From the front door she calls, “He has risen!” Her children respond, “He has risen indeed. Let’s eat!”
I dodged church Easter Sunday this year. My mother Gbeme, however, worshipped at the Baptist church she’s been attending twice weekly for the past 20 years.
Raised Catholic in Nigeria, my mother’s Easter begins the seasonal swap from heavy wools to floral prints and pastels. She wears a beautifully vibrant gele — an intricately fashioned tie around the head worn by Yoruba women — and iro and buba — the matching outfit traditionally worn by Yoruba women — to church. She exchanges compliments with the other congregants about their upbeat clothes and steady health. For two hours the pews fill, the choir sings, and for the larger Easter crowd, the young new pastor delivers an especially rousing sermon. Soon thereafter, church dismisses. Time to eat.
For many Americans, Easter is synonymous with the egg. But in my bicultural household, creamy frejon is the signature Easter week delicacy. The bean soup is made of smoothly blended brown beans called ewa ibeji and steeped coconut, then sweetened with cane sugar to taste.
In the mid-1980s, my mother left metropolitan Lagos to attend college in rural Wisconsin — and made necessary modifications to the original frejon recipe. Back then international foods weren’t as integrated. In lieu of traditional Nigerian dishes, my mother observed her first few Easters amid sweet friends, sweet rolls, egg salad, and hearty Midwestern casseroles. After she graduated, she moved from Wisconsin to Minnesota, reuniting her with city dwelling, a dense Nigerian immigrant community, specialty grocers, and Easter frejon.
by Gloria Lowe, guest contributor
We live in difficult times. Stories of corruption, violence and down right evilness surround us. Trying to make sense of this state, it sometimes seems easier to close it all out, becoming numb to our pain and the pain of others. Often we pretend things will somehow get better tomorrow.
Many of us come to this holiday season with fear. What do we say to our children and our friends when there is no money for the “things” they have come to expect from us? What do we do when we cannot buy our way out of pain?
Many of us have been chasing the American Dream, trying to consume our way to our image of the “middle-class American.” We have come to believe we are what we can buy.
Everywhere we look, corporations encourage us to value things over people. Over the last fifty years the average American family has spent more hours working, chasing an ever-decreasing paycheck to buy things. We use these things to replace the time we no longer spend with families and friends.
The holiday season, sacred to all faiths, has become nothing more than a hyped-up consumer season and a wretched time of the year for those with no money. As more people are thrown off state support for the barest of necessities, as foreclosures increase and unemployment checks decrease, people are turning against one another.
This season we have an opportunity to rethink our values and what it means to be a human being. Can we begin to look past the superficial ways we judge one another by what we wear, what kind of car we drive, or what church we go to? Can we learn to see each other in our hearts and not just with our eyes?
As a community we have a long history of transcending pain, of turning fear to hope and hope to action. We have learned to reach out to each other in service. We have known that a fragmented heart manifests a fragmented world. We have always made a way out of no way.
This holiday season is an opportunity for all of us to dedicate ourselves to building authentic relationships with our families, our friends and our communities.
We may not have money for toys and trinkets but we can wrap our arms around our children and show them how to love. We may not be able to spend money, but we can spend time.
We can set aside time and talk to one other about our hopes and dreams. We can take time to reconnect across generations, sharing stories of family and friends that pass on the values and skills that have enabled us to endure for centuries.
We can ask ourselves what do we need to do to create peace in our homes, in our families and in neighborhoods? How do we decide what we need, not just what we want? How do we live more simply, to consume less and love more?
We are facing an economic and spiritual crisis that threatens our survival and our deepest humanity. But it also an opportunity. It is an opportunity to create a more just way of living. In earlier, more dangerous times we created families, villages, places of worship and respect for one another. We have that creativity within us still.
Let us all celebrate this holiday season through the eyes of a “beloved community,” turning away from wanting things to valuing people. We can turn to one another and ask what kind of community we can create together.
Gloria Lowe is founder and CEO of We Want Green, Too! Ms. Lowe was also a guest in our show "Becoming Detroit."Comments
by Steven Martin, guest contributor
Fans give the three-fingered salute of District 12. The gesture is one of admiration, meaning thanks or goodbye to one’s beloved. (photo: Doug Kline / © 2012 PopCultureGeek.com)
I was certain I was going to hate it. All of my four kids have been fans of the series of books by Suzanne Collins since before they were cool; therefore when the movie was announced, we all knew the midnight screening on the night of release was a must-do.
