Archive for G&G

Margaret Danner + music, soul, poetry

The track above was mixed live on vinyl by Anthony Stepter for GARLIC & GREENS. It was sent in the mail as a reward for supporters who donated to the project’s Kickstarter fundraising campaign $35 and above. Below is Anthony’s essay, which accompanied the package. In this post you will also find images from Anthony’s exploration of the Margaret Danner Papers. All images courtesy of The University of Chicago Library, Department of Special Collections. Thanks also to Issue Press in Grand Rapids, MI for the CD case printing.

Langston Hughes sat down to speak with his fellow poet, Margaret Danner. They came together to talk to each other, share their poems, and record their interaction for posterity. Black Forum, a short-lived subsidiary of Motown Records, collected audio recordings of important figures in Black cultural life in America and produced eight releases between 1970-73. The discussion between Danner and Hughes was one of those releases, but it is also part of a much larger tradition.

The recordings that make up this mix are meant to gesture toward a long tradition of spoken and sung narratives that have challenged and defined histories of Black folks in America. This tradition reaches back beyond the Middle Passage, carries on through what Hughes calls “the dark days of slavery,” becomes even more evident as a form of cultural expression during the Great Migration, and continues today.

This mix was made using bits of audio found exclusively on vinyl records. The examples in this mix represent particular instances of this tradition that someone, at some point, deemed important enough to render in a tangible physical form. Like the Black Forum albums, Fereshteh Toosi has collected stories about food and the Great Migration from a number of people. She is now in the process of developing physical objects that help bring these stories new life in a concrete form. This act of making something as ephemeral as a personal memory, or the story behind a poem, into a physical object is a way of simultaneously reminding us of the past and building something new.

When Fereshteh asked me to make this mix, I spent two days listening to records that I owned and taking notes. A friend recently played me an audio clip of Sam Cooke responding to an interviewer’s question “What is Soul?” Cooke responds with several seconds of wordless humming and singing. I wanted to make a mix that responded to the question with a similar mix of ambiguity and specific reference. Poems, plays, and conversations have been intermingled with songs that have a strong narrative quality. Gil Scott-Heron opens Cane with a reference to Jean Toomer’s 1923 novel about life in the American South. No song in this mix more aptly embodies the spirit I am after. Scott-Heron speaks to his audience. He tells us how Toomer’s characters inspired him to write the song. Here the lineage becomes clear. A tradition is exposed and preserved in song and on vinyl. No stage in the story is more important than the other. The spirituals sung in the rural south were essential for Toomer to write his book and Toomer’s book was essential for Scott-Heron to sing his song.

Langston Hughes is arguably the most widely-read Black poet in history and in the 1970s Motown was still one of the most successful corporations in the music industry, yet the album Hughes recorded with Margaret Danner remains obscure. Their words, however, are not lost. Just like spoken stories that became songs, so as not to be forgotten, I hope that by bringing together these voices, they will form a chorus, able to sing louder and longer than they could on their own.

Garlic and Greens Soul Mix Track Listing
Broken Strings – from Simply Heaven, a musical written by Langston Hughes
Flying Saucer – from Simply Heaven, a musical written by Langston Hughes
Sunday Prayer – Mahalia Jackson
Church on Sunday – Flip Wilson
Hold On – Howard Roberts Chorale
Langston Hughes – from Langston Hughes and Margaret Danner: Writers of the Revolution
Cloud 9 – Donnie
Cane – Gil Scott-Heron
A Toast To Harlem – from Simple written by Langston Hughes and read by Ossie Davis
Long Walk to DC – The Staples Singers
Margaret Danner – from Langston Hughes and Margaret Danner: Writers of the Revolution
Thin Line Between Love and Hate – The Persuaders
O-o-h Child – The Five Stairsteps
Why Can’t We Live Together – Timmy Thomas
Feet Live Their Own Life – from Simple written by Langston Hughes and read by Ossie Davis
I Know You Got Soul – Bobby Byrd
We Got More Soul – Dyke and the Blazers
We Got Latin Soul – Mongo Santamaria

cheesecake & noodles

Two quick updates for fans of GARLIC & GREENS:

Stop by for free cheesecake and chat with folks who are interested in the intersection of art and environmental issues at the Global Alliance of Artists’ reception this Thursday, Sept 20th at the Chicago Cultural Center. G&G will present a slide show pecha-kucha style (20 slides, 7 min) and you can vote for your favorite projects to win. The event starts at 6:30; register for free here:

Also thrilled to announce a spin-off project of GARLIC & GREENS for a super cool art subscription project called Regional Relationships. It’s the story of a noodle dish called yock, or yak-a-mein. Have you heard of it? The dish is most often found in coastal areas in the southeastern parts of the U.S. This collaboration with comics artist Neil Brideau consists of a CD, tea towel, and comic book. It’s shipping out very soon! To sign up and learn more about the project, go to the RR website:

That’s all for now, but please stay tuned for more updates!

