Monet Noelle Marshall's face with the text "Buy My Soul and Call It Art"

What is a soul worth? Do I have to answer that?

Not a question I thought I would be contemplating on a Saturday afternoon in downtown Durham

But I was. And it was uncomfortable.

After nearly an hour of witnessing, absorbing, and engaging with the performers of Buy My Soul And Call It Art inside the Living Arts Collective, I found myself sitting across from Monét Noelle Marshall – the installation’s creator and director. With her hands gently folded on the table in front of her, she asked me a simple question: “What is my art worth to you today?”

Monet Noelle Marshall's face with the text "Buy My Soul and Call It Art"

I like to believe that I’ve developed a stronger ability to identify and name systems of oppression and racism. I’m grateful for thought-leaders like Monét to remind this privileged cisgender white woman (me) that, in fact, I’m far from being “woke.” Scene after scene throughout the show revealed the complex web of entertainment, art, media — even the nonprofit sector — and how the white dominant culture co-opts black artists, ideas, and identities. Sometimes covertly. And sometimes in plain sight.

In the opening portion, we witnessed a young Black man performing through dance in an enclosed space; the walls were see-through yet not penetrable. There were slots, like mail slots in doors, on walls adjacent to this box (containment, confinement). And we were each given paper money to spend during our time in the exhibit. So, one person walked forward and slipped some of their paper money into one of the slots. The goal: giving a tip to the performer. A few more folks walked up and put their paper money into one of the two slots — I ended up making the choice to do that too.

But, none of the paper money ended up in this performer’s space. He looked around for it then up at us, How could the dollar bills not be there? We were then led to the other side of the installment to see two white young nonprofit professionals in their own containers, the floors littered with paper money. Yet, they complained bitterly about how the lack of funds meant fewer resources for them to distribute to the “inner city kids” — programs would have to be cut. What could they do with a donation of just $35?

Gut-punch times a 1,000 for me at this moment.

I cannot do Monét’s work justice with my words; and I don’t want to overshare in hope that she will be able to bring this powerful work to more places in the Triangle and beyond.

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Grateful to all of these talented arists and performers who made this exhibit happen

It is too easy to go through this world and accept what is at face value, especially in regards to the elements of our culture. Art, music, theater, dance, film, writing. Who has the power, in these worlds, to be seen and heard? Who is rewarded? Who is praised and acknowledged? Last year’s #OscarsSoWhite was, in my recent memory, one of the first times many people started to pay attention to the, as Indy Week writer Kevin J. Rowsey II coins, the “problematic relationship between black art and the arts and entertainment industry.” 

It can’t stop with outrage at one awards show. This is an on-going battle to control and disseminate media and seek financial gain, fame, notoriety. But don’t think that there’s nothing we can do to change this. Absolutely we can. It requires us to be intentional and do the work to use our resources in ways that support diverse, equitable, and inclusive cultural outlets.

I am committing to seeking out and supporting spaces that not only promote the work of black artists but center black artistry. I am committed to actively reading more written works by people of color; spending my money to support black and brown musicians, painters, illustrators, songwriters, filmmakers — whatever medium I elect to consume. This show also re-ignited my flame to tackle the problematic elements of the nonprofit sector. Yes, that will most certainly be a future blog post.

Earlier this year, I shared my quest to become a more mindful consumer. This is another avenue for me and for you to walk. I certainly get to benefit from the talent, hardwork, and skills of black artists.

The question is: do they get to benefit from my consumption? Or does that funnel back to those in power, those who hold the purse strings?

Here is additional coverage of Monèt Noelle Marshall & Buy My Soul and Call It Art

What would a world without racism look like?

Breathing is a radical act.

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to be a part of an anti-racist yoga convergence, led by two social justice advocates, yogis, and powerful women:  Michelle Johnson and Patty Adams. The two hours began by each instructor sharing their Dharma talk with us – an emotional and moving grounding on why this work matters and how yoga provides a place to practice skills critical to movement building in the efforts to eradicate white supremacy.

Sharing from her experience as a person of color, Michelle’s words stirred within me feelings of shame, guilt, and fierce determination. She encouraged the white people in the room to be mindful on how we are waking up to being a part of the racial justice movement. She noted the tension between the budding excitement of white allies and agitators to the sheer exhaustion experienced by people of color as they have been waiting for us. It’s not as if this entrenched system of racism popped up overnight. Decades upon decades of systematic oppression, from the very founding of our nation, have fueled a society built on the backs of black and brown people. And as more folks, particularly white people, join this effort, it is imperative we recognize that while it’s great we’re here now, we cannot allow that to overshadow the everyday trauma experienced by people of color in our lives and in our communities.

