Observing Juneteenth

President Joe Biden signed the bill to recognize Juneteenth as a federal holiday, which may be some modicum of progress, and one that I celebrate. However, it’s impossible not to see this as some kind of – I don’t know if compromise is the right word – instead of Americans doing the work that is necessary to acknowledge the real trauma of slavery and its ongoing impact on our nation. It seems such a small, insignificant thing as voting rights are under attack, and as Black people are literally under attack.

All that aside, I am observing Juneteenth by reading, listening, and learning, trying to understand the significance of this holiday in history, and its meaning now. I’ve known about Juneteenth for some time, but only now I am coming to truly appreciate its meaning. What is sticking with me now is that, while Juneteenth is a joyful celebration, it comes from a place of profound pain, and you cannot separate the two.

This week, my learning includes the second video episode of the Black History Continued series from the New York Times. Juneteenth: The New Black Joy is a wonderful episode about Black creativity and resilience. It includes an interview with Questlove about his new documentary, Summer of Soul, about the little-known, yet very important cultural event in 1969, the Harlem Cultural Festival. At the end of the video is a beautiful conversation with Esperanza Spalding about her work, and her sanctuary for BIPOC artists (I hope someone from the MacArthur Foundation is paying attention).

Additionally, I’ve been listening to Ibram X. Kendi’s new podcast, Be Anti-Racist. The latest episode is The Juneteenth Mixtape, a collection of reflections of people on the street and cultural thinkers and intellectuals and their thoughts on the holiday.

My spouse celebrated his birthday last week, and in the week prior, we had started to delve into the wonderful Netflix series, High on the Hog, about the food and cooking of the African Diaspora and its impact on American culture and food. My husband, a brilliant cook and lover of history, said to me “how do I not have any of Jessica Harris’s books?!” So I knew that I needed to give him her book, High on the Hog, which is the inspiration for the series.

With inspiration from this documentary, my spouse and I are considering how we will henceforth observe and celebrate the holiday, This New York Times collection of recipes, including a submission from Jessica Harris for succotash, is giving us some ideas, and I think we will be doing some testing throughout the year. YUM!

Finally, you cannot have a celebration without music. I found a fantastic Juneteenth list on Spotify, and this will be our soundtrack.

Chicago Dreaming

Well, it is happening. I’ve been offered a dream job in my favorite city. G and I are picking up and leaving the great state of California and moving to Chicago. Both of us have lived here for just about our entire adult lives, so this is going to be an enormous change.

But I am a Midwestern girl, and I know I’m going to love it there. G knows that it is a great town to visit, but she is stepping out on faith that I am leading both of us to a good place.

She can trust me. Chicago is AWESOME!

Things are falling into place as if this was all meant to be. I keep waiting for something to go wrong, for there to be some major glitch that would make everything just totally suck. It’s a very stressful time, don’t get me wrong. But all of the little details are so far coming off without a hitch (knock on wood…thunk).

Perhaps it has a lot to do with our search for housing. We went to Chicago and managed to find a place to live in one weekend. In the Bay Area we’re used to dealing with lots of high-priced, tiny, crumby apartments, and even though we knew Chicago is a totally different housing market, we just couldn’t let go of Bay Area expectations.

We looked at our fair share of crumby apartments, to be sure. In one place I would guess that the bath tub hadn’t been cleaned the entire time that the three male roommates had occupied the apartment. And it wasn’t just to boys who were slobs, if you think I’m being sexist. In another apartment shared by three young women, there was half-eaten food on the floor and dirty clothes strewn everywhere. What the deal with landlords in Chicago showing apartments that are not only occupied (which is actually understandable to a degree), but are occupied by slobs who are truly disgusting? I walked out of some of these places feeling like I needed to take a bath. But I digress.

We found the most beautiful apartment we could imagine (photos to come). When we walked into the place our jaws hit the gorgeous hardwood floors. We gaped at the twelve-foot ceilings, the spacious living areas, the original built-in cabinetry with leaded glass, and we mouthed to each other “Oh my God!” I whispered to G “This is the one!” We couldn’t believe it. We were sure that something had to be wrong. We couldn’t possibly afford the rent here, or there must be something wrong with the neighborhood. We will be living in the Uptown neighborhood on the north side of Chicago, which is a bit rough, but nothing that we’re not used to.

Now we’re fantasizing about growing tomatoes and herbs on our front patio, grilling in the back, setting up a yoga and meditation room, entertaining friends at many fabulous dinner parties, and simply occupying opposite sides of the apartment! We’re so used to living in small quarters and needing to occupy the same room! This will be real freedom.

Make no mistake, we are going to miss the Bay Area a lot. Probably immediately as winter sets in there. We’ll miss our friends, no doubt, we’ll miss the fantastic weather, the farmers market down the street, the bakery, the fantastic dining, our church. I have adopted Oakland as my home. I will most certainly be homesick for some time.

But when I first moved here fifteen years ago, I was homesick for Chicago. So here I go back home again.

July Fourth Musings

On this national holiday, I find myself wondering why there aren’t more people in the streets protesting what is going on within our current administration, fighting to preserve our civil rights. I’m not just talking about a minority that is being treated unfairly. I am talking about the erosion of the Constitutional rights of all citizens. We should all be f****ing pissed! If you’re not sure why, take a look at this video:

The latest antics should make all of us alarmed and angry. I could go on about the various scandals and horrific actions of Bush Cheney & Co., but there is no need. We all know the litany of offenses and crimes they have committed. But this crap has been going on for so long now. During the entire time Bush has been in office I have often thought to myself “Well, this must be it. They’ver really done it this time. There is no way things will get any worse. They are really going to be taken to task, called on the carpet, have to answer for their bad behavior this time!”

But it hasn’t happened! Why aren’t people hitting the streets the way they did back in the 1960s? Or even at the beginning of this immoral war? Do we need every protest to be an organized event that features entertainment and T-shirts? These types of events are important cultural moments, but I really wonder what it is going to take for people to get really angry, angry enough to really effect change.

Meanwhile, Bush’s approval rating is in the toilet, at an all-time low, according to that ever-reliable source Fox News. And still, Bush has the gall to pardon Libby (and yes, I do mean pardon — let’s call it what it is. Libby is getting off easy, and Bush & Co. are a bunch of hypocrites). What will it take to stop them?

They never will until more of us start paying attention and getting angry! I think that many of us feel so depressed, disaffected, and powerless that we think nothing that we do will matter. So, what am I doing? Will marching down my quiet neighborhood street with a picket sign really make a difference? Maybe not immediately. Maybe my neighbors will think I’m a little nutty, but I know may of them are aligned with me politically, and those who are not or who maybe don’t care will stop and think about the erosion of their Constitutional rights.

Well, I’m not marching down the street exactly. I, too, feel depressed and disaffected and powerless. I’m not sure what to do, and in some ways I feel that my very survival is a subversive act. I do what I can, I speak up, and I pay attention, and I am outraged.

Today I’m quietly being patriotic in my blogging, relaxing with my wife as we grill our steaks, as she makes her fabulous Ceasar Salad and as I make strawberry rhubarb pie. Perhaps I’ll post the recipes later.

Happy Fourth of July, everybody! Exercise and fight for your civil rights while you still can!

Today I am thankful for…

Mashed potatoes
Butternut squash with ginger, lemon, butter, and honey
Brussels sprouts with bacon and thyme
Home-made cranberry sauce
Oyster cornbread stuffing
Shitake mushroom gravy
Maple pecan pie
Amazing smells eminating from the kitchen
Gillian’s cooking tallent
Elastic waistbands
My beautiful wife to share this day and this meal with