Vote 2013

We are pleased to report that GARLIC & GREENS has been nominated for Vote 2013, the first anniversary celebration of the Global Alliance of Artists Environment Xchange.

Membership in this cool organization is free, and allows you the chance to attend a public workshop designed by GARLIC & GREENS! Voting will close August 31, 2012, and is limited to Xchange members and volunteers.

The Vote 2013 Revealing of all the finalists will be held on September 20, 6-8 pm at the Chicago Cultural Center.

More details are available at:

the price of food justice

This commentary brings up some interesting questions about the price of food justice. Is the trend to organic, fair trade, and ethical food consumption a kind of wholesale greenwashing? Do these movements promote excess consumption and  company profits?
“If I want to buy a happy chicken raised in an open field on corn, then I pay over £6 in comparison to the £3.70 or so that it costs for that chicken’s sad, factory-farmed cousin. To buy a chicken costs a full hour of work at minimum wage. With the cost of rent and bills rising as well as food, our society still deems it fit to tell them that this is not enough. You must pay more to be more moral.”

meeting Regina Taylor

Last month, I was tickled to be interviewed by actress and playwright Regina Taylor. This week, I attended the opening night for her gospel musical “Crowns” at  the Goodman Theatre.
In addition to putting on a huge summer production at the Goodman, the Crowns crew is producing a series of video interviews on the theme of “Tracking Tradition”. These conversations showcase Chicago residents who are working on projects that celebrate culture and connections to our ancestors.  Based on the book of the same name by the photographer Michael Cunningham and oral historian Craig Marberry, Crowns celebrates the strength and joy that can be found in quotidian stories. Because my project also documents anecdotal history, I was honored when Regina asked me to speak with her about GARLIC & GREENS’ focus on African American gardening and food traditions. I’ll let you know when the video is posted on their website!


Last weekend, GARLIC & GREENS was a guest at TEDxUChicago. We were part of a day-long poster session with other creative folks from around the world. TED stands for Technology Entertainment and Design, you may recognize the acronym from their collection of interesting lecture videos that have been circulating the web for the past few years. At TED, we spoke to people about GARLIC & GREENS and prepared a raw kale salad with creamy garlic dressing. Here’s a recipe if you want to try it at home:

Piranha Club

GARLIC & GREENS will be teaming up with Eric May to host Piranha Club #4, a supper club that Eric hosts from his art space, Roots & Culture. Eric and Fereshteh will be cooking up vegan soul food with Dara Cooper of Fresh Moves mobile grocery and Chef Tsadakeeyah of Majani Catering. Our menu will include peanut buttered collard greens, okra & mushrooms, baked bbq black-eyed peas, cornbread, yam-ginger pie, and sweet tea and mint juleps.
Wednesday May 16, 6pm
Roots & Cul­ture 1034 N Mil­wau­kee Ave.
$30 prix fixe. Only 10 seats available. Buy your tickets ASAP at:

magic spice rub

Hello fans of GARLIC & GREENS! As many of you know, we are producing a multimedia “book in a box” inspired by design innovators like Aspen Magazine and Fluxus. We have ONLY A FEW DAYS left in our fundraising campaign.

As an incentive to encourage last-minute contributions, any new or existing pledges at the $35 level or above will receive Fereshteh’s homemade magic spice rub in addition to other awards. It’s a special, savory mix with New Mexico chiles and some surprise elements like cardamom. It has many uses from popcorn sprinkle to jerk chicken.

We’re happy to have reached our goal of $1100 but there’s still time to contribute! Your deadline is midnight Tuesday the 27th.
Go here to find out more:

GARLIC & GREENS is grateful to our current supporters. Please contribute and share the Kickstarter link on Twitter and Facebook and email your friends to let them know about the project.

Thank you!


Make-Space is a blog about artists, their studios, and the creative process. Check out the new interview with me as I talk about the making of the audio book for GARLIC & GREENS:


We have launched our campaign to raise funds to finish the project!

Visit our Kickstarter page to make your pledge:

We have 42 days to raise $1100! Please contribute at whatever level you can, and don’t forget to tell your friends via your favorite social media sites.