The idea that ‘breathing is a radical act’ was new to me. Oppression succeeds only if people never reach their full potential – their space becomes smaller and smaller, essentially cutting off their ability to breathe and exist. Yoga is all about the breath. It allows us to practice discernment. It allows us to move closer towards full integration of our entire selves. We move in ways that re-negotiate our own boundaries, climbing towards that state of calm yet expanded and energized.

As Patty noted, yoga provides an opportunity to bring all of us in a place together. And we have to recognize the risk it takes for many people to be in that space. As a white person, I have to seek to understand what privilege to not have to think twice about participating in such a practice.

After the Dharma talks, we spent the next 45 minutes on our mats, moving from the floor to standing and then returning to our backs, maintaining the breath through each sequences. We sought balance and strength; quieted our minds; secured our intentions; and rooted ourselves in the power of healing and compassion. If we stopped showing up during that time together, we would let the rest of the people in the room down.

Finally, we ended by reflecting with a partner near us about what our next step would be to crate a world where racism didn’t exist. I talked about my need to let go of any inner fears of “rocking boats” when it comes to exchanging dialogue with people in my life, particularly white people, about racism in our culture, institutions, and within ourselves. I talked about the importance of asking my friends of color: “what do you need from me?” And I need to continue to grow and learn more about systemic racism and oppression; I need to listen – really listen – to what is being said and unsaid about injustices taking place in our world. And I need to always reflect on what impact my words and actions are having on dismantling racism. I cannot be a leader in this work if I am contributing to maintaining white supremacy.

I’m so grateful to Michelle and Patty for bringing us together in this anti-racist work. If you live in the Triangle area, there will be two additional opportunities in August and September to connect yoga with racial justice.

So, what would a world without racism look like? I’m continue to mull on this question. Some of my initial reactions include:

  • A place where no one fears being killed simply by existing;
  • A place where everyone receives the education to be successful, thriving contributors;
  • A world built on sharing and abundance, not on selfishness and scarcity;
  • Communities who care for each other, no matter what;
  • People, not systems or institutions, hold the most political power;
  • The idea of ‘silenced voices’ is inconceivable
  • Safety is a norm, not an exception.

I invite you, if you have not already, to envision what a wold without oppression, racism, and white supremacy would look like, sound like, feel like. If you are willing, I also invite you to share. Perhaps journal about it. Create a vision board. Our humanity is depending on us, and I refuse to let us down.

 

The 18 hour test

IMAG566717 hours, 55 minutes into the adventure.

Staring at the fire pit, now without flames licking towards the sky, Aaron turns to me:

“Are we still married?”

17 hours, 56 minutes.

“Yes, we are still married,” I reply.

Our first camping trial together proved a success. We survived a severe thunderstorm that even folks, from the comforts of their four walls and sealed windows, pointed to as wild and dangerous. During Mother Nature’s powerful display, we laid on our backs, gripped both by fear and the realization that there was no where else we could go. Even the three feet to our car felt insurmountable.

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We found the other 17 hours of our camping expedition much more enjoyable (and relaxing). We sat on the banks of Jordan Lake, surveying the boats and birds taking flight; built a fire worthy of s’mores; and mucked on hidden trails, recently turned into swampland.

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Spending such time in nature has a way of washing away the grime that builds up, day in and day out, “living life.” For me, this is living, surrounded in a castle of timbers.

And a New York Times to boot.

And a New York Times to boot.

 

 

 

 

Day 29 of vegan recipe challege: 3 things to try

Who doesn’t like a round up blog post? It’s the cheat for promoting great ideas/content without actually creating much of said ideas/content. Call it the Upworthy or Buzzfeed creed. Without further ado:

1) Last Sunday, I held my inaugural “Cooking with Friends” adventure centered around a vegan staple: tofu. One of the most highly acclaimed dishes came from none other than everyone’s favorite crafter-gone-money-launderer Martha Stewart.

broiled tofuAfter broiling this tofu, make a wreath!

The recipe (found here) is ridiculously easy. The soy lemon pepper dipping sauce was a nice, punchy touch, and would make a great marinade or dipping sauce in other dishes, for sure.

