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E.M. Monroe

"I knew, not from memory, but from hope, that there were other models by which to live." Weems

Month

March 2013

That’s the Day: Happy Easter

Marion James Porter. Easter Sunday, New Orleans
Marion James Porter. Easter Sunday, New Orleans, ca. 1965.
Edwin Rosskam. Easter Sunday, Chicago 1941.
Edwin Rosskam. Easter Sunday, Chicago 1941.
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Easter Sunday, Harlem, 1947.
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Easter Sunday, Harlem, 1947.
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Easter Sunday, Harlem, 1947.
Henri Cartier-Bresson. Easter Sunday, Harlem, 1947.
Weegee (Arthur Feelig). Easter Sunday, Harlem, 1943.
Weegee (Arthur Feelig). Easter Sunday, Harlem, 1943.
Russell Lee. Chicago, 1941.
Russell Lee. Chicago, 1941.
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The Interrupters

I recommend The Interrupters as worthwhile viewing. It is a deeply moving film about CeaseFire, an organization that works to interrupt urban street violence in Chicago. All of the members working with this organization have a record of violence that contributed to their former incarceration. Reflecting on their own lives influenced their decision to embrace peace and to interrupt violence as they see it in the Chicago communities where they grew-up.

There are moments in the film, especially the last scenes, where the camera lingers on the quiet, contemplative faces of three of the film’s featured Interrupters that reminds me of my father. Like my father, they all seemed haunted by the ghosts of their respective pasts. Every night that I spent with my father was one where I saw him through the glow of late night television and always ready with a story of some horror he could recall from his youth. He told me once that when “you did as much wrong as I did, you don’t sleep easy.” Like the rape victim whose apartment my father inspected every night before she entered from her late night shift, the community work that the Interrupters perform represents an attempt to absolve themselves of their guilt for their often unspeakable crimes. I found myself pulling for their salvation as much as I did for the community they were trying to save.

You can watch the entire film for free by following the embedded link.

Models Monday: Building a Brand vs. Building Character

My husband recently shared with me the details of a motivational talk given to his track team by a former athlete and current business woman. The importance of building a brand served as the centerpiece of her talk to the athletes. We agreed that it was very different from the motivational talks we heard as young athletes. Instead of being encouraged to build our brand, we were encouraged to build our character.

I like the language of character far more than the language of brands. Corporate language negotiates human value through marketplace logic; for me that diminishes the possible expressions of human richness. Money and what it can buy defines wealth in market terms. Character allows for a fuller portrait of what constitutes richness.

When character defines wealth, Philane Lawson offers a portrait of human richness. The homemade bread that she awoke to make at 4 a.m. reflects the offering that she could make to her family despite having little money. When character defines wealth, Pearl Fryer offers a portrait of human richness through his garden:

When character defines wealth, the man Morrison describes who “sits at the edge of a bank and fish all day” offers a portrait of human richness through his complex interior life.

If you’re actually developing a product for the marketplace, you might need to focus on building your brand, but building a life requires character.

Models Monday: A Comment on Love

I read an interview that a graduate student of religion conducted with American theologian James H. Cone and I was moved to remember the importance of love in my own life because of what Cone says about his parents and his community. When asked about receiving his calling, Cones says this in reply:

It started early for me. It happened before I knew it was happening. The model of my parents; they loved me. They deeply loved me. That gave me the strength to be able to speak with a kind of self-confidence. There was the Macedonia AME [African Methodist Episcopal] church which was an extension of the kind of love that I received at home, with the people expressing their confidence in me and in their belief that God had put me–and not just me, but all of us–on this earth to do something special. And then there was my segregated school, my teachers in the school who were a part of my church and the other churches – they also reinforced that. So by the time I was 16 years old and graduated from high school, I had been kept safe with the love of my parents, with Macedonia AME church, and at my school and in the community itself. When you are loved you are empowered.

