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chickpea and kale shakshuka

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The fact that it’s taken me almost 10 years to find a new version of shakshuka to fuss over, is as much a testament to the superbness of the classic as it is a compliment to these new additions. Shakshuka, if you’re unfamiliar with it, is a North African dish, largely Tunisian, of eggs baked in a spicy tomato sauce. It’s also one of the most beloved recipes in the Smitten Kitchen archives, right up there with broccoli slaw and my mom’s apple cake, and for good reason: it’s about the highest calling of eggs-for-dinner I’ve found, and I think we know how hard I’ve studied this category. This recipe takes it a step further into the realm of a stew, with chickpeas and kale, and it comes from a wonderful book out this past spring, Family, by Hetty McKinnon.

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McKinnon got her start in Sydney, Australia almost 10 years ago with a salad-delivery service she ran out of her home kitchen and biked the deliveries around town, which sounds amazing right now, doesn’t it? Now in Brooklyn, she co-founded Neighborhood Studio, a communal cooking space. Family, her third cookbook, focuses on vegetarian comfort food with an eye towards the daily ritual of cooking, however your family might look, and it might be my favorite yet. It’s incredibly down-to-earth about weeknight cooking; you get the sense that these are recipes that have really worked for her family while keeping the people who cook from finding it a drag. I’ve made the spinach and halloumi gozleme, the cacio e pepe broccoli with white beans (I mean, talk about all of my favorite food words in one title), I’m eager to try the tofu larb, but this, this is the dish I’ve now made three times since May and don’t expect to stop any time soon. It’s hearty and comforting, so perfect for this first day that really feels like fall.

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12 days ago
Minneapolis, MN
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Why Do City Dwellers Love to Hate Scooters?


You might have noticed that electric scooters have a remarkable ability to spark rage across a large swath of urban residents. More than 100,000 people follow Bird Graveyard on Instagram, sharing all the creative ways that an e-scooter can meet its demise. The profile page of another popular Instagram account, Scooters Behaving Badly, reads “Don’t park or ride your scooter like an asshole. Or better yet, don’t ride one at all.”

Popular hostility to e-scooters is puzzling when one considers that the vehicles take up less public street space than automobiles and don’t pollute as much as they do. The more thoughtful e-scooter critics often point to safety concerns, with some justification: The CDC recently concluded that about one in 5,000 e-scooter trips in Austin resulted in a rider being hurt.  

But such safety fears should be put in context, as riders seem to pose minimal risk to anyone other than themselves. I’m not aware of a single pedestrian in the United States being killed in an e-scooter collision since Bird and Lime launched two years ago; for comparison, in 2018 alone, automobiles killed over 6,200 pedestrians in this country. And yet, a columnist in The New York Times decried e-scooters for “wreaking havoc,” calling on mayors to flex their regulatory powers “like a sober parent” in order to keep citizens safe from them. When automobile drivers recently killed four e-scooter riders in Atlanta, local leaders responded by swiftly imposing a nighttime e-scooter curfew—but not restricting automobiles.

The pushback against e-scooters is even more striking when compared with warmer popular attitudes toward another new mobility mode: ride hail. Vociferous opposition from taxi drivers and some local policymakers not withstanding, there has never been much of a popular backlash against ride hail—even as researchers publish a growing stream of studies showing that companies like Uber and Lyft worsen congestion and undermine public transportation.

In other words, urban residents seem to collectively shrug our shoulders at a new mobility mode that’s damaging our transportation network, while freaking out over another new mode that seems far less threatening—especially to non-riders—and perhaps even beneficial to the urban environment.  What gives?

The answer could be rooted in our innate preference for the comfortably familiar over the jarringly new.

When ride hail burst on the scene a decade ago, it offered an almost magical ability to summon a vehicle by tapping a smartphone app. As novel as that was, an Uber car picking up a passenger or driving down a street looks and acts pretty much the same as a taxi always has. If you were an automobile driver or a pedestrian, there was very little mental or physical adjustment necessary to accommodate ride hail’s emergence.