2) This past Monday was Chipotle’s much publicized sofritas special. If you purchased a bowl/burrito/taco with sofritas on that day, you would be able to score a free bowl/burrito/tacos using your receipt on another visit. Alas, we were not able to partake due to time and finances (and the fact that we have a silly amount of food in our house). BUT – we did taste the sofritas a couple of Saturdays ago: I did a bowl with black beans, pico, and lettuce while Aaron took his in taco form topped with black beans and the corn salsa. The verdict: quite tasty with some nice heat. What a gesture to have another protein option outside of the bean staple in the takeout realm.

sofritasThanks Chipootle for bringing tofu to the hipsters

3) I still have yet to post about my (now TWO) sushi roll making adventures. If you’re in the market to get your nori on, the BambooMN brand is the set my friend Chelsea recommended to me, and I shall pass it on as well.:

sushikitKeep it rollin’

Even better, the price for the set is under $8.

Speaking of sushi, a new restaurant opened in downtown Durham this week. Basan brings more new life into the American Tobacco section of the Dirty D with a menu that boasts some pretty fabulous looking veggie sushi. For example:

Bonsai

Avocado, broccoli, carrot, asparagus, tempura green beans, wrapped with soy paper and cucumber, soy salsa on top

Garden

Frisee, tomato, avocado, cucumber inside, roasted pepper, chive on top, whole grain mustard dressing

This has been added to our restaurant must-hit list.

QUESTION TIME:

Alright vegans and non-vegans alike, are you a fan of sushi? If so, what are the ingredients you like to find in your roll?

Day 20 of vegan recipe challenge: cuckoo for couscous

It’s always hard to watch the last few moments of the weekend fold in on itself, casting the dark shadows that will lead once again to the start of another week. All in all, it was another excellent weekend. I hosted our book club gathering on Friday evening (which is where today’s recipe stems from) as we ate various rice and lentil dishes while discussing Americanah and its implications for our world, our nation, our community, and ourselves.

Yesterday, we found ourselves in downtown Durham, exploring the Museum of Durham History before meeting friends at the newish Bull City Ciderworks. I highly recommend trips to both. Being still a “new” transplant to this area, I knew a little of the city’s history, mainly around what the Duke family initiated, but the breadth of civil rights and music history was enlightening. On Bull City Ciderworks: I never considered myself a huge fan of cider (although I wouldn’t pass up a glass of hot apple cider – ever). Still, the sweetness of many ciders has kept me at bay. The ciders we tried yesterday were full of flavor, several quite dry, and even hoppy. My favorite was Rhiz Up, touted as off dry ginger. I may have mentioned before how much I love ginger, and this hit ginger notes across the tongue and down the back of the throat. I would have this again in a heartbeat!

Speaking of things I would have again, today’s recipe was brought over to the book club potluck (I wish I had taken a photo of the spread because it was an array of colors) by my friend Shannon. I used to eat couscous like it was on the endangered grains list (making it in the microwave with saran wrap – yes, classy). But, it hasn’t made it on my grocery list in months. After trying this dish, it’s made it back to the top.

Cranberry Couscous Salad
Serves 6

couscousPhoto credit: Lalaloula. Say that three times fast!

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 cup uncooked couscous
  • 1/4-1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1/3-1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 1/3 cup chopped green onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Directions:
Combine broth, cranberries, cinnamon, and cumin in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil. Remove broth from heat and stir in couscous. Cover and let stand for 5-7 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside to cool slightly, uncovered.

Whisk oil and vinegar together; pour over couscous. Add remaining ingredients and toss well. Serve either chilled or at room temperature.

couscous2Photo credit by Absinthe27 – what a fantastic handle

Another week of recipes in store, I hope. It truly warms my heart that several of my friends have not only read the recipes but have made them – and made them their own. That’s what the art of cooking is all about: finding what you can do in the kitchen. Cooking isn’t rocket science (thank goodness because I would starve…damn you science and math) but it can be intimidating. Whatever small part I can play in shattering any fears is an honor.

Day thirteen of vegan recipe challenge: oogling for Udon

While musing on the #veganuary challenge during a run last weekend, I decided to take on breaking down the barriers that surround a vegan staple (and, if done right, an overall delight): tofu. Tofu! Too many people have experienced bad tofu: gummy, watery, and bland. But, when done well, tofu can bring down a house (it may also burn down a house if you are not careful when frying but that’s a simple fact of cooking with oil. Fire extinguishers are key!)

So, I decided to host a “Tofu Done 5 Ways” gathering later this month both to introduce tofu in new ways to some friends and to glean their knowledge and experience in working with this powerful protein. What are the 5 ways, you ask? We’ll do some simmered tofu (either in soup or an simmering sauce), fried tofu, baked tofu, pureed tofu, and raw tofu. For the raw tofu, I decided that I wanted to make sushi. But, there’s a catch:

I don’t know how to make sushi.

