: Tell me about the center. What is its general purpose?
Devoya Mayo: The Holistic Cultural and Education Wellness Center is a project of the Fresno Center for New Americans. We create and provide culturally and linguistically appropriate education, training, and linkage services to un-served and underserved individuals and families who may not typically seek traditional Western (i.e. clinically based) mental health services.
What is your title and role there?
My title at the center is Cultural Broker. There are a total of eight Cultural Brokers from various communities on staff. Each of us is tasked with the unique opportunity of creating programming, gatherings, workshops, and other activities that encourage mental wellness. For me, those activities are almost always educational and/or cultural in nature. Providing a positive sense of culture and identity helps to reduce stress and curb anxiety, which improves upon our mental wellness.
Let’s talk about the Libertad series. Where did the name come from?
Oh, I’m so glad you asked this question! I love coming up with names for things. Since I wanted this gathering to be a place that encouraged the freedom to speak about physical and mental well being, I knew I needed a word that was universal in many languages. After some research, I decided “Libertad” was a good fit. Listed below is my definition of the word, along with a few other words that mean freedom in various languages.
Libertad: freedom to deviate deliberately from normally applicable rules or practices (especially in behavior or speech).
Freedom in various languages:
Italian: la libertà
Haitian Creole: libète
Can you tell me a little about what inspired tomorrow night’s event? Why Harriet Tubman, specifically?
The event is actually a monthly gathering. I wanted to create a space where folks from various backgrounds felt FREE to talk about physical and mental well being using ancestral knowledge. Because that’s such a wide spectrum, I decided on four mediums:
• Folk Remedies
Each medium will act as a tool in making connections. In other words, one month we discuss our ancestral knowledge through the lens of art, another through food justice, and so on. Basically, I want people to come and discuss how grandmothers used herbs to cure illness, how story time was once a way to communicate pain, hope, and sorrow, how what people ate in the past kept them healthy and alert, and how that’s changed over time.
As February is Black History Month, I felt storytelling would be the medium of choice, and what better way to introduce said topic than by having a true Freedom Fighter with us? For me, Harriet Tubman was the only choice.
Will it be a performance only, or a performance coupled with discussion?
It will be both storytelling coupled with discussion. We invite all who attend to engage with Ms. Tubman. [Re-enactor] Nancy Whittle has been doing this for a number of years as part of the Fresno Historical Society and the Civil War Revisited event that takes place each year, so she knows her facts. There will be a few Harriet Tubman-themed raffle prizes as well!
Is the event free?
Yes! All our onsite activities are free and open to the public, unless otherwise stated.
Are families welcome, or is this more for adults?
I’ve partnered with a group that primarily hosts historical re-enactments, attends community events, and presents at schools, so it’s definitely an all ages situation.
What else can we expect from the Libertad series in the future?
We’ll continue to utilize each medium as a nexus for connecting with one another. Can’t wait to address folk remedies, as we have an onsite garden where everything has a medicinal purpose. That’s likely going to happen in early spring.
For More Information
Libertad Presents: Storytelling with Harriet Tubman will take place from 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 22, at the Holistic Cultural and Education Wellness Center, 4867 E Kings Canyon Rd.