That’s not the case with e-scooters, which resemble nothing commuters are likely to have encountered before. When e-scooters arrive in a city, an automobile driver must suddenly share road space with a vehicle in an unfamiliar shape, moving in unfamiliar ways—which is stressful. Pedestrians, too, must adapt their behavior when e-scooters show up, keeping an eye out for a rider zipping along the sidewalk or an unused device blocking their path.

Limited urban street and sidewalk space play a role as well. Tara Goddard, a professor at Texas A&M, has observed how scarcity of public right of way can lead individual commuters to self-identify within a group such as bicyclists, pedestrians, or drivers, seeing the others as rivals. No group is going to be thrilled when a new competitor like e-scooters suddenly arrives and requires its own space to move on a crowded street.

What does seem apparent is that popular sentiment toward ride hail and e-scooters does not reflect what we currently know about their effect on cities. Even Uber and Lyft now acknowledge they have worsened congestion, and transportation researchers have repeatedly shown that ride hail contributes to falling transit ridership. But there is little evidence that the average urban resident links ride hail to their slower commute or their transit agency’s yawning budget deficit.

Meanwhile, most everyone agrees that e-scooters pollute less and take up less street space than automobiles, and they could potentially provide a so-called first mile-last mile solution to help commuters reach public transportation. To be fair, carelessly discarded vehicles create serious problems for those with disabilities and other mobility limitations, but solutions like dedicated e-scooter parking and locks can fix that. Still, lots of people wish that e-scooters would simply disappear.

A question, then, is whether this current antipathy is permanent or if it will subside as urban commuters get used to them. Given e-scooters’ potential to improve urban mobility networks, acceptance would be a good thing. Local leaders could help by keeping their cool when enduring the occasional rant from a resident resentful about having to watch out for a new kind of vehicle. Better yet, they could invest in building more protected lanes that both separate e-scooter riders (and bikers) from dangerous automobiles and reduce e-scooter-pedestrian conflicts. Such protections are a rare luxury in American cities today, forcing e-scooter trips to occur on crowded sidewalks or unsafe streets.

If there’s a broader lesson, perhaps it’s that we need time to understand the effect of a new mobility technology on cities. Ride hail has turned out to be more detrimental than most urban leaders initially expected: In retrospect, many of today’s commutes would probably be faster if cities had curtailed ride hail’s rapid growth when it began a decade ago.

There are signs that e-scooters could have a much more positive effect on urban communities, but we will need sound studies to know for sure. One initial analysis from the city of San Francisco concluded that more than a third of scooter trips begin or end at a transit stop, suggesting that scooters could become natural feeders to public transportation. Another from the city of Portland, Oregon, found that 34 percent of e-scooter rides replaced an automobile trip, offering evidence that e-scooters could mitigate congestion. But academic assessments are the gold standard, and though researchers say a number about e-scooters are underway, few are complete.

We should heed those studies’ findings when they are published.  They offer a much better basis for urban policy than the knee-jerk reactions of commuters responding emotionally to a new technology hitting the streets.

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29 days ago
Minneapolis, MN
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The Saltwater Railroad

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Hurricane Dorian’s terrible destruction in the Bahamas has thrust the nation into the news. The Commonwealth of the Bahamas is made up of some seven hundred islands, from sandy cays to well-known tourist attractions. Nassau, the archipelago’s capital, is 184 miles from Miami, Florida, so it’s not surprising that this country’s history is intimately tied to the history of the United States.

After the American Revolution, thousands of Loyalists and enslaved people were settled on the British-controlled islands. The Loyalists’ attempt to forge a new cotton kingdom on the islands failed. Slavery was legal in British possessions until 1834, but the plantation system didn’t take on the poor soil of the islands. The population of the islands was also majority black. By the 1840s, write historians Irvin D. S. Winsboro and Joe Knetsch, the Bahamas were “a hotbed of resistance to slavery and a destination for regional liberated or escaped slaves.” They note:

Local imperial practices allowed blacks to own land, have access to education, and legally marry. Moreover, black Bahamians had grown strong enough in their collective efforts to pressure London for civil and human rights unknown in the antebellum South.

