Black History Month Spotlight: Jarid Manos

Name and Title: Jarid Manos – Green Leader, Social Transformation Activist, Thought Leader, Author, Environmentalist

What do you do and why? Founder and CEO of Great Plains Restoration Council (GPRC). Based in Houston, Texas, the organization works to restore and protect the nation’s shattered prairies and plains through developing youth and young adult leaders in Ecological Health.

What mark have you left on Black history? It’s not for me to say. I don’t like talking about myself at all, but would rather be judged by my work. And I’ve still got a lot of work left to do.

But I hope that, in some way, I can help people suffer less, feel worse lees, accept less emasculation and powerlessness from hopelessness, destruction of the Earth, destruction of our health, and personal lack of access to information, and instead become thrilled with life through service and action.

Basically, through my work I hope I can provide some tools to survive and thrive in all this chaos. Once I survived my own life, what else was there for me to do but give back? Taking care of our own health is the most radical thing we can do, because then people are no longer victims, but leaders participating in daily and longer-term solutions.

And by health I mean our own full physical-mental-emotional-spiritual selves, I mean the Earth herself, who is dying (being killed), and I mean our children’s very uncertain future. We can all reach higher and deeper in this life by getting healthier and giving back.

Why is celebrating Black History important to you? I’m not big on assigned holidays because I like to celebrate life and people throughout the year. But I am glad a month is focused on helping people (especially young people) see and understand the profound impacts that others like them have had on American and global society.

In turn, new leaders are riled up and self-made! (We must always work to help people help themselves.) I especially want to see service recipients who’ve fallen down to their last life’s gasp before they even hit their early 20s rebuild their own lives to become service providers.

Who or what do you honor most in Black History? Maybe I have a unique perspective because I’m black but not African American. I love the diaspora, the storied movement of people across the world, on the land, and within us, tendrilling outward into new stories.

The land might be the living, breathing natural world or the seething, hushed or crazy streets. I am attracted to uncontained, voluptuous spirits. Who do I celebrate then, in this spirit of movement?

I love Harriet Tubman, who was so naturally comfortable in wild nature that she could read Pennsylvania’s Monongahela River and other places of America’s Old Northwest like parts of her body and used that wellness for passage. I am very inspired by thoughts of her on her mission, slipping through the wet forest, radical and merged with God and Earth.

I also like Khalil Gibran and Nas, both whom move through boundaries with their poetic words like sleek sharks through the deep.

I celebrate Toni Morrison, whose writing is the essence of American pungency on the land. She is my favorite author, and the last living of three women I had most wanted to meet. The other two being Coretta Scoot King and Wangari Maathai.

I celebrate Coretta Scott King because she didn’t care what anybody else thinks and operated unflinchingly from courage of her convictions. Mrs. King was a vegan, advocate for the poor and the war-torn, and a champion of LGBT rights.

What a violation to have had her funeral at Eddie Long’s church, a bishop who publicly persecuted same gender people while privately abusing young men, and who gleefully received a $1 million dollar grant from taxpayer dollars under Pres. G.W. Bush’s faith-based initiative!

I don’t celebrate the 10th Calvary and the Buffalo Soldiers, whose job was basically to kill Indian people. I acknowledge the complexities of those post-Civil War times and the few choices black men had, but for our American West stories I’d rather honor Esteban the Moor, the Moroccan slave turned equal with his Spanish conquistador captors when they shipwrecked ashore on the coastal prairie wilderness of Galveston Island off Texas in November 1528 and for the next 8 years lived as one with that intense prairie wilderness by the sea and the Karankawa people.

It was an example of commonality & equality that civilization could have learned from. (The Karankawa people were later killed to extinction by Texans, and there is now less than 1% left of America’s Edenic coastal prairie.)

I also celebrate York, William Clark’s slave on the Lewis & Clark expedition, who did so much of the work, field medicine, and domestic relations with Upper Missouri tribes. (Basically he saved their asses.)

Yet with incredible lack of character, Clark insisted York go back to slavery upon the expedition’s return and refused to give York his freedom. York was also never compensated a single dime for being part of the expedition, while all the other expedition members were paid with money and land quite substantially. Both Esteban and York were true Plainsmen.

These people are to me real role models of African descent in the American West. Lastly, I’m fascinated by the African story of the Atlantic Ocean (a theme which underlies my next book Her Blue-Watered Streets).

What I don’t like is how these giant fast food meat/ grease/processed “food” companies use black language and culture to try to make the month theirs, while so many people suffer so badly from heart disease, high blood pressure, kidney ailments, digestive problems, etc. Since Black History Month is always co-opted by these multi-nationals, why don’t we just call it Black Heart Disease Month?

Hey, all this is just my opinion. But I’m an activist and community organizer in addition to being a writer, and you know how certain people hate those!




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