Happy Saturday! We are thrilled to have been able to connect this week with Johana, also known as Mama Tortuga! She is a powerhouse of bilingual and herbal activism and knowledge, with a flair for business. Johana is a hustler and has tons of fantastic projects that she’s currently working on. We hope you enjoy learning about them as much as we did!
The Tiny Activist: Introduce yourself/your organization!
Mama Tortuga: Hello, hola!! I am Johana usually called Mama Tortuga. I have created a bilingual website called www.mamatortuga.org to support and provide resources to families around the world, that want to raise free, eco-conscious, multilingual, global citizens. Our perspective is multicultural. We love to create community and to support communities that are working to create a better and improved world!!! I have a very eclectic point of view, from music and arts, to activism, to freedom, our family is here to support this and amplify those voices that need to be amplified!!!
TTA: What are you passionate about?
MT: Very passionate about a wholesome approach to live!! From intersectional feminism, mindful parenting, sustainability, arts, and love!!! I am a student of life!! I am also a lover of nature and work alongside my family in our small backyard garden.
TTA: Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!
MT: Right now I am working on creating ways to support myself, an immigrant Latina mother, and support other women in my community in learning and healing. Always looking for ways I can generate funds and spaces for us to grow!! Locally, I am offering Spanish and English social classes in the area of West Palm Beach, Fl. I am also on a local Spanish radio, where I support ancestral knowledge on herbals and multicultural traditions. Online, I am offering platforms to support resources for global and conscious families. Also, I am documenting much of my adventures, because I believe our voices are important, even if my English is not perfect!! Always showing solidarity with oppressed groups and searching for a different mindset for our world!!! Right now working on a class to be offered at the Florida Herbal Conference of next year in Spanish!!!
TTA: How can people support you on your journey?
MT: Thanks for asking this!! We offer a line of wonderful and original Mama Tortuga T-shirts on all sizes for you $21 for sizes S, M, L and $18 for children, includes shipping, we also offer custom orders for bigger sizes or special merchandise. Also, I would love to be offered jobs on translation, multicultural consultant and talks, that are paid. I had been doing a lot of these jobs in the past decade. Sadly, many times, we are not being acknowledged. Also, I would love to be part of online collabs and convos. It is about forming a supporting community!!!
TTA: What book was your favorite in 2019 so far?
MT: So hard to choose!! Going to mention some: The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World by Desmond Tutu and Mpho Andrea Tutu, The Holly Wild by Danielle Dulsky and Jambalaya by Louisa Teish
TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
MT: For my website to keep growing and new connections that make a reality the dreams I have about having a supportive community. That the passion that I have for justice and solidarity and healing can come to fruition in abundance of resources and love!!!
Happy Saturday! There’s a heat wave hitting us here in New England, so unless we venture to go swimming in the river later (which is also one of our favorite places to watch the sunset with a cold drink!) we will be inside all day! We are so stoked to feature Tyler this week, who is a dear friend of ours.
Lee and Tyler experienced the highs and lows of their late teens and early twenties together in the squalid co-cops of the University of Maryland and have been best buds ever since 2013!
The Tiny Activist: So we know who you are, but can you introduce yourself/your organization for our readers?
Tyler Vile: Hi! My name is Tyler Vile and I’m a writer, performer, and organizer from Baltimore, Maryland! I’m a founding member of Hinenu: The Baltimore Justice Shtiebel, a radically inclusive synagogue. I write poetry, fiction, non-fiction, and I’m trying to get back into screenwriting and playwriting, and I’m learning to write scripts for comic books. Hinenu formed officially in 2017, and we often get asked what it means to be a radically inclusive synagogue as opposed to just inclusive. The best answer I can come up with is that we have disabled Jews, queer and trans Jews, Jews of color, and converts in our leadership, and we make our decisions entirely democratically. Many progressive synagogues will pay lip service to marginalized people’s needs and issues, but at Hinenu, we’re the ones making the decisions. We’re looking to the future right now with conversations about childcare, Hebrew school, and increasing learning opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds. We pray together, we celebrate together, we protest together. It’s incredible to have seen this grow from a rough idea to where it is right now.
TTA:What are you passionate about?
TV: I’m passionate about so many things! Writing, of course, but also ritual, justice, human connection. My passions are a big motivator in my life. As a disabled person, it’s literally physically difficult to get out of bed sometimes. Everyone has to find that balance, that sweet spot between passion and rest. I have to remind myself all the time that it’s okay not to do everything I’m passionate about at once. Fear of missing out can be hard, but as long as you’re confident in what you’re doing long term, you don’t need to be at every show, every protest, or every event.