But in the run-up to last night’s trip to the IMAX theater, the reviews I read and heard helped confirm my feeling that this would be a disgusting movie: violent, gratuitous in every way, repulsive to my social conscience.
I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
I tend to approach these cultural phenomena with a concern that my comfort level will be jolted. What I should be concerned about is what these phenomena say about our culture, and in the case of The Hunger Games, what it says about the generation that elevated the story to its current status. With an eye to the latter, I drove home early this morning with a deep satisfaction that my kids were smarter than I was at their age, and that their generation understands something mine did not.
First: yes, the movie is violent, and disturbingly so. The story is one about a future world in which a wealthy ruling class dominates a world that it is linked to, but separate from, itself through overwhelming police and military power, and entertainment that both enthralls and intimidates the underclasses. The focus of the story is an annual gladiatorial ritual in which representatives from the “districts” under domination give up children to a tournament of slaughter and death. Yes, this movie is based around images of children killing each other.
It is a valid question to ask: why must we tell stories that constantly elevate the level of violence necessary to grab our attention? Why is it now necessary to portray children killing other children, and children dying by each others’ hands? This is indeed an important question for our society to wrestle with. But more importantly, we should direct our moralizing to the question the film itself seeks to ask: why are we satisfied to be part of a society that finds it necessary to feed upon its young?
Viral successes like The Hunger Games reach mass audiences because they strike a nerve. The audience for the books and the film, the “millennial generation,” is not lost on the message. Our society is held together by a craving for violence. What is, say, middle-school football, after all?
We should ask: is it tolerable for us to send our young boys into a game that breaks legs, destroys knees, causes concussions, and otherwise changes the course of life forever? Of course it is! Not only does the game bring our community together, provide economic opportunities, but for the lucky few, college scholarships and professional opportunities. For the players, they are willing to risk limb and even life for a lottery-styled shot at fame and fortune. For the audience, we are willing to cheer when the fallen player limps off the field, or worse, is carried off to the emergency room, sighing a concern or uttering a prayer for the well-being of the child who may suffer permanently in the name of our entertainment.
The Hunger Games causes us to consider other forms of this structural violence. Not to only pick on the venerable institution of football, the film’s prevailing metaphor can be applied to all kinds of American institutions of empire: soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan, Treyvon Martin, state-sponsored gambling (the lottery), Wall Street, and so on. Face it: our society is one that eats its young. Through its horrific portrayals of a society that dominates via a tournament in which children kill children, The Hunger Games might well shock us into seeing the way we ourselves do it.
After the movie, my kids wanted to know my reaction. Did I just see it as yet another violent kid-pic? “No,” I said, “I didn’t expect to come here and see a movie about the young Israeli soldiers sent to occupy the West Bank.”
In return I asked if, when they read the books, they saw them as overtly political. “Yes,” my fourteen- and seventeen-year-old kids replied. And while they discussed on the way home the ways the movie changed story details of the books, I went to bed at 3:15am knowing that the major theme was not lost on them.
It gives me hope.
Steven D. Martin is a documentary filmmaker, photographer, and activist. He currently serves as a founder and executive director of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. You can read more of his thoughts at the Uncommon Voices.
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by Meg Smith, guest contributor
Although I was born on Christmas, I feel like I’m slightly part Hanukkah now. Each year since I remarried — an event which brought two Jewish stepchildren into my life — I have anticipated the Festival of Lights with almost as much excitement as my hybrid celebration of the Winter Solstice/Yule and Christmas.
My stepchildren are actually half-Hanukkah and half-Christmas; their mother is Jewish, their father is not. Their parents long ago agreed the children would be raised Jewish, so they are attending the several years of Hebrew school that prepare them to become a bar and bat mitzvah. Having grown up with Christian and Jewish extended families, however, they have honored their heritage from both sides by celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas from the time they were born. As each year draws to a close, they look forward to lighting Hanukkah candles as well as decorating the Christmas tree with their doting, out-of-town Presbyterian grandparents.