Do you see what I see?: A commentary on society and its growing complacency towards incidents of racial animus

In 2009, a Philadelphia swim club was visited by a bunch of African American Kids in a summer program. The kids ranging in ages of 5-12 (I think), were supposed to use the pool but unfortunately their summertime fun was prematurely cut short. Instead what they got was club members asking there were “black kids” in the pool and “are they going to steal from us?” In response the concern of the members, the club asked the summer program kids to leave. Of course, this made the news and I was appalled. Three years have gone by. The swim club has gone under. Declared bankruptcy and come to a settlement agreement with the victims. I am happy. Sad that it happened because those experiences never get erased. But glad that they have come to a resolution. Now, below are some thoughts that have been brewing inside me for the past three years regarding this issue. For those of you that know me, don’t take it personal. I believe in open and honest communication. So, take it with a grain of salt and appreciate the fact that I am sharing it finally. It would be worse if I just let it sit and brew some more. Enjoy!

I CONFESS:

This swimming pool discrimination article represented a Turning Point in my life because it kind of brought me to the painful realization that “racial injustice” is not a thing of importance to many of the people that I know or that smile at me and call me “friend” whenever they see me in a public settings. Maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised? I don’t know. I guess I naively thought that most of my friends, especially those who have actively shared life with me as fellow christians, would naturally gravitate towards the sense of “horror, outrage, appall, righteous anger…” that I as an African American felt when I read the story of the awful experience these innocent young kids had to go through. Not only that, I expected that this same circle of “friends” would be absolutely appalled (just like I was), that such actions still “blatantly” occurred in the 21st century. I mean… come on! The last time I heard of such a acts was when I read about the jim crow and the civil rights era. Yeah Apartheid definitely lasted into the 20th century but then, that was not in the good ole… U.S of A…

So...

Still trying to recover from the shock that such overt discriminatory acts actually took place, I posted this article on my Facebook wall in 2009. 2009, A year after the election. A year after “Obama” became the first African American President of the USA. A year of heightened conflict between the political factions in congress. A year when there was such a chasmic divide not only between politicians but between everyone who had an opinion about all the various issues plaguing the nation – Healthcare, the economy, the bailout, Social Security, Taxes.. and oh I almost forgot, the president’s “oh so daring idea” to publicly address school children and give them a pep talk about the importance of education and staying in school. How dare he! (insert sarcastic voice).

You see…

I remember all these topics because that year I was intentional with my Facebook article posts. I intentionally posted a myriad of articles on all of these topics in order to stir up a healthy debate (at least I hoped they would be healthy). I enjoyed it. I loved hearing everyone’s thoughts even if I did not agree with them. And trust me, there was A LOT of debate and points of view from people from left, right and center, especially on issues like Healthcare, Taxes and the president audacious act of addressing school kids on national TV (smh!). The spectrum was well covered. I noticed quite a high percentage of participation amongst a “certain” segment of my FB friends and that was great. It was invigorating.

But then….

The swimming pool incident happened. As usual, I posted the article. I was still trying to recover from the shock I was feeling after reading it. I felt like I was there. At the pool, with these kids. I felt like one of them. These kids, I could relate to them. They look like me. For some odd reason (or maybe not odd..) although I did not know them I felt their pain, embarrassment, anger, confusion, helplessness, frustration and everything in between. The emotions made my heart burn with pain, and my eyes welled up with tears (I hate when that happens and its not often either) …. as I posted this article on my page and I waited anxiously, ( in retrospect I blame my naiveté), expecting that the same people who were so passionate about their disdain or support for the healthcare bill, the proposed tax changes, the president speaking to school kids…. would for some reason find this issue of blatant racial discrimination towards kids just as important (and dare I say “un christlike”) and worthy of a passionate debate.

But to my utter dismay….

Nothing. There was hardly one substantive comment in response. There were a couple of “minnesota nice” acknowledgements of the situation. The typical “How awful” kinda comments, but nothing noteworthy. No passion. No debate. No outcry. Nothing. Nada.