For enslaved people looking to escape the American southeast, Canada was a very long way away. The then-British-controlled Bahamas, on the other hand, were just across the sea. Not that that was an easy crossing: storms, slave-catchers, and pirates were serious threats. Yet many had made their way to the islands, at least since the first Seminole War (1818). In that war, slaveholder Andrew Jackson invaded Spanish Florida. Florida, once a refuge for the formerly enslaved, was now under threat of being absorbed by the Slave Power. Hundreds attempted escape instead to the Bahamas.

Map of The Bahamas, 1816 via Wikimedia Commons

Under British law, these escapees weren’t considered “fugitives” because escaping from slavery in another country wasn’t a crime. And in 1825, Britain declared that anybody “who reaches British ground” was free. Winsboro and Knetsch write:

The action further inflamed the passions of U.S. slave masters against Britain. Not only did the ruling immediately free 300 American runaways in the islands, but also probably stimulated numerous other American bondpeople to contemplate freedom in the Bahamas.

Indeed, by the 1830s, a total of at least 6,000 formerly enslaved people had made their way to the archipelago.

By 1841, a ship called the Creole, carrying over a hundred enslaved people from Virginia to New Orleans, was liberated by revolt. They sailed the ship to Nassau and sparked an international incident. They would ultimately be released, even those initially charged with mutiny.

Pro-slavery forces on the mainland were outraged by this and other successful escapes to the islands. By the early 1840s, when 40% of the population of territorial Florida was enslaved, an escape route of this magnitude presented an enormous threat. Winsboro and Knetsch detail the diplomatic wrangling between Washington D.C. and London over seven slaves who made it to Nassau from St. Augustine in 1843. Ultimately, the seven would not be returned to slavery on the mainland, an outcome that enraged American Secretary of State John C. Calhoun.

Later negotiations would “compensate” the alleged owners of these human beings. But the Bahamas, across the “saltwater railroad,” remained a major sticking point in U.S./British relations until most of the slave states broke away from the Union in 1861. By the time of the Emancipation Proclamation, the islands were famous as a refuge of self-emancipation.

The post The Saltwater Railroad appeared first on JSTOR Daily.

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39 days ago
Minneapolis, MN
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Expendio de Maiz

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Tucked against the back wall of the Expendio de Maiz kitchen are three massive metal pots. Containing cloudy mixtures of corn kernels and limestone water, they seem to sit unattended, when in fact intermittent yet constant attention is being paid to their progress.

What is happening is one of the most ancient and important processes birthed by Mesoamerica: nixtamalización. For a people whose main staple was corn, the discovery of nixtamalization was just as important as the domestication of corn itself. This process of mixing corn kernels in an alkaline solution not only loosens the husks of the corn kernels, making them easier to grind, but also provides all kinds of additional nutritional value – releasing vitamin B3, making the corn protein more available to the person consuming it and increasing the amount of calcium in the corn.

But recent decades in Mexico have seen a rise in the use of Maseca, or the TV dinner of the tortilla industry, as one writer put it. This highly industrialized corn flour is simply mixed with water and whamo, you’ve got dough and are on your way to rolling out tortillas. There are some in the tortilla business (and plenty in the business of eating tortillas) that are calling for a revaluation of traditionally nixtamalized tortillas. Preserving nixtamalization, among other traditional methods and heritage ingredients, has become particularly important to Jesús Tornes, managing partner of Expendio de Maiz.

nixtamalization mexico city

After attending culinary school in Puebla, Jesús spent time cooking in and with rural communities throughout Mexico only to become passionate about safeguarding traditional Mexican cooking. Expendio de Maiz (an expendio is a little corner store or stand, making this the “corn stand”) is an outgrowth of that passion.

In fact, Jesús can get quite animated when discussing the restaurant’s work. “Expendio is an ambitious project that has a character of anarchy,” he says. “ It’s a project that goes hand in hand with the goal that it will benefit and structurally change the contemporary perspective of the people involved.” Working in Expendio has turned its staff into tortilla snobs, Jesús says. “They know how to make tortillas, to nixtamal the corn, to grind it into dough. When they are at lunch and are offered a machine-made tortilla made from Maseca, they get pissed off.”