Cone makes a marvelous tribute to his parents when he acknowledges how “deeply” they loved him. It seems to me a worthwhile goal to set for myself as a parent to one day have my son say that I loved him “deeply;” too, it seems worthwhile to have as my goal to have my friends and family say the same.

Happy Pi Day

sample

Pi (π) is the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter, which is approximately 3.14159 and thus the reason for designating March 14, 3/14, Pi Day.

Here’s a link to folk discussing all the things they plan on doing to mark Pi Day. I recommended that my husband, a math teacher, screen The Life of Pi for his students. 

Last year I made a fruit tart to mark the occasion, but this year, I didn’t have the energy to cut up the fruit so I made a simple no-bake cheesecake and bought frozen strawberries:

IMG_0518

Ingredients:
8 oz Philadelphia Cream Cheese (softened)
1 (14 oz) can Borden’s Sweetened Condensed Milk
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla

1 prepared graham cracker or shortbread crust.

Combine all ingredients with a mixer or a food processor until well-blended. Pour mixture into 1 prepared graham cracker or shortbread crust. Refrigerate overnight. Top with fruit or candy of your choice. Enjoy!

Models Monday: An Old Way of Being an Environmentalist

We experienced beautiful weather here in Atlanta this weekend. The sun was shining and the temperature climbed to almost 70 degrees. These beautiful conditions pushed many of us outdoors and into community with people who you can reach out and touch but whose company you rarely get to enjoy. I sometimes encounter my neighbors in the morning as we’re preparing to take our children to school but we don’t get to talk like we did yesterday. While our children played together, we stood around discussing young people, particularly the young college students working in my neighbor’s office. She works as a Social Worker and her division was recently assigned several interns. My neighbor usually enjoys mentoring these young people but she often marvels at the assumptions that even they make as people committing themselves to helping those who live in communities they would describe as being very much their own. “It’s like t.v. tells them who their own grandmother’s are,” my neighbor mused. “They talk about people who look like stereotypes of who I know them to be,” she continued. “I guess I’ve been doing this work for so long, I know that people are more complicated than their storylines on television,” she said.

I sympathized with my neighbor’s story. I told her about being in the public library last week overhearing what appeared to be a student group discussing a community service project they were planning. The project involved going door-to-door in “the community” informing people about energy efficiency in their homes. “What people don’t know” was the repeated refrain in their conversation. The only people I could imagine not knowing about home energy conservation in my community growing-up, which was very much like the West End community they were describing, were children. Children were the intended recipients of a wealth of knowledge from older people about how to conserve just about everything: “What you running fresh water for? Put that baby in that same water you just washed that other child in; it ain’t hurtin’ nothin’. That baby wouldn’t that dirty,” I would hear as advice given to young parents who clearly knew little about how to best use their resources; or this, “Close that refrigerator door , girl! You need to know what you want before you pull that door open,” was the instruction I was given when I lingered too long in the refrigerator; or, “Can Mary fit this? Sarah outgrew it.” Hand-me-downs was a way that the life of garments was extended so that money wouldn’t have to be wasted on new clothes. Perhaps my personal favorite was, “Stop burnin’ all these lights! Why you got all these lights on with all this light coming from outside? It ain’t dark in here.” My grandfather spoke of electric lights as though they were candles.

The language that I heard while growing-up was more colorful than the language of the green movement and so, more interesting. The students that I overheard mistook the colorful language for ignorance because, perhaps, it lacked the scientific terms they were using to describe their world. I didn’t know a single scientist when I was a child, but I knew people who practically worshipped the natural world. I knew people who took pride in their lawns and flower beds, their gardens and the birds they fed. I saw people pick-up trash they didn’t throw on the ground themselves; who shared abundance and didn’t just boast of it. So I wanted to say to those young people I overheard talking, “Imagine if the people you’re planning on helping do know something, then what are you going to do? What will your project amount to?” I think it’s clear that they wouldn’t have had much of a project, but if they thought about collaborating with people in the community they wanted to work in, they might have been on to something interesting.