That day…

My eyes were opened to the realities of life and the people that surround me. That day I realized that although many of the people I know claim to stand against injustice, claim to understand history (or maybe not) and the impact it has had on various racial segments of the society, maintain that there is equality and equal opportunity and use that as an argument for or against policies that have been implemented to ensure a more level playing field…, when it comes down to it, they don’t even have enough passion do decry this awful act because they have never had the “privilege” to experience even an ounce of it. That day I realized that my color afforded me the “privilege” to feel the experience of these kids to the depths of my soul and most likely none of my White friends will ever have to experience that. That day, I understood one more meaning of “privilege”. Depending on who you are, its either a negative or a positive. Unfortunately for these kids and for me, we have had the experience and its indescribably painful.

That day…

My eyes were opened and I saw things differently. I did not like what was revealed to me but I appreciated that it was revealed. That day it dawned on me that I most likely would be screwed if we were living in the 1960’s and my friends operated with this same manner of complacency. Actually I remember thinking “Crap, we most likely would still be fighting a battle for basic civil rights 50yrs later and we definitely would not have had any Freedom Riders.”

I still think back to that day when realization struck me like a bolt of lightning and the words of Desmond Tutu, a man I greatly admire and respect, come to my mind – “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.

And so the next day…

I became a quasi sociologist and experimented by intentionally posting something about Obama…

The passionate conversations reignited.

And for the first time… I was disappointed.

I don’t like what I see but I feel better now 🙂

THE END.

So, I finally got “defriended” I guess it was about time. Hahaha!

A memorable event happened about 3 months ago. Actually it’s kind of funny, sad, hilarious, pathetic, immature, unfortunate, validating and everything in between. What was it? Well…  I finally got defriended on Facebook.  Of course, this was not before the “friend” told me to learn how to “speak proper English” so that my voice can be heard and I was also told that my statements were “uneducated and unfounded ...thereby diminishing my voice! I was amused and at the same time horrified that someone in my “circle of FB Friends” would dare to be so rude. But then, hey I do tend to intentionally create an atmosphere for quasi controversial dialog(insert evil wink.)  Wanna know what quasi controversial statement of mine ticked her off? I’ll tell ya. I basically said that Fox News was a joke. Lesson of the day – don’t diss Fox. Hahaha….

Here is the deal. I love to know what people think even though I might not agree. Everyone has a right to share their opinions and they should feel that it is safe for them to do so. My FB friends know this. that is why they can freely converse, debate, argue.. or whatever you want to call it… on my FB page without feeling threatened. They know that in general, I am a straight shooter. I share what’s on my mind about whatever is happening around us. I do so, knowing that some people will disagree, but I am ok with it. If we don’t have differing views on issues, then life would be quite boring.

Instead of this person to take the opportunity to freely share any constructive thoughts she had on my status all I got was – advice on how I needed to learn to speak proper English. Instead of her to challenge me on my so called “unfounded” statements, she again implied that my voice won’t be heard because I make uneducated and unfounded statements. Well.. she may be right, who knows? Maybe I am uneducated and make unfounded statements. So what? Facebook is not the appropriate platform to post a dissertation anyway, so I really am not that concerned about who I cite and how I cite. The fact that I missed an apostrophe or a period in my sentence is not really of concern to me either.

You know, I really thank God for one thing though. this minute inconsequential incident really ended up making me happy. Because on any given day, a white American telling me (a person of African descent) to “speak proper english” would have definitely tempted me to say things I never thought I could say. That particular phrase has a lot of history for many people like me. When I say “a lot” I really mean it. I could tell a multitude of stories stemming from the unbelievable amount of ignorance of many many “Americans” that I or other immigrant friends have met along the way (you would be amazed at what people say.) So in general, that particular statement really strikes a chord. But you know what? That day, even though it still struck a chord, it was different. It was brief. It did not last. Instead, it ended with a smile and then laughter. Laughter at the silliness embedded behind the statement because it made absolutely no sense.

Now don’t get me wrong, I was still bothered by the ignorance behind it. However, I wanted to make sure that I was not making a bunch of assumptions and subsequently creating a mountain out of a molehill. So, I deflected the two insulting statements with neutral or quasi positive responses. Then I followed up by sending an email to the person, just asking for clarification. Was I making assumptions? was she being sarcastic? Were the statements really directed at me personally? What’s the deal?

