This week, First Lady Michelle Obama welcomed Rachel Robinson (wife of Jackie Robinson), cast and filmmakers of the new Jackie Robinson biopic “’42” to the White House for a “Film Workshop for Students.” Personally, I wouldn’t call this a workshop when students aren’t holding and operating cameras, writing scripts, or rehearsing/reviewing scenes. So this post will rename it a “Filmmakers Session for Students.” Maybe someone on the “’42” team will say something that will inspire a future filmmaker, actor, writer, producer, set designer, or even baseball player. I’m placing my bets on Rachel Robinson.
Read between the lines in the First Lady’s testimonial opening remarks as she hails Rachel Robinson and the story of the film. These two women are in the circle of historical “racial firsts.” And I’m sure Michelle Obama was not just talking about Rachel and Jackie Robinson when she describes the taunts, name calling, and verbal abuse from the stands. Listen carefully. She’s telling US something.
The actor playing Jackie Robinson is Chadwick Boseman. I was introduced to Chad in ’99 when he co-starred in my first full-length play Iola’s Letter about Ida B. Wells and the launch of her anti-lynching crusade in 1892. Ida may not have been a first, but she most definitely joins Michelle and Rachel’s circle of black women who’ve had to take the heat. Ida was taking the heat on her own, and packing it as well. “Iola’s Letter” was written at the request of Vera J. Katz, professor of drama at Howard. She was approved by her department to direct “a reading.” But it turned out to be a performance, fully staged, fully costumed, and a set — the actors memorized the lines and carried the scripts in their hands to stick to the original bargain. Eight performances readings were scheduled for the black box theater. A ninth had to be added to accomodate audience enthusiasm (the 8 were sold out). ’99 turned out to be a great season. Here’s a clip from Act I, scene 1 from a the fairly damaged VHS recording. I hear you Marty Scorsese (2013 NEH Jefferson Lecture).
No fees or purchase required to enter. Home and amateur bakers 18 years and up residing in the Washington, DC metropolitan area only have to submit a pie recipe (crust and filling) and the pie story. 12 semifinalists will compete in the first public judging held at Martha’s Table. The final five round will be at Eatonville Restaurant. A portion of the proceeds from the contest support Martha’s Table, the 2013 beneficiary.
First prize for the winning baker is $500, your winning dessert featured on the Eatonville Restaurant menu, $250 gift card from King Arthur Flour, and a 3 hour consultation with Operation: Eatery on getting their own baking business started on the right foot.
The Makes-Me-Wanna SHOUT! Baking Challenge is creating community around food by baking and making memories.
My interest in state dinners are all about details: protocols, attire, guest list, entertainment, menu. I’m collecting a little data from last night’s dinner honoring Chinese President Hu Jintao.
First Lady Michelle Obama looked FABULOUS
This dress outshines everything on the red carpet of the Golden Globes Sunday. (IMO)
House Alexander McQueen produced this stunning gown. The hands on-designer is creative director Sarah Burton. From a cultural perspective, the color was perfect – red, symbol of fire, courage, the south, fortune, success, passion, fertility, happiness. Red is good. Red is great! Red looks fabulous on the First Lady.
Blurb from NY Times Cathy Horyn: Made for the McQueen’s 2011 resort collection, the style originally came with short sleeves, which Mrs. Obama evidently had altered to suit her taste. Most of all, her choice had a just enough pomp to signal the importance of this state dinner.
UPDATE: This just in from Robin Givhan, now culture and style editor for The Daily Beast/Newsweek. Robin is settling into her new job after 15 years as fashion editor for The Washington Post where she became the first fashion journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize. Robin published her first article for today’s The Daily Beast. And I’ll quote:
In Mrs. Obama’s considered fashion message, her full-skirted dress, from a British design house worn in celebration of a Chinese president, struck a blow for creativity. In grand and sweeping terms, one could argue that it symbolized the ability of a designer’s imagination to cross borders, connect different cultures, and ultimately express itself in a singular moment of beauty.
Yes, those are human rights protesters you hear outside the White House gates. I guess that gave the Chinese president a little taste of our “free speech” customs.
It’s no accident that Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of American Vogue and designer Vera Wang (who has design houses in China) were on the guest list. Part of the talks included intellectual property issues. Fashion, IT and entertainment have been the commercial victims of China’s casual acquaintance with copyright, especially when the country’s national appetites for designer labels and the latest media gadgets and block busters are on the rise with a growing consumer class.
Two former U.S. Presidents were guests: Jimmy Carter and William Jefferson “Bill” Clinton (the Secretary of State’s date).
But this didn’t deter American business tycoons from attempting to get an audience with President Hu even if the Speaker of the House John Boehner declined attending the state dinner in favor of a meeting with Chinese president on his “Hill turf. Afterwards, President Hu goes to Chicago.
Dinner was in the Blue Room of the White House.
The official menu from the official program (interesting reading):
Surf-and-Turf, pears, spinach. This suspiciously resembles the Food & Folklore menu I posted yesterday. Hmmm.
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.
This was a big month for DC’s young artists. This week, the President’s Commission on the Arts and Humanities awarded Young Playwrights Theatera Youth Program Award. Young playwright Mariana Pavon Sanchez received the award on behalf of YPT from First Lady Michelle Obama. Mariana is the author of the play, “Mariana’s Wish” about a young woman who longs to visit her mother in Nicaragua, but must first convince her father to give his permission. Mentors of Minorities in Education Inc. was the second DC-based group to receive an award. Gee, I remember receiving their grant applications when I was program director at the Humanities Council of Washington, DC back in the day. It’s always great to see organizations you’ve known since the beginning get applause.
Since my last September issues, I’ve given Bazaar thumbs up on diversity in their fashion spread with real people (still needs a little work with models…but I digress).
I recall former social secretary Desiree Rogers saying earlier this year that the White House and the First Lady’s office would focus on encouraging arts professionals to mentor young artists. Whereas Jacqueline Kennedy put a spotlight on arts that inspire, this White House wants to focus on artists that aspire to greatness.
I can testify that I have been inspired by peers, especially the ones a grade or more ahead of me, who aspired to be great artists. I would watch them receive their accolades saying to myself, “that’s going to be me.” In some instances I achieved, in others, I had to chalk it up to a “teachable moment.” But if there was a First Lady in the White House as supportive and enthusiastic about young artists as Michelle Obama when I was in high school, I definitely would’ve aspired to that special invitation.