Happy Birthday, Helen Keller!

Brian Trautman (email, bio), who teaches peace and world order studies at Berkshire Community College History Department shared this great photo from The Zinn Education Project, a collaborative effort by Teaching for Change and Rethinking Schools.

The stripping of Helen Keller's reputation from progressive activist to blind girl has been going on for years.  I wrote about it briefly in 2007, when I mentioned Saif Rahman's (email, bio) essay for the Institute for Policy Studies "Five Reasons Why I'll March on January 27 (and You Should Too."   Reason Four was:

Be Part of History: Thirty-nine years ago Dr. Martin Luther King led a group of protestors in Chicago against the Vietnam War. Seventy-six years ago, Gandhi led the Salt Satyagraha where he and his followers marched to Dandi to protest the unjust taxation of salt by the British Empire. And 87 years ago Helen Keller protested by marching with actors for labor rights. It is because of that tradition that I love to march, knowing that I am part of something much bigger than myself. The consistency of photographs of people expressing themselves in the streets is vitally important to have in our history books. When people look back at January 2007, they should remember the march on Washington as the defining moment of our time, just as Dr. King’s, Gandhi’s, and Helen Keller’s marches did during their time.


Tzatziki (Greek Cucumber Dip)

June 25's  farm share from Glade Road Growing (GRG) will contain carrots, fresh garlic, curly kale, romaine lettuce, 2 cucumbers and a mix of yellow, green, and romanesco zucchini (see the above picture from GRG's facebook page.

Sally Walker has commissioned me to develop recipes for the CSA, in exchange for veggies. Here is the first one, for Tzatziki (including vegan option).  It would be great with grilled or raw carrots and squash, served with pita triangles and black greek olives. It is also delicious over sauteed kale. It takes about 20 minutes to prep and another 2 hours to chill.

Peel, seed and dice 2 cucumbers.
Chop 1 tsp. fresh dill

Drain and strain one of the following:
4 cups plain yogurt
2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 1/2 cups tofu "sour cream" (recipe found below) for vegan version

Combine in bowl and mix until well combined.
3 tbsp. olive oil
1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed with flat side of knife, peeled, minced finely
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. white pepper

Whisk in yogurt or tofu sour cream to mix well.

Add cucumbers and dill.

Chill for at least two hours before serving.

Vegan Tofu "Sour Cream"

In a blender, process together five minutes, until very creamy and smooth:

1 (16 ounce) package silken tofu
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
6-7 teaspoons lemon juice (one lemon gives you about 9 teaspoons)
1 teaspoon demerarara sugar (or the equivalent of your favorite sweetener)
1/2-1 teaspoon salt, to taste

Refrigerate for at least an hour to thicken.

Use within 5-6 days.

Sally and JP try to predict the farm share head of time on the left sidebar here:

They make some last minute changes based on availability (like this week replacing swiss chard with a couple cucumbers.)


Tope Folarin: “Miracle”

"Abandoned Church of God: Akron, Alabama." Digital photograph. ©2010 April Dobbins, one of her a series illustrating  “Miracle” by Tope Folarin (from his forthcoming novel The Proximity of Distance) in Issue 109 of Harvard's Transition Magazine (website, twitter).

Aaron Bady (blog, email, twitter)-- whom I know from fighting Mountaintop Removal--posted instructions  for blogging the short list for the Caine Festival for African Writing  on May 22,  I just found out today, the deadline for the first finalist.  Interestingly, four of the five finalists are Nigerians, as is Tope Folarin (interview).

Aaron, by the way, is a PhD student at the University of California, Berkeley in African literature. He says he's planning on posting his own essay on Monday of each week, and doing a week-in-review post on Saturday, both at the New Inquiry. If you’d like to participate in the blogging, you can email him at aaron@thenewinquiry.com or tweet with him—and @elnathan, @Abubakr_khalifa, and @topefolarinon—on twitter using the hashtag #caineprize.

Here are the deadlines for the rest of the short list,  in case you want to blog or just read along with us.

June 3rd — June 8th
Pede Hollist (Sierra Leone) “Foreign Aid”
June 10th — June 15th
Abubakar Adam Ibrahim (Nigeria) “The Whispering Trees”
June 17th –June 22nd
Elnathan John (Nigeria) “Bayan Layi”
June 24th — June 29th
Chinelo Okparanta (Nigeria) “America”


I love that Tope Folarin's   "Miracle is a story of faith deeper than literal faith--of believing in the need to hold up the spirit of one's community. Folarin hints at the story's ending,  soon after he begins, describing the prayers of
we who have made it to America, because we know we are here for a reason. We ask for your blessings because we are not here alone. Each of us represents dozens, sometimes hundreds of people back home. So many lives depend on us Lord...

The pilgrims who have come to seek the ministrations of the short, blind old prophet who they've seen
perform miracles that were previously only possible in the pages of our Bibles...

We have come from all over North Texas to see him. Some of us have come from Oklahoma, some of us from Arkansas, a few of us from Louisiana and a couple from New Mexico. We own his books, his tapes, his holy water, his anointing oil. We know that he is an instrument of God’s will, and we have come because we need miracles.

We need jobs. We need good grades. We need green cards. We need American passports. We need our parents to understand that we are Americans. We need our children to understand they are Nigerians. We need new kidneys, new lungs, new limbs, new hearts. We need to forget the harsh rigidity of our lives, to remember why we believe, to be beloved, and to hope.

We need miracles.
The story, although about Nigerian immigrants had a resonance for me because of the old man's message, which could apply just as well to Appalachians:
“The purpose of my presence in your midst is to let you know that you should no longer accept the bad things that have become normal in your lives. America is trying to teach you to accept your failures, your setbacks. Now is the time to reject them! To claim the success that is rightfully yours!”

And maybe, too, because like the narrator, I have been severely myopic and his description rings so true. Folarin's description of the prophet is especially vivid:
 in this charged atmosphere everything about him makes sense, even the irony of his blindness, his inability to see the wonders that God performs through his hand. His blindness is a confirmation of his power. It’s the burden he bears on our behalf; his residence in a space of perpetual darkness has only sharpened his spiritual vision over the years. He can see more than we will ever see....

 His sunglasses fall from his face, and we see the brilliant white orbs quivering frantically in their sockets, two full moons that have forgotten their roles in the drama of the universe. His attendants lunge to the floor to recover them, and together they place the glasses back on his ancient face. The prophet continues as if nothing happened....

I don’t have enough time to wrap up my unbelief and tuck it away....

The prophet suddenly pulls off his sunglasses. He stares at me with his sightless eyes. I become uncomfortable, so I lean slightly to the right and his face follows. I lean slightly to the left and his face does the same. A sly smile begins to unfurl itself across his face. My heart begins to beat itself to death.
I love that "Miracle" at first seems so serious and ends with a wink.  I love that it has none of the heaviness of Flannery O'Connor (whom I love, but whose humor is caustic with constant theme of pride going before a fall.)  Maybe that's because Folarin writes from the midst of the disenfranchised rather than casting down the self-satisfied "good" Christians.

Having been exposed now to Folarin, I want to read more.  And I've looking forward to reading the others nominees.