So, what happened after I sent the email? Well, let’s just say 3 months later….. I am still waiting for a response. I am quite sure I will not get one. You see, when I tried to send a message, it was then that I realized that I had no access to her wall and she was no longer on my friend list anymore. I had been DEFRIENDED!  Hahaha! I finally got defriended. I guess its about darn time.

So for those of you who are still interested in reading my status even though they may annoy you, keep me as a friend. However, if you can’t suck it up and join our awesome conversations, then I guess you better defriend me right now, cause I don’t plan to stop my comments any time soon.

HAHAHA! LIFE IS GOOD!

Until later… love from Mate and Chocolate

Pasa el maté: My passionate love affair with …Yerba Maté.

Aaah… so the long awaited Yerba Maté (aka Maté) story is finally here. I know it would have been more logical to start out my blog with the story since the blog is called “Mate and Chocolate” after all. But, oh well… I didn’t. And from what I can tell, the world is still rotating on its orbit, the sun is still shining during the day, the moon at night and if you are reading this that means you are still here. Conclusion? Life is good. So.. back to the Maté story.

.

The neighborhood of La Boca. A former former Italian immigrant settlement.

Now, the first time I drank maté, I was down in Argentina with a group of friends on a mission trip. I was of course going through culture shock and at the same time attempting to assist the group by translating with my very limited Spanish skills, which meant my brain was on overdrive and it hurt. I was also attempting to win the imaginary “best team member to adapt” award by trying everything that I was being offered because I did not want to look like a wimpy, picky American  that complained about everything (I really did not want to reinforce that stereotype lol). So on this particular day, there I was, with a group of newly acquired Argentine friends, on a hot February afternoon, under the scorching Argentine sun (it was the summer season) trying to practice for a play that was going to be presented later on that evening. It was hot and humid, we were all dying of thirst so we decided to take a break from practicing. As we sat down, one of the guys pulled out of his bag a weird looking cup (aka “the gourd”), and started to pour some herb-like stuff into it and then he pulled out a metal straw that kind of curved at the top, poured some lemonade into the gourd, inserted the straw and took a long sip. I was like… “oooook? Interesting. Must be cultural.” (duh!) However he did not stop there. He then poured more lemonade into the tea filled gourd and passed the gourd to the guy sitting next to him, who then took a nice long sip and passed it back to the original guy. Ok, now I was like – “Eeeewww!” Well, then it continued because the original guy poured more lemonade into the gourd and then passed it to the 3rd person and now he drank from the same gourd using the same straw!!!! Now I was like, “super eeeewww!!!”

The famous Cafe Tortoni

By this time I got the gist and I knew what was coming… and it came! The next thing I know, they all turn to us, the “Americanos” and each one of knew we would be asked to drink from the “friendship” cup. So, in the spirit of adventure and camaraderie, I drank. I drank from the “friendship” cup and it was the most refreshing drink I had ever had. The icy tea ran down my dry sahara-like parched throat, gently irrigating every nook and corner, reviving its senses and bringing it to life. I forgot about the countless lips that had tasted before me. They mattered no more. All I could think of was – Dang! This tea is awesome! And with that one sip on a hot February afternoon, under the Argentine sun, began a friendship, a passionate love affair with maté. I love it hot. I love it cold. I love it with sugar, with honey or with none. It’s definitely a keeper!

Since then, I have learned more about maté other than how to drink it. I have learned that it has great health benefits, (high in antioxidants) I have learned that the Uruguayans beat the Argentines hands down when it comes to how much they drink maté. (My sister and I were in Uruguay and we saw police officers walking down the street with maté bags, ready to drink it at any time) I have learned the common saying about maté and that is – Maté is meant to be shared amongst friends. (I guess that makes sense, given its method of consumption) I like that saying a lot because it is very true. In South America, when friends get together to visit, you will not find them sharing a beer, or wine or pop, you will most likely find them sitting around talking, laughing and sharing maté.

Now, that I live in an area where no one else but I drinks maté, I of course am going against the norm by drinking maté by myself. However, whenever I do have a chance to hang out with my Argentine friends here in the USA, we always end up congregating around the maté.

