It’s been a while! I’m updating the blog to share a few articles that have been gathering in open tabs on my desktop. The summer solstice is just around the corner so consider this a beach reading list.
African-American travel in the mid-20th century is the subject of several new stories and projects focused on exploring the history and legacy of the The Negro Motorist Green-Book, a travel guide for black motorists that was published between 1936 and 1967.
“Highlighting Black history and food traditions, GARLIC & GREENS centers on participants with low or no vision because African-Americans are at a higher risk for sight loss from glaucoma, diabetes and hypertensive retinopathy. The good news is that these diseases can be prevented with a healthy diet and regular access to health care. While mainstream media often blames individual behavior for public health issues, GARLIC & GREENS encourages participants to engage in deeper reflection about the broad connections between cultural heritage, culinary traditions, food access, and wellness.” This is the way that GARLIC & GREENS describes its mission, because race-related health issues are often a result of structural inequalities, not just individual choices. The G&G project aims to focus on positive assets in order to avoid blame and to approach these challenges with a constructive attitude. But it’s also important to note that health risks connected to diet are serious threats, and they can be fatal. Today the world learned that Phife Dawg, a musician who was best known for his work with A Tribe Called Quest, passed away after many years of living with diabetes. His family released this statement, and as a result his health condition has been noted in many news reports of his death today:
“We regret to share the news that on Tuesday March 22nd, 2016, Malik has passed away due to complications resulting from diabetes.
Malik was our loving husband, father, brother and friend. We love him dearly. How he impacted all our lives will never be forgotten. His love for music and sports was only surpassed by his love of God and family.”
Phife Dawg (née Malik Isaac Taylor) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1990, when he would have been 20 years-old. On the 1993-4 song “Oh my God” Phife Dawg playfully refers to himself as the “funky diabetic.” More seriously, in Beats, Rhymes & Life, the 2011 documentary about A Tribe Called Quest, he said: “It’s really a sickness. Like straight-up drugs. I’m just addicted to sugar.”The dangers of excessive sugar intake have been discussed frequently in recent years (see “Is Sugar Toxic” in the New York Times). But to be clear, type 1 diabetes, which Phife Dawg had, is caused by genetics and other unknown factors. Type 2 diabetes is often linked to being overweight, and for that reason the American Diabetes Association recommends cutting back on high calorie foods like sodas and other sugary drinks. For more information on the different types of diabetes, see this guide from the US Department of Health and Human services: http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/Diabetes/your-guide-diabetes/Pages/index.aspx
No matter what the cause of his death, Phife Dawg was a talented musician and an inspiration to many. He was taken away from us too soon, at the age of 45. Rest in power Buddy.
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We’re starting a new tradition for 2016: a monthly short list of 3 links, sharing stories that are connected to the GARLIC & GREENS project themes. Here’s our first installment. Let us know what you think!
The motivation for the GARLIC & GREENS project has always been rooted in food justice. But if we look at food justice from a different perspective, fasting and the denial of food are frequently used in spiritual and religious practices. Hunger protests have a long history dating back to ancient India and pre-Christian Ireland. I mention this today because right now, 12 people in Chicago are are on a hunger strike that began August 17th. This hunger strike is a direct action to revitalize the place where the GARLIC & GREENS project first started: Dyett High School.
Soon after GARLIC & GREENS began in 2011, the city of Chicago announced their decision to phase out the school. A group of community members have collectively submitted a proposal to the Chicago Public School (CPS) system to re-open Dyett High School as an open-enrollment school in their neighborhood, but CPS has been stalling and canceling public hearings and board elections.
Dyett hunger strikers. Photos by Sarah Jane Rhee
These are the people who are, right now, resisting the displacement of the youth in their communities. Clockwise from the top right: Aisha Wade-Bey, Anna Jones, April Stogner, Cathy Dale, Irene Robinson, Jeanette Taylor-Ramann, Jitu Brown, Marc Kaplan, Monique Redeaux-Smith, Nelson Souza, Prudence Brown, Robert Jones.