Marvin Gaye’s phenomenal track “Mercy, Mercy Me (The Ecology)” always sounded like a collaborative work to me. The “mercy, mercy me” part always sounded like an old person’s voice; something my grandparents would say. In my mind, this song draws on an ancestral presence to voice urgent ecological concerns. The result brings the young and the old together to reclaim a cherished ecological past that was once a reality that the old knew very well, not some fantasy or sentimental delusion.

I certainly understood my neighbors frustration with her interns. Theirs was a model of service that diminishes the collaborative possibilities of community work; reducing a colorful world to one predictable tone.

That’s the Day: Revelations

The Alvin Ailey website describes Revelations as a work that “explores the places of deepest grief and holiest joy in the soul.” Memories of Ailey’s southern roots in Texas greatly inform the work’s themes, movements, and sound. Ailey’s singular recollections of black spiritual life intersects with musical expressions that testify to despair, redemption, and joy heard in the “African American spirituals, song-sermons, gospel songs and holy blues.”

Judith Jameson, the featured dancer in Revelations for 15 years, conveys the triumph of the work when she asserts that “it set a tone for what is human in all of us, no matter where you come from.”

Models Monday: On Being a Lady in “A Man’s World”

I will grant that James Brown sounds good when he sings “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World,” but I hate the song…but people clearly dig it. Anytime you see clips of Brown performing it, you hear the crowd going wild. I don’t know if they like the music, which is nice, the lyrics, or some combination of them both, but folk appear passionate about the tune. I was in a discussion with several first-year college students recently who referenced Brown’s song to offer me commentary on how they viewed themselves with respect to men. “It’s a man’s world and I just want to be a lady in it,” one young woman confessed. “Yeah,” said another. “As long as I’m treated like a lady,” she offered, “it can be a man’s world. Because frankly,” she continued, “I just don’t want to do the things that men have to do.” The only chore she could think of that men do is to take out the trash. In my experience, being treated like a lady by a man typically occurs when your interactions with him are so infrequent that your competence cannot be depended upon; otherwise, women are treated as though they are capable. Given that competence-women’s competence, I’m not sure why one would concede to it being “a man’s world;” I’m not willing to concede that point.

The young women I talked to about this offered the example of men holding the door open for them as an example of how men make women feel like “ladies.” In my house, the doors stay open without my husband’s assistance so I’m not sure how being treated like a lady works out as a routine experience. I don’t know if I have the power to imagine what this would look like beyond episodic instances within the experience of one’s day. So I guess I have to admit that these students would not find my life attractive or that of any of the people whose lives I admire because I don’t know any women who get to chill all day. Chillin’ and being married, or chillin’ and being in relationship ,or chillin’ and having children just don’t go together. So I wish these sistahs luck because it’s going to be very hard finding a man who believes that “it’s a man’s world” while also maintaining that women don’t have to work in his kingdom.

That’s the Day: Sunday Breakfast

miles mixing

miles mixing 2
My son Miles likes to help with breakfast.

I usually make what we consider a big breakfast on Sunday. This meal typically includes turkey bacon, scrambled eggs, waffles or pancakes or biscuits or hash browns, strawberries, and yogurt. I provided the recipe that I use for pancakes in a post some time ago so today I thought I would share my waffle recipe. Just like with the pancakes, most people have the staples to make homemade waffles in their cupboards or pantries, if you also have a waffle maker, then you’re ready to make these waffles.

In a large bowl, whisk together the following DRY INGREDIENTS:

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/4 cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

In a separate bowl, thoroughly mix the following WET INGREDIENTS:

3 eggs

3/4 cup of unsalted butter

1 1/2 cups of milk

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl containing the dry ingredients. Mix until combined. Here’s the final product:

waffle iron

bacon and waffle

I usually have batter left-over and so I have started using it to make waffles for dinner on Monday night. Breakfast for dinner is easy to make, filling, and in this case, an interesting take on leftovers.

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