If you are ever brave enough and decide to try it, you can buy the tea herbs at any Latino food store or you can also check out any Teavana store (they sell the gourd and straw too but they are more expensive.) For more info on the tea Yerba maté, check out http://guayaki.com/mate/130/What-is-Yerba-Mate%3F.html

Here are a few photos and basic instructions on how to prepare and drink maté. As you can see, it does look like you are doing something illegal right? The whole gourd, metal straw and sipping thing… Hahahaha…suspicious lol.  I used to get the weirdest looks from people when I would pull it out and drink it in the park or in a public space. It was absolutely hilarious! Ok.. until next time – Saludos! To Maté and Chocolate!

The fancy ones come in a tin

However they are almost always packaged in a bag.

Open bag and pour the tea herbs into the mate (aka gourd). fill it half way.

The 3 things you will need: the gourd, the tea and a thermos for hot water

Slowly add your hot water to the maté,

It should look somewhat like this

then insert your straw and slowly sip the water until you have sipped it all up. Pour more hot water into the gourd and sip it again. Repeat as until the tea loses its flavor or gets watered down.

Sip, Sip, and AWAY..........

 

Note: During the summer, maté is prepared with a cold water source like lemonade which is what I had the first time I tried it. However during the other time periods, when the sun is not scorching, it is prepared with hot water, like any other tea.

Maté is meant to be shared

Food Station: My weekend journey to Thailandia…

I heart rice. I can eat rice three times a day, seven days a week for the next month and be just fine. However, there are days when I know I need to break out of my rice mold and try something new. So, since it was grocery shopping day,  I decided to buy ingredients  to make a Thai Peanut Chicken stir fry. I already had some some chicken and homemade peanut sauce at home (see note below on how to make a quickie peanut sauce), so all I needed were the vegetables. I think it turned out ok, although I must say I have made better. What I like about this stir fry is, I can use the leftovers with other things like rotini pasta or salad.  Oh and the peanut sauce, can also be used as a salad dressing or as a dip for spring rolls or I can just sautee some chicken, add some peanut sauce then add on top of a bed of salad. It tastes absolutely awesome!  I really love when I can use one main ingredient for multiple things. It just makes life easier and reduces my “in the kitchen” time.

Anyway, back to my stir fry…

So, here are some of the highlights of my cooking expedition this past weekend. I am also throwing in some pictures that I took with my Iphone (not the best quality, but I think it serves its purpose).  Fyi,  for those of you that live by measurements, I am not including any. I don’t measure, I gauge. Lol.

The stir fry Ingredients:

    1. Olive Oil
    2. Diced chicken
    3. Onions
    4. garlic
    5. Peanut sauce
    6. Chicken broth
    7. Your choice of vegetables. I used: Broccoli, snow peas, shredded carrots, mushrooms, red, yellow and orange bell peppers.
    8. Salt and pepper to taste.

First, I heated up some olive oil in a pan (the amount of oil depends on the amount of chicken you plan to use).  Once heated, I added the garlic, onions and diced chicken and cooked the chicken until slightly browned

Brown the chicken in olive oil with garlic and onions

Once the chicken was browned, I added about a couple of tablespoons of peanut sauce to the mix. I already had this made previously because I love making my own peanut sauce. I will share that recipe some other time. If you don’t know how to make it, you can easily pick up some peanut sauce from any grocery store.  

Next, I added my snap peas.  This was my first time EVER using snap peas in anything. They looked like they would need more time to cook compared to the other veggies, so they went in first.

Then I added some chicken broth. (Note: the amount used really depends on how saucy you want your stir fry to be. I wanted some saucy stir fry lol.)

Next I added the broccoli and let that cook for about a minute…

add broccoli

 then I added the bell peppers …

 
 
 

add peppersand next, the carrots and let them cook for another minute or so... Last, I added the mushrooms. They went in last, because they don’t need much heat.everything is added...

I also added salt and pepper to taste. In general, you can add any other spice you think would go with this. I was too lazy to be creative with my spicing so I just stuck to the salt and pepper, oh, I did add some cilantro too. On a good day, I think I would have added some ginger as well. I love ginger!

Yum! I overcooked the veggies 😦

Once my veggies were cooked to my liking, I plated it with . . . SURPRISE, SURPRISE – Rice!  Of course, you can also eat this with pasta. Actually today, I added the left over stir fry to rotini pasta and that’s my lunch for tomorrow. Normally I throw a couple spoons of chopped peanuts over this, but I was so hungry that I forgot. So, if you make this, don’t forget the peanuts. The added crunch, is sooo worth it.

