When I saw chef Nathalie Dupree‘s name on the list of authors for the Capital Bookfest, an annual event that features African American books and authors (now expanding from PG County into several communities) , I didn’t really blink. Nathalie is well-respected as a southern food chef, and she can throw down some fried chicken. She’s very honest about her food which makes her a “sista girl” in that circle of southern chefs black and white.
But when I saw that she is jumping into the South Carolina Senate race as a write-in candidate, that’s when I blinked. Maybe 10 times. The 11th hour decision is a challenge to both the Republican candidate DeMint, and the waaay outside over there Democratic nominee Marvin Greene. But her primary target seems to be DeMint who has a comfortable lead on Greene in the polls.
“I’m going to make it clear that Jim DeMint doesn’t care for the people of South Carolina as much as he does for his own ego.”
Nathalie wasn’t the most graceful person in front of the camera for her PBS cooking shows, however, the food made up for it. She knew it, inside out.
“I want to cook his goose,” Ms. Dupree said of Mr. DeMint. “And it’s time to bring home the bacon.”
– from New York Times
Will there be stuffing with the goose?
Read Nathalie’s take and recipe for Skillet Buttermilk Fried Chicken.
The New and Enclosed Arena Stage
Once Arena Stage started their capital campaign to expand their complex, it became part of a larger urban plan for the Southwest waterfront area. At this point the new Mead Center for American Theater holds more than just the landmark Fichandler main stage and Kreeger stage inside the glass enclosure; it is THE LANDMARK for the Southwest Waterfront area.
Imagine — a theater anchoring an urban plan. I’m just happy I won’t meet on-going traffic when I go out the side exits anymore. But where have they put the stage door? I’ll find out when I see “every tongue confess” by Marcus Gardley and featuring Phylicia Rashad. The play will be directed by Kenny Leon in the new Kogod Cradle, an oval shaped 200 seat theater with a fascinating curved entrance — like walking inside a Nautilus shell.
I wonder with such a grand entrance, will I still see Artistic Director Molly Smith at the neighborhood Starbucks. This new stage has definitely put her in a unique orbit in the theater world. And we’re not even talking about New York. Molly may be one of the few who can genuinely say “Who needs it?”
Molly Smith has steered the Arena Stage towards American theater; including new works and the classics. Jaylee and Gilbert Mead bankrolled her vision. They were not theater professionals but loved the stage. Both Meads worked in science. But their fortune was acquired from an inheritance from Gilbert Mead’s father’s estate. Unfortunately, Gilbert Mead died in 2007.
The Washington Post devoted their entire Sunday Arts & Style section (9/26/10) to the new Arena Stage:
Theater critic Peter Marks gives the front page overview; Philip Kennecott looks at the design, planning and the architect Bing Thom of Canada; Jacqueline Trescott introduces the donors who bankrolled the project; Derek Kravitz looks at the big picture for the neighborhood. This section is a keeper for theater geeks.
Live to Read
I got a special “educators” tour of Arena Stage a week ago as part of the introduction of a partnership with the Humanities Council of Washington, DC for the launch of a new initiative, “Live to Read.” The initiative kicks off with a citywide read of “Ruined” by the Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage. Nottage was at the educators event to talk about the play which she wrote after visiting with and interviewing Congolese women refugees in Uganda. The women were ages 20 – 70 years old; all had stories of being raped, said Nottage.
“Ruined” is set in the rain forest of the Congo where a shrewd woman entrepreneur is serving both sides — the brutal government and the “ruined” tortured women — in the middle of the country’s civil war. Though officially, the Congo’s civil war is over, Nottage says, in reality it goes on and its most tortured victims are women and children. The violence continues because of turf battles over natural resources, particularly coltan which is used in electronic products including cell phones.
A week before the tour, I was working with ITVS and a coalition of NGOs in the Rayburn House Office Building where Rose Mapendo, a Congolese refugee and survivor, told her story. Mapendo is the subject in Pushing the Elephant, a documentary by Beth Davenport and Elizabeth Mandel. Mapendo is now an activist and advocate to stop violence against women. Pushing the Elephant will be shown as part of ITVS Community Cinema and on the PBS documentary series “Independent Lens” during the Arena Stage run of “Ruined” and the “Live to Read” initiative.
The good news about public education is everyone’s talking about, and fighting over it these days. For a long-long time it was mighty quiet out there. Those were the good old days when the white collar working classes could afford private school and Harvard or Yale too. Not so much now with lay-offs, credit card debt, out-of-control mortgages, and rising college costs. Public education is now an attractive and affordable option in these downsized times.
