The majority of my time in Mississippi for Freedom Summer was spent working in the Community Center in Meridian with anywhere from 30- 40 children. We read books, did arts and crafts projects, listened to the record player that had been donated to the Center and sometimes even went on “field trips”
For days, I had noticed that a lot of the children’s cheeks were bulging, like they had their mouths filled with candy. I knew they were all from quite poor homes and assumed they would not have their own pennies to buy candy. So one day, I ask one of the children
“What are you eating?”
“Dirt” came the reply.
Not believing my ears, I repeated “What?”
“Dirt,” came the answer again.
“Can you show me?” I curiously asked. And out of the mouths of several of the children came a grey clay-like chunk of……….dirt! I did my best to not show my shock and instead asked them where they got it. “We’ll show you,” they said and I followed them outside and down the street until we came to a lot where they picked up more chunks of their precious dirt. I asked them if I could have some and tucked it away in a pocket.
After I returned from Mississippi, I put the dirt in a bowl and left it on the middle of my table. The dirt had visible veins of minerals running through it, and the children in their bodies’ wisdom, somehow knew that they could get needed minerals from the dirt. The bowl remains on my table to remind me that not everyone has the bowls of food to put on their table that I do.