I TURN ON THE FAUCET and baptize the collards under ice-cold water for several seconds. I pick the leaves apart with my 12-year-old hands, casting the stems to the side.
A few feet away, my mother reheats her coffee in the microwave and then, between sips, crumbles cornbread and chicken liver into a large, sage-colored bowl. The familiar scent of sweet potato pies dances around the kitchen, along with the unmistakable laughter of my mother on the phone with one of her girlfriends.
Later, I’ll wash and dry the countertop before anointing it with a blanket of white flour in preparation for my mother to make the rolls—my mother’s grandmother’s recipe and the most relished part of the Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. To this day, my mother is one of a few family members who has recorded the secret, something she has always carried with pride.
Some of my first memories about food are stories like this one, at home with my mother conjuring her magic in the kitchen, creating something wonderful out of simple ingredients, as is our legacy as black women. Her food was more than just food; it was nourishment.
Before seminary, before I found language for my womanist theology and politics, before Trayvon Martin and Renisha McBride ushered me into the movement, my hands were actively developing the muscle memory that would later fuel my healing. It took me 15 years to realize that during those times in our kitchen with my mother, I was developing practical tools for my own survival and healing: cutting, peeling, dicing, skinning—not just kitchen duties, but small acts of self-determination.
My addiction to ‘non-food’
I began eating food in secret in high school, mindlessly devouring mini Snickers bars, ice cream, pizza rolls, and French fries in the parking lot at McDonald’s as a way to comfort myself and to avoid what I was truly feeling. When I was stressed or feeling depressed about school or what was going on with my family, I would stuff my face with junk food, making sure to hide the wrappers beneath my mattress.
On the eve of Yom Kippur and Pope Francis’ arrival to the United States, more than 100 Christian, Muslim, and Jewish faith leaders gathered at the National Press Club to participate in the Interfaith Religious Leaders Summit: End Hunger by 2030, hosted by Bread for the World. Participants shared a meal around tables as they reflected on their faith traditions around hunger and poverty, discussed how to best achieve a positive shift in U.S. national priorities by 2017, and publicly committed themselves and their faith communities to help end hunger by 2030.
The summit began with a reception during which everyone — from heads of churches to CEOs of faith-based organizations — shared introductions with new partners and reunited with old friends. Rev. Carlos Malavé of Christian Churches Together greeted everyone with a welcome.
“Tonight we come together as people of faith. If we gather together, as we are tonight, and we commit to each other in this task, we will certainly achieve everything that God is calling us to do,” he said.
On Wednesday during his weekly address, Pope Francis condemned consumerism and the "culture of waste" especially pertaining to food. Wednesday was also the day the United Nations launched an anti-food waste campaign to mark World Environment Day. The UN’s Food and Agriculture Organizatio estimates 1.3 billion tons of food are lost or wasted every year. The Washington Post reports:
“Throwing away food is like stealing from the table of those who are poor and hungry,” he said during his weekly audience in St. Peter’s Square.
Read more here.
On Monday, Olivier De Schutter, U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food, submitted his report Gender and Food Security to the U.N. Human Rights Council, adding to the mountains of evidence that if you empower women with education and independent rights, they can substantially, cost-effectively, and generationally reduce hunger and malnutrition. The Guardian's Poverty Matters Blog reported:
The notion that gender equality can play an important role in reducing hunger and malnutrition has gained increasing traction in development circles. The UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation claimed in its 2010-11 State of Food and Agriculture report that equal access to agricultural resources could reduce world hunger by 12-17%. Gender and food security also came under the spotlight in the 2012 edition of the World Bank's flagship annual report, where it was argued that parity in areas including landrights, employment and political representation could improve development outcomes.
These ideas are not new. Obliged to raise children, care for sick and elderly people, and run households – work that, valued in monetary terms, would be equivalent to 15% of GDP in low-income countries, rising to 35% in middle-income countries – it has long been argued that women are being denied education opportunities, marginalising them both economically and politically. The challenge lies in convincing policymakers to do something about these multiple challenges.
Says De Schutter:
"We must address how gender roles are being defined within the family and who makes the decisions in government. ...We must refuse to take existing gender roles as givens, and instead allow women to shift the burden to men;where possible, giving women access to more opportunities and better training and education, and exposure to something other than the traditional responsibilities they have been assuming."
"If local NGOs and women's organisations and unions mobilise, using the report to put pressure on the government from below, that will be even more effective than international pressure."
By the time President Obama walked off the stage at Chicago’s McCormick Place after delivering his acceptance speech early Wednesday morning, pundits already were screaming HERE COMES THE FISCAL CLIFF!
And while it might have been a nice idea to take a collective breath after such a divisive election season before new screeching began, the pundits were not wrong.
Be warned: The Fiscal Cliff approaches. On Jan. 2, 2013, to be exact.
Now, I am many things, but an economist (or even a person remotely comfortable with numbers) is not one of them. So let me explain to those of you who are like me, in the simplest terms possible, what this proverbial cliff is all about.
In the wake of the debt ceiling crisis last summer, Congress and President Obama agreed to enter into negotiations to enact a 10-year deficit reduction package in excess of $1.2 trillion.
If an agreement could not be reached, a mandatory, across-the-board reduction in spending (also known as “sequester” or “sequestration”) would occur. All discretionary and entitlement spending -- with a few exceptions -- would be subject to sequestration....
Under sequestration, the U.S. foreign aid that has made such a tremendous difference in Ethiopia and in the lives of countless millions of desperately poor Africans (and others) is in grave jeopardy.
In an OpEd that appeared on POLITICO Monday, Mike Huckabee, the former Republican governor of Arkansas, and Blanche Lincoln, the former Democratic senator from Arkansas -- who together co-chair ONE Vote 2012, a non-partisan campaign to make global health and extreme poverty foreign policy priorities in the 2012 presidential election, wrote about the importance of maintaining U.S. foreign aid to the developing world that has helped make significant improvements in the health and sustainability of myriad nations, including many on the continent of Africa.
They wrote, in part:
It might come as a surprise to learn that less than one percent of the U.S. budget is spent on foreign assistance. It might even be shocking to discover that, despite this relatively small amount, these funds are literally saving millions of lives and improving the lives of many more millions of people.
For example, American investments in cost-effective vaccines will help save nearly 4 million children’s lives from preventable diseases such as pneumonia and diarrhea over the next five years. We’ve also helped to deliver 290 million mosquito nets to Malaria-stricken countries, and put 46 million children in school for the very first time. And thanks to the leadership of Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, 8 million HIV/AIDS patients now have access to life-saving treatments, up from just 300,000 a decade ago, making an AIDS-free generation a real possibility within our lifetimes.