I struggle this year with the Thanksgiving holiday. Standing Rockis on my mind and coupling the injustices with the mythology of “The First Thanksgiving” makes me want to throw my pumpkin pie at the wall. November has been that kind of month when the divisions are crystal clear. They were always there. There was too much window dressing to notice. (That’s for another blog post.) As Rev. Dr. Rob Hardies of All Souls Church Unitarian in Washington, DC asked in his sermon Sunday “What does it mean to be people of the Welcome Table in the age of the wall?”
I found something to put this “holiday” into right relation — Lincoln’s official 1863 Thanksgiving proclamation. There’s no mention of pilgrims, Indians or pumpkins. It was written and signed in the time of civil war. So I’ll look to Lincoln this Thanksgiving. Hope we’ll all give this proclamation — in whatever faith or belief we hold dear — a chance.
Lincoln’s words can be our Thanksgiving prayer.
And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to his tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.
The day before the 2nd anniversary of the Hurricane Sandy disaster, I attended a reception and screening of the documentary THIS TIME NEXT YEAR at the National Building Museum in Washington, DC. Though the film website opens with a word about “climate change,” the film itself makes no mention or claims about “why” Sandy happened, but what happened after in the community of Long Beach Island. Filmmakers Jeff Reichert and Farihah Zaman were present for the Q&A. Also joining them was Joe Mangino, a businessman and subject in the film, who “stepped up” and initiated a community rebuilding effort on Long Beach Island that’s now evolved into a non-profit. This event was an opportunity to reinforce a message about “resilience.” Resilience is actually the theme of the documentary and part of an impact campaign to get coastal communities via schools thinking about and acting on preparing for a natural disaster. [That goes for any community. Washington, DC, usually on the tail end of tropical storms and hurricanes, is now a candidate for earthquakes.]
The filmmakers, who took up residency at Long Beach Island to make the film, seem keenly aware of the precarious situation that can happen at any moment to any person. Reichert remembers the family trips, holidays and vacations on Long Beach Island; Zaman is originally from Bangladesh.
Long Beach Island is located along the New Jersey shore. It’s the place for summer flings and all the recreational activities that a beach community provides. In fact, before Sandy, life was a beach for many of the residents. It’s a different reality today. The people are still recovering from the hurricane damage. Resilience, which is part of a community effort, has helped them through the worst. And ironically Sandy created a bridge between some of the more affluent north island residents, and their middle class neighbors on the other end.
Hurricane Sandy hit the northeastern coast including New York City with such a force, it put the whole nation on notice and exposed the vulnerability of our infrastructure in one of its most densely populated areas. The American Society of Engineers has given the U.S. an overall D+ on their infrastructure report card. They estimate that $3.6 trillion is needed for investment. If the infrastructure is weak in normal situations, what about during natural disasters. Are we ready for that? Are we “on our own”?
Californians are probably the most astute people in terms of disaster preparedness. They know “The big one’s comin’” It’s just a matter of when. I have friends with barrels of supplies including canned food, some cash, and water stored without being labeled as a paranoid survivalist waiting for the apocalypse. The east coast, not so much. Some of us in the urban areas may own a shovel for snow, kitty litter, duct tape, a piggy bank full of nickels, maybe a flashlight and a few candles.
It’s no accident THIS TIME NEXT YEAR was screened while down the hall was the National Building Museum’s DESIGNING FOR DISASTER exhibit. The exhibit includes objects, similations, and testimonies from major U.S. natural disasters – reminders to us all that it’s not a question of “if” but “when.” In addition to the loss of live, another tragedy is the loss of community connection.
The evening couldn’t end without a word about “climate change” or the NGO’s and government’s abilities to effectively respond to persons devistated by natural disasters. During the Q&A Mangino’s FEMA and Red Cross stories resemble anyone’s encounters with relief programs and initiatives. It takes resilience to rise above it in order for a community to get through the worst. Re-building alone does not always solve the problem.
Re-building brings its share of opportunists and profiteers. But the good news is there are solutions, and engineers are putting them into action in various locations. The rest may be up to the resilience of communities. But that depends on communities knowing that their infrastructure is strong, that help and support are available without the enormous hassles, and somebody really cares.
Oddly, some of the Long Beach Island residents in the film have taken on a Zen-like perspective about the impermanence of the island as sea levels continue to rise. “Will our grandchildren be able to live on Long Beach Island?” These residents may not say “climate change” in the film, but they acknowledge it for now as an almost intimate reality.
Resilience may simply mean being prepared for the worst while living within the realities of the moment.
I want to give a SHOUT OUT to all the Electric Vehicle Associations across the country. Last month I attended a meeting for the EVA/DC. These were not just people showing off shiny new cars. They were showing us the future. Where was this group when I was looking for silicon cells for my solar energy science project? When I asked the question, someone held up a silicon cell chip. Just goes to show, it’s important to get “plugged in” to people in the know. EVA members are also on top of alternative energy and of course the electric vehicles. Some of them have converted their gas vehicles to electric. And yet skepticism still reigns as gas prices hit $4 + dollars a gallon.
REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR, a new documentary by Chris Paine (who brought you “Who Killed the Electric Car”) will get you pumped up about electric cars again. ITVS Community Cinema is hosting free preview screenings around the country before the film’s broadcast on the PBS series “Independent Lens.” Here in the nation’s capital, we have two Community Cinema screenings — March 11 at Busboys and Poets; and March 18 at the Washington DCJCC. Both screenings will have electric cars displayed outside courtesy of EVA/DC. The Environmental Film Festival is also showing REC March 14 (tickets are for sale for that one).
I’m re-posting the Community Cinema-DC post, “How Sweet is Revenge” about the recent news that GM was putting the pause on production of the Chevy Volt.
Recently, the Detroit Free Press reported that GM suspended production of the Chevy Volt for 5 weeks. Apparently, Volts were selling well, better than the Nissan Leaf, but not well enough. Then a few days ago, the Volt made news again. It won the European Car of the Year. What a break! However, it’s still iffy on whether GM will revive the Volt with it’s $30,000+ price tag. Lots of questions and speculation continue to circulate about electric vehicles making the electric car an object of mystery and myth.
You can see the Chevy Volt and judge for yourself this Sunday, March 11 at Busboys and Poets. A member of the Electric Vehicle Association of Greater Washington will display a 2011 Chevy Volt at 4 PM outside the venue as a preview for the 5 PM free Community Cinema screening of REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR. Busboys and Poets is located at 2021 14th Street, NW at the corner of V. A Nissan Leaf will be parked outside the Q Street entrance of the Washington DCJCC March 18 for the 3 PM Community Cinema Cafe screening of REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR. The Washington DCJCC is located at 1529 16th Street, NW at the corner of Q. The film will be followed by a Q&A with members and electric car owners of the EVA/DC. Be prepared for myth busters and tons of information about energy and the benefits of having an electric car.
Read a review of REVENGE OF THE ELECTRIC CAR by Alexander Blosser (that also promotes the Busboys and Poets screening) in the Washington Examiner.
In 1990, the Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa (“Seven Samuri,” “Rashomon,” “Ran,” ) wrote and directed a series of short films based on his own dreams. “Mount Fuji in Red” is one of the “dream tales.”
In our real and present world news reports say the earthquake crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant reactor is leaking radioactive water into the sea. According to the Wall Street Journal a sticky resin is being applied, an unorthodox approach, to prevent contamination. They will use barges to carry the resin:
The oceanside city of Shizuoka, 100 miles down the coast from the plant, said Friday that it had agreed to lease plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. its 450-foot-long so-called mega-barge, which the town uses as a platform for fishing and taking in views of Mount Fuji.
I’ve always known Tracye as a vegan, health educator, and one of the most attractive energetic, and positive people you’ll meet in the capital city. As an omnivore, I credit Tracye’s pluses to her choices and priorities especially when it comes to food. I was honored when Tracye asked me to host her book launch for By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat. This wasn’t going to be a food fight. Vegetarian and vegan food have come a long way from the days of home yogurt makers, juicers, and alfalfa sprout salads. Today there’s more variety. More choices. And much more flavor.
Tracye is the pioneering vegetarian in her family. As a 20-year and counting vegetarian and now vegan, Tracye is bringing a story of hope a wider audience. Tracye received her masters in public health nutrition from New York University. She’s created and facilitated healthy eating workshops especially for people living in communities where access to farmers markets and fresh produce is limited. She’s also the co-founder of Black Vegetarians New York as well as the Black Vegetarians website for the U.S.’s 3-million-plus African American vegetarians. As director of the first government funded vegan nutrition program, Tracye has been a passionate advocate for getting people on a healthy track with a plant-based diet.
2010 was a big year for Tracye McQuirter and what better way to bring the year to a close for eclectique916.com but with an eclectique interview to get a fresh start on 2011. And btw, there’s a recipe at the end for “All Hail the Kale Salad.” Serve it up with some black-eyed peas and rice.
Happy New Year!
———– E916: 2010 was a big year for you. What’s happened since the publication of the book “By Any Greens Necessary”?
TMQ: The book has received tremendous support. It’s now a national best-seller, and we’re into a second printing. I’m very excited about that! I think people are very interested in eating healthier and are seeking out good resources to help them do that.
For me personally, writing this book has changed everything. First, while I was writing it, there was nothing else in the world I would rather have been doing—even through all the exquisite joy and pain of the writing process. I was doing exactly what I wanted to be doing and that was an incredible feeling.
Then, when I actually held the book in my hands and in a bookstore for the first time, I cried both times. It was so satisfying to my soul to have achieved this lifelong dream of writing a book.
And finally, to receive such positive testimonials from people about how the book is changing their lives is an overwhelming honor.
So for me, my paradigm has shifted. I can truly see that my goals are limitless and attainable, and so is my ability to create positive change in the world. I encourage everyone who wants to write, to write!
E916: Your journey as a vegan began in college. What were your struggles at that time in making your decision? What was the defining moment when you said “you weren’t turning back”?