I do know how to eat it though. Fortunately, through the insight of social media, I discerned my friend Chelsea is a sushi-rolling master. So, I asked her if she would teach me her ways, sensei. She happily agreed, so we’ll be knocking that out later today. To prepare for this endeavor, I visited a foodies gem in the haunts of an old Circuit City:

LiMingNo more computers here. Just crazy amounts of food.

Why I hadn’t shopped at Li Ming’s Global Market more frequently is beyond me, but that will change for 2015. Rows and rows of fresh vegetables, tofu, and simmer sauces labeled in languages far beyond my linguistic grasps. After selecting the nori and other key sushi-making project ingredients, I sought the pièce de résistance for a dish from Veganomicon: fresh Udon noodles. I had never worked with fresh noodles before (a travesty!) and was overwhelmed by the sheer options of Udon noodles staring back at me. Some where seasoned with various animal-based proteins, so I carefully selected a straight-up-now-tell-me packet. And, after a few chops, flips, and minutes, this is what I was left with:

Udon2Slurpy goodness.

With some added bok choy (because who can resist giant bags of bok choy for $2?!), I found this recipe to be sublime. Excellent broth – the ginger/garlic combination is present but not overwhelming. This miso (which I also bought at Li Ming’s for an obnoxiously inexpensive price) tickled the tongue. Aaron and I took down the entire recipe (yes, it serves four) last night. What I also liked about the fresh udon noodles is that it came in four-individual packs, so we still have two left in our fridge, waiting for their own bath in the pool

Udon with Shiitake Mushrooms and Kale in Miso Broth
Serves 4; Time: 35 minutes

1/2 pound fresh udon noodles or dried udon noodles
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
1 medium-size red onion, sliced into thin half-mooons
4 ounces shiitake mushrooms, stems trimmed, sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
2 tablespoons mirin (optional)
2 cups water
3 tablespoons miso (see note below)
4 cups chopped kale
2 teaspoons soy sauce, or to taste

Note: In this recipe, Isa & Terry used a strong, dark miso (which I did too). If you are using a light, mellow miso, you may want to add another tablespoon or so.

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Cook the udon according to the package directions (about 10 minutes for dried; 3 – 4 minutes for fresh). When done, drain and rinse with cool water until ready to use.
Meanwhile, preheat a large skilled over medium heat. Saute the onion and mushrooms in the oil for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and the onions are softened but still have some crunch. Add the garlic and ginger, and saute for another minute.

Add the mirin, water, and miso, and bring to a gentle boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the kale. Toss the mixture around with tongs until the kale has wilted. Add the noodles and use a paste spoon to stir them into the broth for about 2 minutes.

Divide the udon and vegetables among bowls and spoon some broth over each serving.

Then, slurp away, my friends. Slurp away. I just steamed the bok choy and threw in one for some additional green vegetable love.

Udon1

And, one additional food-related plus for today. During my Target meat-alternative excursion, I discovered this brand of veggie burger:

vburger

After yesterday morning’s run, I tossed it into a pan for some protein fuel. YUM! Sweet Earth nailed it. It has a nice crunch on the outside, and I definitely could taste the Middle Eastern spices. I will gladly try out some of the other flavors.

“You must have …

“You must have a miserable life”

That was directed – to me – from a vendor this past Saturday at the Durham Farmer’s Market. After finishing the Running of the Bulls 8k, Aaron and I wandered through the lovely stands, which we had not done in ages. Seeing my post-race crust, this vendor offered me a free sample of his soap. Alas, I kindly declined, attributing the fact of my gentle refusal to my vegan lifestyle (the soap was goat’s milk based, but he honed in on the honey factor). This is when those six words tumbled out of his mouth toward me.

My first thought was something I cannot post alas I would owe the swear jar some $ (plus the whole notion that one’s online reputation follows them everywhere). My second thought was: how sad, for this man. i do not know anything about him, nor do I care to at this junction. It would appear that he has assumptions of what “being a vegan” means, and sadly for him, I believe his thoughts are clearly misguided. Miserable life? I have an incredible life, some of which has to do with what I eat/apply/use for my body and health, and much of the rest stems from those who I surround myself and draw and learn from.

Muttering under our breaths, we continued on, foraged some beautiful vegetables (kohlrabi, squash, cucumbers, English peas, and beets) and happened to walk by this vendor’s stand again. And – here comes the best part –

he offered me another free sample and used my first name that was on my race bib.