Monday, October 24, 2011

Changing Face of Philanthropy: The Pan-African Movement

I had to share this article for purveyors of this blog. Your dollar counts and the more we give the stronger our voice is in results. The women's philanthropy women changed the conversation over time to focus development on women and girls. The fruits of those efforts can be seen in Nike's Girl Effect, breast cancer awareness reaching the NFL (pink mouth-guards anyone?), and the multitude of women's leadership platforms at multinationals like Cisco Systems - i.e. Padmareesee Warrior.

Check out this great article to learn how this is affecting philanthropy in Africa:

Friday, October 21, 2011

A Taste of Nawlin's in Mexico City

My friends that have travelled to NOLA always scoff at the fact that I’ve never been. “You of all people should have been to New Orleans by now!” is the oft heard remark. Considering that the city is known for both rich culture and history, but also binge drinking and bare breasts I’m not sure which characterization they identify with me but I’ll go out on a whim and choose the former.

After 7 weeks of trotting across the pond and back again, I am finally home in D.F. (Districto Federal, the local name for Mexico City). I was well overdue for a girls night with my favorite chicas here. Not yet ready to dive head first into la comida Mexicana, I opted for more familiar fare in La Condesa. Zydeco has been on my list for some time, it's next to my favorite pub here and features creole and cajun cuisine.

We decided to order food conducive to rounding out the amazing Hurricanes and Martinis we started out with. I must say, I was skeptical of getting cafish fingers and crabcakes in a landlocked city that doesn’t eat this in the first place. The crabcakes left a lot to be desired…too much salsa picante, not enough crab, but the CATFISH?!?!?!?!?! I’m not sure who was in the kitchen mixing up that cornmeal coating but they were the! Add a little touch of Valentina (best hot sauce in the world) and you are in fried food heaven. We also ordered a side of Cajun fries which were also pretty tasty.

The music was interesting if not always good. The momemt we sat down they started a run of hip-hop mixes (rare for DF) the first of which was Jay-Z's "Who You Wit" over the "I Got 5 On It" beat - but I appreciate Hov at all times. From 90's rock to 80's pop, by the end of the night they were playing TLC's "Ain't Too Proud 2 Beg" as the live band warmed up. Mexico City never ceases to amaze me.

Good drinks flowing, and bellies full, my British and French counterparts were more than satisfied with their new culinary adventure. I opted to fill them in on the heritage behind the food of the big easy and regional/cultural American food traditions while we were at it. 

Zydeco is definitely at the top of my pre-gaming hotspots list. Right on Tamaulipas in the heart of La Condesa you should add it to your list of places to visit if you’re ever among chilangos (after you hit me up of course).


Thursday, October 13, 2011

From Food Stamps to Food Prize

Today we celebrated the 25th Anniversary of the World Food Prize by honoring past Presidents John Kufour of Ghana and Jose Lula de Silva of Brazil for their tremendous efforts in transforming their countries by putting hunger and food security first. 

I’ve spent the past three days listening to panels on global hunger, women in agriculture, the role of the private sector, and making amazing contacts. However – no interaction struck me more than meeting the Midwestern Representative of the USDA Nutrition Service. I actually met her in the bathroom, both of us were judiciously re-applying our lipgloss, and she made me promise that I’d visit her booth immediately after leaving the restroom. I briefly thought about the fact that this wasn’t exactly in my sweet spot, but I gave her my word and beelined it to her booth after my brief touch up.

There at the booth I saw a long list of programs run by the nutrition service, topping these off were food stamps, WIC, free lunch, and school breakfast programs. I thought to myself, they might as well have put a portrait of me on this board! I had been a recipient of these programs from my first days in public schools until donning my cap & gown and heading to college. These programs allowed me to focus on school without a hungry belly, helped my mom keep her income to pay bills and household expenses, and benefited countless kids in my neighborhood. Yet I never knew that these programs were connected to agriculture, in my head the USDA was about food pyramids and now "My Plate" lol.

Americans are just beginning to connect agriculture to food in a real way. Unfortunately, most of the discussion rallies around opposing science and innovations that aren’t completely understood. While I am definitely a fan of today’s push for organics, labeling, and urban gardens, I also understand hunger in the global context and know that it takes the right mix of tools to put a dent in the numbers of hungry people. Both of today’s food prize recipients made school feeding a crucial component of their strategies to leave no person hungry in their countries and each are well on their way to surpassing the goals set for Millennium Development Goal 1: halving global hunger by 2015. They’ve paired school feeding with investments and application of technology, policy change, and development programs that work. It can be done.

Reading the materials, I felt proud of my journey and extremely humble. I remember being ashamed of going to the store with food stamps (I was pre-EBT card) and frustrated about my inability to buy pizza or sodas at lunch. Today I realize just how much of a blessing these programs are. They allowed this black girl to go from food aid to food’s biggest stage.



Tuesday, October 11, 2011

This time it’s different - The Balancing Act

I’ve spent the past few days with my three year old and am boarding a plane in about 5 hours. This is no extraordinary scenario – I moved to Mexico seven months ago for a career opportunity and my son now lives with his father in the states. The extraordinary piece of this is that this plane ride feels different.

I’m usually elated to travel, whether it’s to a new country, a big event, or your standard issue networking opportunity – I’m always ready to “get there”. But this time - I’m not.

For the past 6 weeks I’ve traveled to 3 continents, 6 countries, and 12 cities doing what I love most – or so I thought. But sitting here, looking at this is giving me the deepest sadness I’ve felt in a long time.

The period between pregnancy and my son turning 1 was probably one of the darkest of my life. From the pains of feeling like a failure to nearly two years of my life being turned upside down and back again I probably should have been seeing a therapist and been taking some depression meds. The turning point for me was a decision I made to reclaim me and to relentlessly pursue my dreams all the while being a mommy my way.

My son became my number one sidekick, from committee meetings to step practice to coffeeshops and the office there he was. My friends soon became many Auntie’s and Uncle’s and I pushed through the feelings of disappointment and hurt bit by bit. The road hasn’t been without bumps, but this is life right?

Then came the opportunity – Move to Mexico, travel the world, start a new unit, climb the big professional ladder. I was beyond excited – Trace will learn a second language, get constant exposure to different cultures and I’ll do the same….giant leap! But it didn’t turn out that way.

Crazy travel schedule and news hype about the dangers of Mexico meant Trace stayed behind. In my head I thought, it’s a 3 hour flight to Atlanta, I can go once a month and visit and it’s a short term sacrifice for a long-term gain.

That has been working until today. Today my son said “I want to live in Mexico just like you, I want to go on the plane just like you mommy”.  The earnestness in his face broke my heart – this wasn’t the idea. As much as I talk to my son and tell him what I’m doing and remind him that I love him – doing this without him by my side often makes me wonder if I’m doing the right thing.

In my heart I know I’m walking in my path and that these are necessary steps to future abundance but today it’s not easy…it’s very different.

Circumstances and Born in A Slum: A Photostory

I wanted to share this photo story from Saikat Mojumder in Bangladesh. It was featured by the International Museum of Women and really had me thinking about circumstances.

Here it is on Viewbook