TTA:Tell us about a project you’re currently working on!
TV: Glad you asked! Right now, I’m working on a poetic reinterpretation of Bereshit (Genesis), the first book of the Torah. There’s so much in there that I think we take for granted. One thing I’ve learned in working with these ancient characters is that people really don’t change over thousands of years. There’s still jealousy, anger, hatred, and struggle, but there’s also still joy, humor, compassion, and liberation. I’m also working on a collection of sci-fi short stories about disabled characters and adaptive technology. I’ve always been a huge sci-fi fan and thought that we as disabled people live the most sci-fi lives, but we’re barely represented in the genre. When we are, it’s either as the villain or there’s a deus ex machina that fixes disability all together. I want to look at the consequences of “fixing” disability, the relationships we have with adaptive technology, and how disabled people are going to survive the climate crises that are headed our way.
TTA:How can people support you on your journey?
TV: You can make a tax deductible donation to Hinenuhere if you feel so moved. My personal Paypaland Venmoare always open if you’d like to donate to the work I’m doing. You can buy my first book, Never Coming Home. While monetary donations help, they aren’t everything. If you’d like to book me for a poetry reading, writing workshop, or panel appearance, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org. Other than that, be good to the people around you, support local artists and activists.
I think the world is going to be saved by small actions, small organizations, and ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Think globally, act locally. Leave the world a little better than when you came in. That way, we can all support each other.
TTA: What book was your favorite in 2019 so far?
TV: It has to be Making Spaces Safer by my friend Shawna Potter. Shawna’s in a band called War on Womenand is using her platform to make sure that public spaces are free from harassment and that everyone is afforded respect, dignity, and consent. I was a beta reader for that book and in offering feedback, I was blown away by how smoothly and directly she delivers some very necessary truths about the way we treat each other. I love the way she weaves other people’s narratives into the points she makes and invites readers to learn from what can go right as much as what can go wrong.
TTA: What are you looking forward to in the coming year?
TV: The Jewish New Year is right around the corner! September will be here faster than you think. It’s not just about celebration, although that’s a big part of it, it’s a whole season of self-reflection, forgiveness, and accountability. What I love about it is that it acknowledges that hardship and joy are equally likely and that even when we’ve made mistakes and missed the mark, we’re still worth it and can grow and change. So, I’m looking forward to growing, learning, working on my book and all the things I don’t even know I’m going to love yet!
Thanks so much for having me, I love you guys and I can’t wait until the next time we see each other!
Topics Covered: Bilingualism, Japanese Culture & Traditions, Literacy, Global Community.
Summary: This alphabetical rhyming book provides multiple languages and a short poem on each page, and is jam packed with information about literacy, culture, and language! The book explains how some letters that are used in English don’t even exist in the Japanese alphabet, and how the letters are not formed the same way either. There is an Author’s Preface and pronunciation guide in the beginning, as well as cultural facts about Japan scattered throughout the pages.
The illustrations are absolutely adorable and have a watercolor feel to them. They do a great job showing life in the unnamed main character’s life, and demonstrate how many kids all over the world live a relatively similar life but there are special parts of Japan that are different than the life of most American kids.
The preface is very detailed and explains the different languages and alphabets being used in the book. In the book there is English, Kanji, Kana, and Romaji which is a Romanized form of writing in Japanese. Overall, this is a fabulous book to begin teaching a different language to young children!
What letter does you name begin with? Is that letter in the Japanese word, or is it one of the tricky ones that doesn’t exist?
What was unique about the Japanese student’s life that you don’t do?
What do you think you do everyday that isn’t pictured in the book?
Do you speak any other languages? What about any of your family members?
Continuing the Conversation:
Pick your favorite letter in the alphabet and see how many different languages you can use to list all the words you know! If everyone in the class picks a different letter, you can make a banner to hang around the room with tons of different languages represented.
Pick up some more books on Japanese from the library, and keep learning!
Depending on the ages of the students and listeners, you can use this as a learning moment and introduce the Japanese Internment that took place in America during WWII. Artist Ruth Asawa was one of these individuals, as well as actor George Takei.
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Both of these humans were pretty hard to track down online! The information provided was found on Amazon.