Expendio has an open kitchen divided into sections by volcanic rock, and rafters strung with drying herbs and wild greens. A small staff is bustling around, but also pausing – to explain dishes to customers and sample the corn kernels from the nixtamal solution, testing their readiness for grinding.

According to cook Ana González, her blue hair plaited into a tight braid and tattoos peeking out from under her sleeves, Expendio can easily produce 400 kilos of corn dough in a weekend. They blend two types of corn that come from the state of Guerrero, one blue (prieto) and one yellow (cremoso), and sell their freshly made dough to restaurants across the city.

“When they are at lunch and are offered a machine-made tortilla made from Maseca, they get pissed off.”

What they save for themselves is converted into an endless variety of open-faced tacos that they offer at family-style tables just steps from the kitchen. It’s a place of collaboration, not just between cooks, but also between the kitchen and their clients. As Jesús makes clear, the customers that become part of the Expendio community get the good stuff.

“If someone comes and they are in a rush or have a bad vibe we are going to send them something delicious, something they will find on the menu. But if they start to build community with us, if they come back over and over again, every time they return we will treat them in a way that shows what they mean to us. They are no longer clients, they are a community.”

If you came every day for a week to Expendio, you would find something slightly different on the non-existent menu each day. The staff cooks with the seasons and the whims that take them. One day, fresh tortillas with hoja santa and a cotija-like Guerrero cheese; the next, fried corn kernels and quelites (Mexican wild greens).

“If someone comes that knows us, who has come on a recommendation, their expectations are going to be much higher than someone that comes with no idea about what we do. Those that have higher expectations allow us to cook with a characteristic [that is] essential for everyone that works here – cook as if the person coming is someone you would love to make love to or someone that you would love to embrace – your cousin, a member of your family, your mother – someone you haven’t seen in forever. This is the rule,” says Jesús.

That kind of deep love is easier with ingredients that the staff can feel good about serving. Many of the products used in Expendio come directly from Jesús’ 32 hectares on the Costa Chica of Guerrero; others are the result of his and his partners’ travels throughout Mexico where they seek to build relationships with small farmers.

“My travels have allowed me to gain the trust of producers which is the most difficult part within rural Mexico,” he says. “They might be producing something incredible but if they don’t trust you they won’t share it with you.”

Through those collaborations Expendio has access to some of the best of what rural Mexico has to offer.

“What we do is generate…a continuity of foods that are under threat of disappearing. They exist, but they could be lost. Bananas, mangos, quelites, also processes, oils, fats, lots of wild fruits. I’m not interested in introducing [new] seeds that may be organic, but are also hyper-production. I prefer to provide continuity to local seeds that have belonged to this land for 400 years.” For the folks at Expendio de Maiz, moving forward is all about looking back.


[mapsmarker marker="11697"]
Expendio de Maiz
Address: Av. Yucatan 84, Roma Norte
Telephone: +52 55 2498 9964
Hours: Tues.-Sun. 9:30am-6pm; closed Monday

The post Expendio de Maiz appeared first on Culinary Backstreets.

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46 days ago
Minneapolis, MN
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Harry Singh on the Perfect Roti, Trinidad, and Life in the Kitchen

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While you were Instagramming your mermaid toast, Caribbean food legend Harry Singh was rolling another perfect roti.

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50 days ago
Minneapolis, MN
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How a Black Farming Community Found Justice

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Shirley Sherrod co-founded New Communities, a Black farming community in rural Georgia. But there was a time when she wanted to leave farming far behind.

As a teenager, Shirley dreamed of leaving the South. Her mind traveled north – away from the white sheriff, known as “The Gator,” who ruthlessly and violently patrolled the area’s Black residents. Away from her family’s farm and the back-breaking days spent picking cotton. Away from the segregated schools.

“My goal was to try to get as far away from that whole system and as far away from the farm as I could,” Shirley says.

But in March 1965, her senior year of high school, Shirley’s father was shot by a white farmer during a disagreement over wandering cows. He lingered in the hospital for 10 days before he died. On the night of his passing, Shirley prayed.

“I was trying to find an answer, and the thought just came to me,” she says. “You can give up your dream of living in the North to stay in the South – and devote your life to working for change.”