Irene Robinson was admitted to the hospital today, but shamefully there has still been no response from the city or the mayor’s office.
Recently I received an order for the Shoebox Lunch project from William Hope of Knox College. Professor Hope is teaching a Sensory Anthropology class this term and is using the Shoebox Lunch project with his students to spark discussions about the intersections of embodied research, story, and material culture. If you are reading this and you happen to be one of Professor Hope’s students, we’d love to hear your feedback! During our email exhanges, Professor Hope tipped me off to a shout-out about the Shoebox Lunch project in an academic journal about neuroanthropology, the interdisciplinary study of culture and brain science. The essay was written by Lexi Winter, an anthropology grad student at the University of South Florida. There are so many interesting links and examples of sensory anthropology in Winter’s essay, you should definitely check it out to find out about this expanding field of social science research: http://blogs.plos.org/neuroanthropology/2014/06/11/sensing-subjects-2/
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I’m saddened to learn that urban planner and smell enthusiast Victoria Henshaw passed away last month. The multisensory emphasis of GARLIC & GREENS project and my artistic explorations of place and walking share many intersections with Victoria’s research. After years of working in town management, Victoria pursued design research focused on encouraging urban planners to recognize the value of the smell in the urban landscape. Victoria advocated for the need to preserve and protect the smells of the city, both pleasant and pungent. I had the pleasure of meeting Victoria in Edinburgh in December 2011 after she gave a presentation at a conference we were both attending called “Sensory Worlds: Environment, Value and the Multi-Sensory”.
St. Andrew Square, Edinburgh, December 2011
I remember being very inspired by Victoria’s talk, but also touched by the fact that she followed up with me after the conference, emailing a personal note with links to some books we had discussed.
For long time I have had the idea to make a smell map of Chicago: something like the work of designer Kate McLean mashed up with Jesse Seay’s Favorite Chicago Sounds. The project would document iconic Chicago smells, like the scent of the river after a sewage overflow event, or more pleasant odors like the Blommer’s chocolate factory (which now has its own tumblr page).
Who is going to take up the important work Victoria was doing to highlight the invisible and under appreciated aspects of the urban landscape? It seems there is a renewed urgency for me to work on a “Favorite Chicago Smells” map, and a nudge to continue the walking based performance projects that I started last winter. Thank you Victoria, for the inspiration and guidance. We’re going to miss you.
Newly canned jar of Iranian garlic pickles from the gallery installation. Photo by Jori Remus.
Happy new year everyone! Last week as part of the RISK exhibition, Columbia College Chicago’s office of Asian American Cultural Affairs hosted a special edition of their “Food for Thought” series in partnership with GARLIC & GREENS. Lunch guests were treated to Iranian food from Chicago restaurant Noon-o-Kabab and they learned about the new year celebration of Norooz, which falls on the vernal equinox. In the Zoroastrian tradition, a festive table spread called “haft-seen” is laid out with seven objects beginning with the letter “seen” and symbolizing the return of new life in spring. One of these items is often garlic, called “seer” in the Persian language. Pickled garlic (“torshi-eh seer”), is also known as Seven-Year Pickle because it is best eaten after being aged several years. Sometimes people start a jar on a special occasion such as a birthday or anniversary, and some of the finest pickles have been kept for decades. I have displayed some freshly packed jars of garlic in the gallery, and they are available for free to anyone who would like to have one, while supplies last! Just contact soulfoodstories-at-gmail to request your jar. The jars are labeled “Do not open until 2021” with the hope that people who take the jars home might be reunited in 7 years’ time for a pickle-tasting party. There are ways to cheat and accelerate the pickling process, but most Iranians agree that the older the garlic, the better the taste!
This image shows two types of Persian pickles, also known as “torshi”. Aged garlic pickles (on the right) turn dark and soft after being preserved for many years. The sharp garlic flavor mellows to a caramelized sweetness.