TMQ: During my sophomore year at Amherst College, our Black Student Union brought Dick Gregory to campus to talk about the economic, political, and social state of African Americans. But instead, he flipped the script and talked about the plate of black America.
What I remember most was that he graphically traced the path of a hamburger from a cow on a factory farm, to a slaughterhouse, to a fast food place, to a clogged artery, to a heart attack.
At the end of the lecture, I sat there in a state of shock, especially since his lecture was right before lunch. Well, that day I immediately gave up hamburgers and hot dogs. But that only lasted a few days. I decided that Dick Gregory was crazy and nobody in their right mind gives up meat. But even though I went back to eating hamburgers and hot dogs, there was something in the back of my mind that made me wonder if what Dick Gregory was saying was true.
Plus, I gained 25 pounds my freshman year in college from eating all the unhealthy food I wanted because I was away from home for the first time. So at the rate I was going, I was probably well on my way to that eventual heart attack that Dick Gregory talked about.
I remember calling my mother and middle sister after the lecture and telling them that I thought I should become a vegetarian. Now, in college, I was questioning a lot of things. I was questioning imperialism, sexism, racism, homophobia, classism—all of these “isms” I was studying really for the first time. I was actively seeking to free myself from these oppressive cultural norms. So I was open to questioning what this society dictated I should eat and discovering for myself what was healthiest.
A few months after the lecture, I went home for the summer, back to Washington, DC, and I read everything I could find in Martin Luther King library and the Library of Congress about whether eating meat was unhealthy. And my mother and middle sister read the same books, too. And we, in fact, discovered that what Dick Gregory was saying was true. So by the end of the summer, we all decided to become vegetarians.
It would take another two years for me to let go of cheese. As I say in the book, cheese was my kryptonite! That decision was mind over matter, because I loved the taste of cheese. I had to finally decide that the momentary pleasure of a piece of cheese in my mouth was not worth the health risks. When I was able to make that decision after a two-year struggle, the desire for cheese eventually just went away.
E916: Besides not eating meat or dairy, what did you notice about yourself when you became vegan?
TMQ: Well, over the past twenty years I’ve noticed that my skin glows, my eyes are clear, I look younger than my 44 years, my weight has remained steady, my menses is light and cramp-free.
I’ve also evolved into an ethical vegan, which means that I also don’t wear the skin or hair of animals. This was totally unexpected. I even resisted changing when I started to become aware of the cruelty involved in that process. I just did not want to give up my leather, wool, suede, silk, and fur—at all! But there came a point when I could not justify perpetuating violence for the sake of fashion. Having said that, it is challenging at times to satisfy my vegan fashionista side, especially when it comes to shoes*. Fortunately, though, the fashion industry is now becoming more vegan-friendly, right along with the food industry.
Being vegan has also led me to practice yoga, to meditate, and to develop my spirituality. I also feel I’m giving love back to the universe by choosing to live and promote a healthy, vegan way of life.
E916: What vegans or vegetarians do you admire and why?
TMQ: My mother inspires me the most. She became vegan when I did more than 20 years ago and she was already in her 50s. That was no small feat for a woman from South Carolina.
Today she’s 74, has excellent health, exercises vigorously six days a week, and still has an hourglass figure. As I say in the book, my mom is healthy and phat!
And of my mother’s thirteen siblings who have survived into their senior years, she is the only one who has no health issues at all. Not to mention that both of her parents died from chronic diseases. So she has single-handedly changed that entire health paradigm. I think that’s extraordinary.
E916: Is Michelle Obama’s White House garden and her efforts to curb childhood obesity a boost or nod to what you’re doing?
TMQ: Michelle Obama is shining a spotlight on childhood obesity that is absolutely critical. If we don’t make dramatic changes in what we eat and how we exercise, this could be the first generation of children that will not outlive their parents.
I spent the past year leading food demonstrations and nutrition workshops on the benefits of healthy plant-based eating to DC public school kids, parents, and teachers—and I know how valuable and practical this approach is. So I hope to work with Michelle Obama to promote plant-based foods as part of her initiatives to prevent and reverse childhood obesity.
E916: What is the best vegan dish you make? Don’t be modest.
TMQ: Well, I can say that THE most popular potluck dish I make is All Hail the Kale Salad. Runners up include Mediterranean Curry Chickpeas, Spicy Black Beans, Spicy Collards, and Strawberry Cheesecake (all vegan, of course!).
E916: Got a recipe you’d like to share for the interview?
TMQ: Sure! Here’s the recipe for All Hail the Kale Salad:
2 or 3 bunches of curly kale, washed and chopped or torn into small pieces
1 small red onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
4 cherry tomatoes, halved
2 or 3 TB Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 TB nutritional yeast (optional)
Cayenne pepper to taste
Place the kale in a large bowl and pour the olive oil over it. Toss with salad tongs to make sure all leaves are coated. Add in the rest of the ingredients and toss well. If possible, let marinate at room temperature for about an hour and a half before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.