I was also feeling super ambitious, so while I was making my stir fry, I made a number of Spring Rolls too. I figured, Hey, I have peanut sauce and I can use the same ingredients in my stir fry to make the spring rolls, so… I did. However I forgot to take pictures of the process, so all I have is a couple of pictures of a sloppily rolled spring roll that sure tasted great! Next time, I will remember to take picturesof the process. But here is the end product –

spring rolls!

Well, hope you are inspired to try out this stir fry or create your own. It is really easy to make and quite healthy too.

 

 

Note on homemade peanut sauce: Wanna make a quickie peanut sauce? Dump – peanut butter, soy sauce, garlic, ginger, sugar and some chicken broth in a blender. Mix and serve. To make is spicy, add some thai chili paste or some red pepper flakes. (I definitely have to give props to my friend Linnea for giving me this wonderful recipe idea.)

Mother Hubbard’s cupboard: Cooking with “five loaves and two fishes.”

This is how I feel sometimes

I love to cook, but more often than not, I find myself driving home from work wondering “hmm… what am I going to cook when I get home?” Then I do a mental scan to determine what ingredients I have to make a nice savory dish and surprise, surprise, there is always at least one ingredient that I am lacking for my perfect recipe!

You know, I honestly wonder if recipes are a blessing or a curse because I have discovered that I feel the most inefficient when I try to plan around one. Here is the deal, when I decide to follow a recipe, then I discover I am missing an ingredient; I eventually come to the conclusion that I have nothing at home to eat and I get frustrated. It doesn’t matter that my cupboard is full of other various ingredients and that my fridge is not empty. What matters is, I don’t have all the required ingredients for my recipe and that translates into I have nothing to eat. Now, I am beginning to realize how big of a lie that is, and I am going back to my roots, back to what my mama taught me. 

Cook with whatever you have

When I was growing up, my mom taught me to cook with “five loaves and two fishes” (i.e. “whatever I had at that moment in time.”) You see, my mom is an amazing cook and I never once saw her open a recipe book when we were growing up. According to her, there was always something to eat and no matter how bare the fridge or cupboards were we always had somewhere in there, our five loaves and two fishes.  My mom’s method was simple. It went like this –  open the fridge, do a quick visual scan, pull out whatever she saw, combine the ingredients together with some seasoning and voila!Dinner was done and OMG! It always tasted absolutely amazing.

Use whatever veggies you have

Nowadays,since it is important to use everything and reduce waste, I really see the value in this method and honestly it has served me quite well and challenged my creativity. So now, although I do love following recipes,( and I still do but I don’t let them limit my creativity),  I still incorporate the “throw it all together” method my mom taught me. So for instance, I look in my fridge, I see red peppers, onions and broccoli, I look in my cupboard and I have half a box of pasta, I sauté the veggies, add some red pepper flakes (I must have my hot spice), add some basil, salt, pepper and the universal spice – garlic, I cook my pasta, toss it with the veggies and add some parmesan cheese and voila! I have a meal fit for a king and I do not need to look at a recipe book to put that together. And if I want to get some sauce in the mix, I just open a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes (those canned products come in handy, but I only use on rare occasions) and add it to the sautéed veggies, then toss with the pasta or rice. 

Spices really do the trick

I almost always have chicken so another option is to season some diced chicken breast with salt, pepper and any vinaigrette salad dressing you have hanging around in your fridge, heat up some olive oil in a pan, add diced onions and garlic, sautee then add the chicken. Once its cooked, eat it with a side of any veggie like sautéed/grilled broccoli or asparagus or a with a baked potato. Or, you can marinade the chicken in the salad dressing vinaigrette with garlic and of course some red pepper flakes (if you don’t like spice then use black pepper), bake it in the oven and eat with a side of veggies or a salad.

Spice up your life a bit. Let the contents of your refrigerator and your cupboard dictate what you will eat at least one day a week. Surprise yourself. Discover what happens when you choose a couple of everyday ingredients and combine them together with some garlic, onions, salt and pepper. The options are unlimited when you finally get the hang of it and life does tend to be a little easier when you don’t have to follow the rules …

You know what? I think I will start sharing more about my impromptu meal concoctions once in a while (I promise to also let you know when they turn out absolutely awful or amazing) and I would also love to hear yours so why don’t you take the time to share what you have in your refrigerator or cupboard? I am sure we can come up with some really cool meal ideas together. And  whenever you feel like Mother Hubbard, remember that the sky is the limit when you have five loaves and two fishes.