This morning, President Obama appeared on the Today Show for a one-on-one with Matt Lauer for a special report “Education Nation” transmitted live to an audience outside NYC for Q&A. I’d rather feature that link in place of the President’s weekly. I encourage readers to watch/listen to the interview in its entirety, or read the transcript. Already, the soundbytes are sending the topic in a controversial orbit. Headline already: “No DC Schools for Obama Girls.”
Washington, DC has for decades been a testing ground, even battleground for the rise or yet another fall for public education reform. The media soundbytes from this month’s DC primary elections for Mayor (City Council Chair Vincent Gray winning over the incumbent Mayor Adrian Fenty), framed the vote on whether or not DC residents wanted education reform. Are they with smart or stupid. To put any and all outcomes of education reform on the shoulders of one individual, Chancellor Michelle Rhee, was from the beginning a risky proposition for the city and public school students. Kryptonite always lands somewhere. The reactions to the election outcome became part of an inaccurate narrative of the school reform movement. And, in its on-going reach for conflict, colorful characters, and controversy, what better media frame than race to put the election and its implications for school reform in a simple and polarizing box. Because no one with the mic can have a sane and meaningful discussion about race, it’s the conversation that keeps on going without going anywhere.
As someone who was educated in DC Public Schools from pre-school through high school, I’ve got stories that would fit into any narrative of what good schools and teachers can inspire in a student; and bad schools and teachers can inhibit. But there were no debates about it during my enrollment. Magnet schools were gaining traction, and I qualified to attend one. Private schools saved the rest. The majority of DC’s students had no other choices. We made the most of it. And most of all, parents filled in and made sure we didn’t fail in what was labeled a failed system. I went on to college at a prestigious private institution. I have a lot to say on DC’s public education, but I want to bring attention to three op-eds that addressed the city’s election, education reform in DCPS, and the misinformed narratives circulating among the uninformed. I would also add, there’s a lot the Obama administration can learn from the DC election as they set their sites for 2012.
Education Reform: What Michelle Rhee and Adrian Fenty Got Wrongby Michael Lomax was published on The Root. Lomax is President and CEO of the United Negro College Fund. Here’s a quote:
Education reform must also be about communities, because in our country, education is subject to the democratic process. Whether schools are under direct mayoral control or governed by a school board or board of education, voters have the ultimate say. If they aren’t persuaded that education reform is in their best interests, or if the tribunes of reform institute their changes in ways that alienate the people who vote in city elections — even if they are the people who stand to benefit from those changes — the reformers will find their mandate to reform abruptly terminated. That is what Fenty and Rhee discovered.
Natalie Hopkinson, Washington writer and author of the forthcoming Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City was featured in The Atlantic online, the day after the election. Here’s an excerpt.
As a former DCPS PTA mom, I am among the many DC voters who had grown weary of the endless churning in the system. The D.C. public school my child won an out-of boundary “lottery” to attend in the early 2000s had passionate teachers and dedicated families, but inept administration and a dangerously neglected building forced us to leave after three years. We enrolled in a private school just as Rhee came into office in 2007 when the school board was abolished and the mayor was given control of the schools. But we’ve been shopping for a reason to come back into the system ever since.
….among mayoral and council candidates, the person pulling the most votes citywide was [Phil] Mendelson, with 71,704. Gray came in second with 66,526. Fenty, with 54,424 votes, registered fourth behind Kwame Brown, who garnered 62,837 in his winning bid for the council chairman slot.
People pontificating about race in this city, based on parachute jumps into black neighborhoods where they conduct two or three interviews and then scoot back to file reports on what black folks are up to, don’t know what they are talking about.
Phil Mendelson is white and won the primary vote for Councilmember-At-Large.
So before you write DC off, do some homework, hang out with some people who’ve actually attended and graduated from DC public schools. College basketball scholarships expanded in DC thanks to a Harvard-educated physical ed teacher named Edwin Bancroft Henderson. Parents marched for better conditions in schools that were separate and unequal in the 1950s. They went as far as the Supreme Court with several other cases. And Warren Buffett graduated in 1947 from a DC public high school, Woodrow Wilson. And, “yes,” people who’ve been through it can be sensitive about this. There are some gems worth cheering about including a long history of reform in DCPS. But this may not be the time for the city to rest on its laurels. There’s work to be done today from this point forward. But it’s going to require a tremendous investment by the city’s community at large who are willing to see the benefits beyond just personal interests.
Everyone’s got their marching shoes on and heading to Washington, DC. Next one up, One Nation October 2nd. The purpose: Jobs, Justice, and Education for All. Who can’t get with that? Who’s behind this one? The list is so long, it’s best to state who and interests the partners represent:
WHO WE ARE
We are One Nation, born from many, determined to build a more united America – with jobs, justice and education for all.
