“Food unites us and binds us sisters and brothers”

“Food unites us and binds us sisters and brothers”
PBS New Hour photo by Abbey Oldham

This week I had the great pleasure of bringing The Good Braider to St. Paul’s School in Concord, New Hampshire. I spoke at morning Chapel (pictured below in a photo taken in January). Chapel – we gathered at 7:40 a.m.! –  is a school-wide tradition for students and faculty. It was a rich opportunity for me to speak for refugees and share an excerpt from an oral history I had recorded of Florence Olebe, a Sudanese refugee, who got a loan from Start Smart in Portland, Maine to open Ezo African Restaurant. The Ezo menu stated,  “We believe food unites us and binds us sisters and brothers.”  Yes, it does.  At the same time that we were meeting in Chapel in Concord,  “A Day Without Immigrants” strike had begun in Washington, DC.

SPS Martin Luther King Jr. Day event. ©2017 Karen Bobotas Photographer

The strike proved how much the restaurant industry depends on immigrant employees.  In this photo for PBS News Hour  from their feature, “What Happened in DC Restaurants When Immigrant Workers Stayed Home”, the chef works alone.  Many restaurants remained closed, unable to operate without their immigrant employees.

After Chapel,  I met with three Humanities classes and we could talk in small groups.  The last class had all just finished reading the book and our discussion was deep with questions, impressions, sorrow over Viola’s losses. I valued most the pointed conversation we had about the fact that half-way through their reading of the book, the students learned that I was white.  They had assumed this was a first person autobiographical account of a survivor of the war, a southern Sudanese girl. Some were on the #ownvoices side of the discussion.  I valued that they could say this, that they were safe enough to express this concern. That enabled me to speak in return.  I told them about Thich Nhat Hanh and his belief that the greatest gift we can give one another is the gift of our attention.  And it’s this desire to attend to and witness that drives me as a writer.  We listened carefully to each other.  It was the beginning of a conversation I hope to continue. Because we are bound to each other.

Ezo African Restaurant: A Letter from Portland, Maine

Ezo African Restaurant: A Letter from Portland, Maine

By Terry Farish

…A restaurant in Portland links African refugees with their past and Maine with its future. Here’s an article I wrote some years ago.  Ezo is now replaced by Asmara Restaurant.  This story is replayed today in countless, thriving, American cities

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston Regional Review Vol. 13 2003 Read more

Dal Mukarung remembers Bhutan

Dal Mukarung remembers Bhutan

Dal and FamilyI saw Dal Rai yesterday. He is the illustrator of the Bhutanese folktale published by the New Hampshire Humanities Council, The Story of a Pumpkin. Like many Bhutanese families who moved to Laconia, New Hampshire, Dal’s family is leaving this small lake district city. He’s pictured here with his sons, Adrin and Anmal, his wife Birkha. and his father, Harka.  Harka told me he was born in Bhutan in 1943.  Dal was 8 when the Bhutanese government forced his family into exile and took possession of their farm. The Story of a Pumpkin, told in Laconia by Hari Tiwari,  is a tale that traveled from Bhutan to the refugee camp in Nepal where Dal and Hari  lived for some 20 years to New Hampshire and now on to Ohio where many Bhutanese people live and where Dal seeks to make a home.  Dal was an ambassador for the bilingual Nepali-English book to many New Hampshire schools. His work is a gift to children.  Good luck, Dal!