S1 E8: Pamia Coleman – Urban Gardener and Cooking Instructor

Pamia Coleman is an urban gardener and cooking instructor.

She teaches simple and affordable plant-based cooking classes and urban gardening in communities across Philadelphia, PA. Her work is routed in educating people of all ages how to achieve a healthy lifestyle through eating well and being active.

In 2016, Pamia Coleman and Latiyanna Tabb founded Black Girls with Green Thumbs. This not-for-profit organisation focuses on urban gardening and community engagement. With gardening workshops and community programming, Black Girls with Green Thumbs has grown into a community of seedfolk with a passion for garden in their homes and within their communities to heal, nourish, and learn.

Through Merkaba Wellness LLC, Pamia teaches how to use fresh and affordable vegan ingredients to create delicious meals for the whole family. In addition to this, she teaches healthy juice making, creating cold press organic natural juices.

Pamia Coleman teaching through Merkaba Wellness LLC
Pamia Coleman teaching through Merkaba Wellness LLC

I reached out to Pamia earlier this year and she graciously accepted my invitation to record our conversation in August 2020. I very much hope you enjoy our conversation about the art of patience, inspiring young people to eat well and learning to appreciate nature.

Reaching across the Atlantic

When I first started this podcast I had an ambition to record each episode in locations relevant to the guest. Whether in studios or on stage, I wanted to capture the atmosphere of the creative space. Then the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the globe and I had to rethink the way I produced each episode. Often when we are faced with restrictions, we are forced to change how we approach a problem differently in order to achieve our goals.

One consequence of COVID-19 is being made to think outside the box.

And when I say box, I mean country.

I realised there was an exciting opportunity to reconnect with Pamia, having seen her work flourish at a geographical distance via social media. Getting in touch with her made me nostalgic for the summer of 2007 when we first met.

I have a great fondness for the USA, having travelled across 13 states from California to New York a few years prior. In 2007, when presented with a chance to return to the US to spend a working at a summer camp through CCUSA, I leapt at the opportunity.

After an interview over the phone with Cary Hughes, I found out that I was assigned to Paradise Farm Camps in Downingtown, PA. Since 1875, the camp had a mission to connect children from Philadelphia to nature in rural Pennsylvania. At that point, the entirety of my knowledge of Philadelphia was somewhat limited to Will Smith’s performance in The Fresh Prince of Belair, so it is fair to say that I arrived excited but somewhat naive.

Paradise Farm Camps, Downingtown PA 2007
Paradise Farm Camps, Downingtown PA (2007)

I was employed as an Outdoor Living Specialist, which was nothing short of laughable in the eyes of my family who considered me to be a complete townie. It was a role I felt grossly under-qualified for, but somehow I muddled through and spent an unforgettable summer teaching kids how to fish, kayak, start fires (then put them out), build shelters and rock climb. Apparently, my British accent had enough exotic confidence to convince everyone that I knew what I was talking about.

13 years on, I can confirm that I did not.

It is a near-impossible task to convey how much this summer meant to me and the profound effect that it had on the way I view the world.

Paradise Farm Camps, Downingtown PA 2007
Paradise Farm Camps, Downingtown PA (2007)

For an inescapably white, middle-class male quite literally from a ‘Shire*, I ending up learning a lot about white privilege. I was raised to express appreciation and gratitude throughout my life, but through interactions and conversations with the young people, often living in challenging circumstances in the city, I learnt a newfound humility for my place in this world and for the opportunities I had so often taken for granted.

I learned a lot as well through the grace, intelligence and humour of my fellow counsellors, and was overwhelmed by the openness of the team. It would be remiss of me not to also mention the forgiveness I was shown for my questionable dance moves on the first night at camp, which was a crucial foundation in the building of these friendships.

I was embraced with a warmth that I hold in my soul to this day. The camp was intended to connect children to nature, but it also  worked its magic connecting me to some beautiful experiences and unforgettable people (far too many to name-check here).

I want this podcast to be celebratory and it is my honour to celebrate just one of those important people I met that summer.

*Buckinghamshire, to be precise