We are young people, frustrated that society seems willing to spend more locking up our bodies than educating our minds, yet still we find ways to succeed and shine.
We are students and newly-returned veterans – persevering in the face of mounting debt – determined not to be the first generation to end up worse off than our parents.
We are baby boomers and seniors – who saw hope killed in 1968 and will not let the dream of a united America be taken from us again.
We are conservatives and moderates, progressives and liberals, non-believers and people of deep faith, united by escalating assaults on our reason, our environment, and our rights.
We are workers of every age, faith, race, sex, nationality, gender identity, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and ability – who have suffered discrimination but never stopped loving our neighbors, or our nation.
We are American Indians and Alaska Natives – citizens of Native nations – who maintain our cultures, protect our sovereignty, and strength America’s economy.
We are the new immigrants, raising our children in the torchlight of the Statue of Liberty, while confronting the shadows that are bigotry and mass deportations.
We are the native born. We inherited the divided legacies of settlers and American Indians, black slaves and white and Asian indentured servants. And yet, in this moment of shared suffering, we rejoice in newfound friendships and new alliances.
We are people who got thrown out – thrown out of our jobs, schools, houses, farms and small businesses – while Wall Street’s wrongdoers got bailed out. We are families who pray every day – for peace and prosperity; for deliverance from foreclosures; for good jobs to come back to urban and rural America.
We are unemployed workers – forced to watch hopes for bold action dashed – because some Senators threaten filibusters, and other would-be champions fold in fear.
And yet, we are the majority – fueled by hope, not hate. We have the pride, power and determination to keep ourselves – and our country – moving up and out of the valley greed created.
And most importantly – from ensuring women are treated fairly at work, to expanding health care coverage for millions– we have been victorious whenever we worked together. We have proven the only thing we need to succeed is each other.
And so, on 10-2-10, we come back together – to march.
Afterwards, kick off your marching shoes and slip on the dancing shoes with Alice Walker and celebrate the publication of her new book Hard Times Require Furious Dancing at Busboys and Poets (5th & K Streets, NW) from 8 PM – 1 AM. Here’s the blurb (this just in):
Remember, the $50 ticket price includes open bar and food—another $20 covers the price of Alice Walker’s new book HARD TIMES REQUIRE FURIOUS DANCING. The $150 VIP ticket includes a special reception with Ms. Walker, a signed copy of the book, food and premium bar.
Tickets may be purchased here
Feet don’t fail me now!
I’ve been kind of slipping on updating this blog. It’s not that my belief that creative minds and voices have much to contribute to the civic dialogue has diminished. It’s just that creative minds and voices are also preoccupied with activities that are part of that engagement. Last week was a big Hill week for the Hispanic Congressional and Congressional Black Caucuses. I was involved with a Hill screening and briefing for the documentary film Pushing the Elephant to support a bill that addresses violence against women around the globe.
It’s that old life happens between plans thing.
When I clicked on the President’s Weekly this weekend, I thought it was a repeat about the Citizens United Supreme Court decision. Hardly so. What it is is a reminder about the crippling impact anonymous campaign financing on the democratic process. It’s not that the Citizens United decision opened a new frontier in the U.S. political culture. It just sanctioned the bag of dirty tricks by law; and those who benefit are trying to keep it that way. Obviously it’s a sticking point for the President this year. If people are demanding transparency in government why can’t that apply to persons and interests, private, foreign and otherwise that influence government, policy, and governing?
As November’s mid term elections approach, the President’s message unintentionally brings up a discussion about media literacy in the political sphere. What is fact. What is fiction. What is opinion. What words, images, and messages persuade, manipulate or just fall flat. There was a time media literacy was viewed as a retreat by educators from a losing battle in reading literacy. But not so now. Messaging is a constant for anyone who has access to a audio and/or video device, space, public transportation, consumer packages.
The National Association of Media Literacy Education defines “media literacy” as such:
Within North America, media literacy is seen to consist of a series of communication competencies, including the ability to ACCESS, ANALYZE, EVALUATE, and COMMUNICATE information in a variety of forms, including print and non-print messages.
Media literacy empowers people to be both critical thinkers and creative producers of an increasingly wide range of messages using image, language, and sound. It is the skillful application of literacy skills to media and technology messages.
Whereas media literacy asks us to be critical thinkers, the President’s weekly asks us to scrutinize the source, i.e. follow the money trail.
What is clear is that Congress has a responsibility to act. But the truth is, any law will come too late to prevent the damage that has already been done this election season. That is why, any time you see an attack ad by one of these shadowy groups, you should ask yourself, who is paying for this ad? Is it the health insurance lobby? The oil industry? The credit card companies?
Of course, without the benefit of laws that require full disclosure, all we can do is talk to the invisible hand.
Transcript available here.