A pruner walks between rows of Satsuma mandarins on the New Communities farm in Dougherty County, Georgia in May 2019. Photo by Mike Kane for Marguerite Casey Foundation's Equal Voice News

A pruner walks between rows of Satsuma mandarins on the New Communities farm in Dougherty County, Georgia in May 2019. Photo by Mike Kane for Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice News

And so, she stayed. After graduating, Shirley became deeply involved in civil rights organizing. A few years later, her mother became the first Black elected official in the county. Shirley’s younger sisters, along with 15 other Black students, integrated the schools.

And one day in 1965, Rev. Charles Sherrod, an organizer with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), knocked on Shirley’s door during a canvassing route.

Shirley and Charles married the following year.

A Farm Marred by Injustice

Charles’ work for SNCC was known as the Southwest Georgia Project. But after disagreeing with new director Stokley Carmichael, who maintained that SNCC was not a place for white allies, the Sherrods incorporated the Southwest Georgia Project as an independent community education organization, which remains active today.

In the 1960s, a group of Georgia organizers that included Shirley and Charles Sherrod began to talk about creating a community. Black families were increasingly being evicted by white landlords for participating in civil rights organizing or registering to vote.

In 1969, the organizers purchased 5,735 acres in Lee County, Georgia and established New Communities, Inc., an intentional community with a goal of full self-sufficiency. The concept was based on the traditional Israeli kibbutz, a communal settlement often centered around a farm operation.

At the time, New Communities was the largest tract of Black-owned land in the United States and the country’s first community land trust – described by the organizers as “a nonprofit organization to hold land in perpetual trust for the permanent use of rural communities.”

With assistance from consultants and a planning grant from the Office of Economic Opportunity, the group planned to build 500 family homes, a railroad track, health and educational systems and a farm operation.

But white farmers soon began to protest and approached officials to complain about their new Black neighbors. They shot their guns at buildings where New Communities members were working or meeting. Eventually, the governor vetoed all federal money for the project.

Though New Communities was without the necessary funding for much of the planned infrastructure, they successfully built a day care center, grocery store and office buildings. But they primarily turned their attention to the farm.

Lawton Wilburn holds potatoes he farmed on land near Warwick, Georgia that he inherited. Photo by Mike Kane for Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice News

Lawton Wilburn holds potatoes he farmed on land near Warwick, Georgia that he inherited. Photo by Mike Kane for Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice News.

“Farming was what we knew we could do,” says Shirley. “We made the decision to try to farm and hold onto what we had.”

The farm thrived. New Communities cultivated over 1,800 acres and operated a greenhouse and farmers’ market.

They raised livestock and built their own slaughterhouse, becoming known for their cured meat.

But in 1976, drought hit. After two years of drought, the group approached the local Farmers Home Administration (FHA) office for an emergency loan.

A white county supervisor told them: “You will get a loan here over my dead body,” Shirley recalled.

New Communities requested intervention from Washington D.C. next. It took three years for the emergency loan to be approved, and by then multiple years of drought had decimated the operation.

Cypress trees line the shores of a small lake on the property of New Communities in Dougherty County, Georgia in May 2019. Photo by Mike Kane for Marguerite Casey Foundation's Equal Voice News

Cypress trees line the shores of a small lake on the property of New Communities in Dougherty County, Georgia in May 2019. Photo by Mike Kane for Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice News

Fifteen years after its inception, New Communities was lost to foreclosure.

“They would never let us borrow what we needed for the operation,” says Shirley. “And then once they got a lien on everything, they could engineer the foreclosure.”

Lawton Wilburn farms land near Warwick, Georgia in May 2019. Photo by Mike Kane for Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice News

Lawton Wilburn farms land near Warwick, Georgia in May 2019. Photo by Mike Kane for Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice News

At the auction in 1985, a wealthy white buyer paid $1 million for the land – $950,000 of which he borrowed from the FHA, the same U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) office that had refused to loan money to New Communities, according to Shirley.

“The new owner dug holes and pushed our buildings over in them,” remembers Shirley. “And we were gone.”