Sojourner’s telling the Truth

“It is the mind that makes the body”Sojourner Truth

I have always greatly admired people like Sojourner Truth. She actually did something with her life. She helped people. She made a difference and she faced many odds.  I sometimes wonder if she would have liked drinking maté or if she ever once indulged in chocolate? I have a feeling she didn’t. I really don’t know why she was named Sojourner Truth? I am sure if I did a little digging, I could come up with an answer to that piece of the puzzle, but you know what? Right now I am just too lazy to embark on the journey to find out why she was given the name Sojourner.  I guess that’s kind of ironical since right now, I am about to delve into a new journey in my already chaotic life. School.  The word little ten year olds hear and immediately dive under the protective covers of their blankets on a cold rainy day at 7am, because they know they need to get up, get dressed and head on out to learn something new.

I can’t believe I am actually saying this but I am going back to school! Now, I don’t know if that word will actually elicit the same reaction from me as it does in a ten year old, but right now all I know is, I am a conondrum of giddy, nervous and confident – all in one. Giddy cause I am excited about learning, nervous cause well… it costs money and as we all know, education in the USA is no cheap thing (more like a couple of mortgages to be exact) and lastly I am confident that I am ready to embark on this journey into the unknown and everything is going to be ok.

So here’s my something new that I am trying – I am going to school in another state without leaving the confines of my home i.e Distance Learning. You see, I have a job that I absolutely LOVE and with this job market, there is no way on earth that I would even think of quitting in order to embark on this new educational journey. So, my only option is a distance education experience and my schools of choice are on the East Coast. Now, I don’t know how all of this is going to turn out but I am at least going to try and I will on occassion use this forum as a way to talk about my experience. Hopefully it will help others who consider taking on a similar challenge by giving some sort of insight into how the theoretical works out in the practical sense. In the meantime, I am still trying to figure out whether I am making the right decision. I mean,  If I am too lazy to google Sojourner Truth just to find out how she ended up with the name, how the heck am I going to get through 1 day of studying? I guess, we’ll just have to wait and see and if you have any tips please be nice and share. In the meantime, I shall take Ms. Truth’s advice to heart and focus on my mind cause it makes the body. I guess, she is telling the Truth!

So until next time, saludos to Maté and Chocolate!

Trying something new

Moving from a city of almost 3 million to one of  a little over 86,000 is no joke. I am a city girl that moved to what I will consider the smallest city I have ever lived in my entire life. It was the job. I don’t regret the move cause I absolutely LOVE the job but I must confess that I do miss a number of things like family, friends, the theater, parks, movies, hip restuarants, books, jazz, Shopping (B.R, Ann Taylor, Saks Fifth.. .holla!), salsa dancing, and everything else in between lol.  It’s been a challenge but one year and 4 months later, I can say I am doing quite fine because I have the two things that absolutely matter –  Maté and Chocolate. Mate, a South American tea that you drink out of a gourd with a straw, is like my substitute coffee and chocolate is my guilty pleasure.

Snowshoeing for the first time!

With most of my interests out of my daily reach, I have decided to find other things to occupy my time. I am now on a quest to try new things. I tried snowshoeing, joined a soccer league (but I recently pulled a muscle so, I will have to sit that out for a while. Booo!) and will finally begin learning how to swim next week and last but not the least, I will begin or at least attempt, to blog!  Feel free to join me as I while away my time talking about everything under the sun. (well, that’s when it shines of course because so far, we have not seen much of the sun and Its the end of June for Pete’s sake!) I will continue to try new things like sking and snowboarding, kayaking and sailing…. I figure, if I do, I might as well blog about it right?

The Gourd

Sometime soon, I will give you a great lesson on how to drink maté. I am quite sure you are gonna either like it or hate it. But you won’t know until you try. Just remember this saying about yerba maté, – “It is meant to be shared amongst friends.”  Consider this blog as my virtual mate. I invite you to share some with me and oh yeah, we’ll deal with the chocolate aspect later. Until then Saludos to Maté and Chocolate!