Michelle Haney Brown is passionate about promoting intercultural awareness, especially by means of providing insight about the Japanese culture, as compared to the American. Currently, she incorporates cross-cultural lessons and fun into teaching Japanese language and culture.
In preschool, Michelle befriended an elderly German couple in the neighborhood whom no one else could understand. In high school, her best friend was an immigrant from Russia and not the typical student at a Houston suburban (and rather cowboy) high school. Michelle went on to study abroad for a year in a Japanese high school and live with a Japanese family. She fell in love with not only the Japanese culture and language but also with the foil that the whole experience provided to her cultural lenses and way of thinking. In a nutshell, it gave her perspective on her own culture and way of thinking. Michelle says of her work “If I can bring to life the world for youngsters so that they feel that the world is is friendly, fun, and exciting, I will have accomplished my calling.”
Aya is an illustrator inspired by science, nature, and imaginary worlds.
Her work is also influenced by East Asian culture and art — especially that of Korea, where she used to live.
Summary: This book is the definition of adorable. The plot is driven forward by phrases often found in adventure stories, but the illustrations shows a typical school day for the main character. The main character is an unnamed girl, wearing her “armor” (a rainbow sweater) and conquering the challenges she faces bravely and kindly. She takes on the many headed serpent (the school bus), tricks the Guardian of Wisdom (the school librarian with green hair!) and dances in the rain. The girl declares herself the hero of her story, a person who will stand up for her beliefs and search for the light in the darkness. The illustrations are incredible and diverse, featuring many background characters of color, differing gender expressions and religions, though no characters with mobility aids are found. Overwhelmingly positive and tender, the day ends for our character with her sleeping on the couch, head in the lap of an elderly woman which we see in the beginning pages. This atypical family structure is refreshing and normalizing without the audience being beaten over the head with the message. There is no dialogue in between characters, just the declarations of the main character’s inner monologue in which the impacts of are (positively) shown by the illustrations. This book is great for multiple topics, and we love the adventure story language being applied to the typical school day, making it magical and special in it’s own way. Such a great book for everyone to enjoy!
What special clothing item is your armor?
How do you think the main character decided that she would be the hero of her story?
How can you search for the light in the darkness in your life everyday?
Continuing the Conversation:
This book has a lot of language often found in fairy tale adventure stories. What other stories does it remind you of? What are the similarities and how could they be reinterpreted to other situations, like the sweater being armor and the Mountain of Knowledge being a stack of books?
Draw your own fairy tale setting. What would your armor look like? What beasts would you face and how could they be defeated, like using the bubbles to distract the dogs? Everyone is a superhero in their own life, and can be fierce!
About the Author & the Illustrator:
Bea Birdsong is a former teacher whose time in the classroom left a lasting impression of the awesome power of books to educate, entertain, and empower. She is a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and Sisters in Crime. Bea lives in North Carolina with her husband, son, and rescue dog named Bilbo. She spends her free time reading, traveling, and searching for hidden doors to other worlds.
Bea’s debut picture book, I Will Be Fierce, illustrated by Nidhi Chanani, was released on April 23, 2019 from Roaring Brook Press. She is represented by Melissa Edwards of Stonesong Literary Agency.
Nidhi Chanani is a freelance illustrator, cartoonist and writer. After completing her undergrad literature degree at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Nidhi pursued a career in non-profits. The desire to draw kept pulling her away and in 2008 she enrolled in art school (only to drop out a year later). In 2009 she began completing one illustration every day of the week. She called this Every Day Love and developed her narrative style and voice with three years of daily practice. Thus began her art career and business.
Nidhi was born in Calcutta and raised in suburban southern California. She creates because it makes her happy – with the hope that it can make others happy, too. In April of 2012 she was honored by the Obama Administration as a Champion of Change.
She is currently working on her second original graphic novel, Jukebox, with her husband Nick Giordano which is slated for 2021 release. She is an instructor in the Master of Fine Arts, Comics program at the California College of Arts.
Her media appearances include CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360 and BBC Radio. Her work has been featured on the Huffington Post, the Women’s March, My Modern Met, Bored Panda and India Times. Nidhi has worked with Disney, ABC, Airbnb, Sony, Microsoft, State Farm Insurance and a variety of other clients. Her non-fiction comics have appeared in the Nib. Everyday Love Art products are sold in retail shops across the country, including the San Francisco International Airport, Books Inc., and Therapy stores.
Nidhi draws and dreams every day with her husband, daughter and their attention starved cat in the San Francisco Bay Area.