A Long-Overdue Settlement from Pigford

Ironically, at the height of the civil rights movement, discrimination within the USDA was thriving “silently in the offices of biased employees,” writes Pete Daniel in “Dispossession: Discrimination Against African American Farmers in the Age of Civil Rights.”

He writes: “Phone calls and conversations at segregated meetings and conventions left no racist fingerprints, but the accretion of prejudice festered and ultimately grew into a plan to eliminate minority, women, and small farmers by preventing their sharing equally in federal programs.”

Erma Young-Wilburn and husband Lawton Wilburn farm land near Warwick, Georgia. Lawton’s first wife inherited the land, which belonged to J.N. Battle, a Black farmer. Photo by Mike Kane for Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice News.

Erma Young-Wilburn and husband Lawton Wilburn farm land near Warwick, Georgia. Lawton’s first wife inherited the land, which belonged to J.N. Battle, a Black farmer. Photo by Mike Kane for Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice News.

Between 1940 and 1974, the number of Black farmers in the United States decreased by 93 percent. By 1982—three years before New Communities was extinguished—it was predicted by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that Black farmers would cease to exist at all by the year 2000.

Black farmers filed a class-action lawsuit (Pigford v. Glickman) against the USDA in 1997, alleging racial discrimination in the allocation of federal farm loans and assistance between 1981 and 1996.

In 1999, a federal judge ruled against the USDA, allowing thousands of additional Black farmers to file claims for potential settlements. Southwest Georgia Project organizers drove from state to state, assisting farmers with their complaints.

It was during one of these drives that Shirley suddenly realized that New Communities qualified as a plaintiff, too.

“I was driving from Alabama late one night and the light bulb went off,” she says.

“Oh my gosh, we were farming in 1981! We can file a claim in Pigford!” she laughs. “We were so busy working on other folks’ problems and completely forgot about ourselves.”

Lawton Wilburn takes a moment to rest in May 2019, on land he farms near Warwick, Georgia. Photo by Mike Kane for Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice News

Lawton Wilburn takes a moment to rest in May 2019, on land he farms near Warwick, Georgia. Photo by Mike Kane for Marguerite Casey Foundation’s Equal Voice News

A flood in 1994 had ruined the New Communities file boxes, so Charles spent days in the county courthouse, scouring documents. As a claimant, New Communities had to prove that they were denied farm loans or programs provided to “similarly situated” white farmers.

“We had to be compared to the plantations in the area because of the amount of land we had,” says Shirley.

There in the courthouse, Shirley says Charles uncovered “the truth of what happened to us…Those plantations and their rich owners were getting the loans denied to us.”

In 2002, they traveled to a Washington D.C. courthouse to plead their case. In 2009, a full decade after they filed their complaint, New Communities, Inc. was awarded $12 million in damages.

Building ‘The Long Movement’

New Communities was re-established in 2011 on 1,600 acres of former plantation land, once home to the largest slaveholder in the state.

Today, New Communities is a farm and center for the continuation of what Shirley calls “the long movement” to address issues of Black land loss and food-related disparities while also working toward environmental and economic justice and racial healing.

It’s also the sister organization of what is now the Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education.

When Shirley visits the New Communities property and the 13,000-square-foot antebellum house, she feels history is ever-present.

“I’ve been sitting on that porch at first dusk, and I just feel them,” she says, and then her voice gets quiet. “I feel the presence of slaves.”

Even for Shirley, who has been at its epicenter for decades, the full circle of the New Communities story is stunning. It’s taught her about remaining hopeful – about continuing to fight and about finally witnessing the arc of time bend toward justice.

“We were supposed to end up here,” she says.

This article originally appeared in the Marguerite Casey Foundation‘s Equal Voice News, and is reprinted with permission.

Top photo: Southwest Georgia Project for Community Education Executive Director Shirley Sherrod stands in a pecan orchard at New Communities in Dougherty County, Georgia in May 2019.

All photos are by Mike Kane, a Seattle-based freelance photographer and videographer. His photojournalism and video work from 2018 won awards from the National Federation of Press Women, Society for Features Journalism and Society of Professional Journalists. On Instagram, he is @kaneinane.

The post How a Black Farming Community Found Justice appeared first on Civil Eats.

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60 days ago
Minneapolis, MN
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