Author: teamwpt

Honoring the African American Cooks Who Fed the Presidents

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TEAM Westport and The Westport Historical Society are proud to welcome Adrian Miller, executive director of the Colorado Council of Churches and an authority on soul food, to speak about his new book, “The President’s Kitchen Cabinet: The Story of the African Americans Who Have Fed Our First Families, From the Washingtons to the Obamas” on February 22nd at 6:30 pm at the Westport Historical Society.
Required:
o Reservations – Call (203) 222-1424
o $10 Donation to Westport Historical Society
The book offers an in depth look at African American cooks—both enslaved and free– who have cooked for the nation’s presidents and some of the dishes they prepared. Some did not cook in the White House but for the president on the presidential yacht or elsewhere and some cooked just for the family but not for dinners given for visiting dignitaries.
“Mr. Miller’s book sheds light on a little known, yet important, influencers upon Presidential life,” said Robert Mitchell, president of the Westport Historical Society. “The African American cooks who performed the important service of cooking for our presidents have been a vital to the well being–and even the policies– of the men who have sat in the executive mansion.”
Among the influencers whom Miller writes about are Zephyr Wright, who supported herself through college by cooking for President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s wife, Lady Bird. Wright began in 1942 and remaining with the family through Johnson’s presidency, which ended in 1969. From fielding press questions on President Johnson’s bean consumption to influencing his position on segregation, Wright was an outspoken and important part of the Johnsons’ life.
In his book, Miller recounts how Wright embarrassed Johnson in front of a dining room full of political friends when he told her to go ahead of him to the family’s Austin, Tex., home with the family’s black chauffeur in order to get ready for their arrival. She refused, telling the then senator she would no longer endure not being allowed to use the same bathrooms, restaurants and motels as Lady Bird and Lynda Bird due to “whites only” rules. Johnson put down his napkin and left the room, but years later, when he signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act, he gave Wright the pen, saying, “You deserve this more than anybody else.”
“We’re thrilled to work with the historical society to host Mr. Miller here in Westport,” said Harold Bailey, co-chairperson of TEAM Westport. “His book is an integral part of the growing scholarship that reminds us that black history is American history. “
Born and raised in Denver, Adrian Miller is a Stanford graduate and Georgetown Law trained attorney who once served as a special assistant to President Bill Clinton and later as a senior policy analyst for former Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. These days, however, he refers to himself as a “recovering lawyer and politician.”
Miller’s President’s Day talk will include a reading and signing of The President’s Kitchen Cabinet.
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2017 Teen Essay Contest Open for Submissions

As the nation faces historic social shifts relating to race and identity, young people will find themselves at the crossroads of a different America. In order to increase awareness, foster understanding and promote understanding in this arena, TEAM Westport and The Westport Library are co-sponsoring the fourth annual Teen Diversity Essay Contest for students in grades 9, 10, 11, and 12 who attend Staples High School or another school in Westport, or reside in Westport and attend school elsewhere.

Essay Topic: The focus of this fourth essay contest is the issue of ‘white privilege,’ which surfaced as a topic during the recent presidential election. This year’s invitation states, “In 1,000 words or less, describe how you understand the term ‘white privilege’.

To what extent do you think this privilege exists? What impact do you think it has had in your life—whatever your racial or ethnic identity—and in our society more broadly?” Essay Process Click here for Contest Application. Essays are due February 27, 2017. Winners will be announced at a ceremony at the Westport Library on April 3, 2017. Subject to the volume and caliber of entries received, at the discretion of the judges up to three prizes will be awarded. The first prize is $1,000, the second is $750, and the third prize is $500.

Click here for the Essay Contest Application

 

2017 MLK Day Celebration at Westport Country Playhouse

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Westport Country Playhouse was packed to the rafters January 15th as part of our celebration of the life and legacy of The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The day was put together in partnership with TEAM Westport, the Playhouse and the Westport/Weston Interfaith Council.

There was gospel music and spoken word performances but the highlight of the event was Keynote Speaker Dr. Tricia Rose, the Brown University Chancellor’s Professor of Africana Studies, Associate Dean of the Faculty, and Director of the Center for the Study of Race and Ethnicity in America. Professor Rose is an internationally respected scholar of post-civil rights era black U.S. culture, popular music, social issues, gender, and sexuality.

Dr. Rose first encouraged the audience to ask itself and each other “What Would Martin Do?” as a way to think about current events through the lens of Dr. King’s teaching, action, and writing. Most central to this idea, she said, was to first recalibrate the narrative of Dr. King’s life and work in order to understand fully what he was about.

Referencing the overarching popular narrative of Dr. King as a “dreamer” and the nation’s most famous Civil Rights activist, Dr. Rose reminded the audience in her signature style that the Atlanta minister did not consider the fight over once the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964. Instead, he continued to fight for the rights of the marginalized, whosoever they may be.

In what she called Dr. King’s “pivots”, Dr. Rose spoke about his work with as an anti-Vietnam war activist, his work on behalf of unions, and his work addressing unfair housing and the “ghetto-ization” of black communities as a response to major cultural shifts such as the great migration of African Americans to Northern States.

Many of Dr. Rose’s excellent points are also address in this article published on MLK Day in Politico.

Over the course of her talk Dr. Rose also addressed the idea of “color-blindness” as a reinforcement of racism and Dr. King’s approach of finding common ground among people that went beyond race and ethnicity—with respect to low wages and poverty, for example. In fact, as this interesting article in Vox talking about The Poor People’s campaign and this one outlining Dr. King’s fight for economic justice .

Before he was murdered in April of 1968. Martin Luther King Jr. had been planning to bring his Poor People’s Campaign to Washington in a March later that year.

Ultimately, Dr. Rose told the audience we can surmise as to What Would Martin Do? endlessly and, ultimately, it would still be conjecture. We can, however, she pointed out go back to the enormous catalog of his sermons and speeches words for strength and guidance as we work to achieve a more welcoming and just society by doing what is right—not what it is convenient.

For more in-depth analysis of these interesting subjects, we encourage you to read and watch Dr. Rose’s work. Her groundbreaking and award-winning book 1994 on the emergence of hip-hop culture “Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America” which spawned a new field of study in academia is widely available. She is currently working on a project called “How Structural Racism Works” and her YouTube channel offers excellent ongoing insight to her work. Check it out

 

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