'Praise wine' at the Southern table
August 29th, 2012
06:16 PM ET

'Praise wine' at the Southern table

Editor's note: This piece – a little-known lesson in African American drinkways – was originally delivered as a presentation at the 2008 Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium on the Liquid South. It was later printed in Cornbread Nation 5.

By John Simpkins, Special to CNN

I've been black since birth. I'm not sure how long I've been a Jew. "You're the only black person I know who can quote Woody Allen movies," said my Jewish friend, Peter, when I asked him to assess my Jewishness. "I only quote from the early good ones," I explained. "And those I love. In fact, love is too weak a word for what I feel. I more than love them. I 'lurve' them."

"Sammy Davis Jr. was your favorite member of the Rat Pack," Peter continued, pressing his case. "You even sent your three-year-old to summer camp at the Jewish Community Center. He recognizes the Israeli flag, can sing the dreidel song, and is constantly asking for challah. If you're not Jewish, Jonah certainly is."

Pete then reminded me how excited I was when he offered to read from the Zohar at my wedding. Then I remembered the frequent calls from my mother during my travels. "I'm just calling to see how you're doing. Ohm don't worry about me. I'm fine. I just thought I'd call since I hadn't heard from you in awhile. No, things are fine here. Don't worry about me."

I know why I'm black, but it was harder to figure out why I'm a Jew. As with so many voyages of personal discovery, the search for my Inner Jew begins with food and drink. For me, any discussion of food has to include Sundays with my grandmother. Mama Sena's house in Lexington, South Carolina, was the Sunday dinner gathering place for the eighteen of us first cousins, who spanned a twenty-three year age range and felt more like siblings than cousins. Because she was a church lady, there was little work actually done in Mama Sena's house on the Sabbath. She even refused to allow anyone to wash clothes on Sunday for fear that "someone could be washed out of the family." It is primarily for this reason that I spent most of my childhood fearing washing machines as agents of death.

The fruits of the labors of the rest of the week, however, were in abundance.

Read the full post on CNN's Eatocracy blog

Opinion: Sikh-led prayer and GOP convictions
People gather to mourn the deaths of six members of the Sikh Temple of Wisconsin. A Sikh will lead a prayer at the RNC.
August 29th, 2012
03:00 PM ET

Opinion: Sikh-led prayer and GOP convictions

By Valarie Kaur, Special to CNN

(CNN) - The Republican National Convention will make history Wednesday night. Ishwar Singh, wearing a turban and beard, will take the stage and lead thousands of conservatives in prayer.

For the first time in U.S. history, a Sikh American will give the invocation at a Republican National Convention.

The inclusion of a Sikh prayer on the stage comes just a few weeks after a gunman opened fire on Sikhs praying in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, killing six and hospitalizing three more in what could be the largest racially motivated mass shooting in recent U.S. history.  Many praise the invocation as a mark of progress in the Sikh community's 100 years in America.

Visuals matter. And in a racially charged political climate, a turbaned and bearded man will be presented to the country by Republicans as a fellow American.  This is a remarkable step forward.

But speech also matters. If Mitt Romney and Republican leaders want the historic Sikh invocation to be more than tokenism - and are serious about preventing another Oak Creek - they cannot continue to let hateful speech within their own party go unchecked.  In a time when hate groups are on the rise, the Republican Party must accept responsibility for fostering a political climate that often casts people of color as foreign and inherently suspect.

Read Valerie Kaur's full column

August 29th, 2012
11:27 AM ET

Five things we learned at the Republican National Convention

By Paul Steinhauser and Kevin Liptak, CNN

(CNN) - The first full day of the Republican National Convention was heavy with female speakers and light on the red meat that normally fires up the base. Here are five things we learned from the convention's first night:

Ann Romney's speech lives up to expectations

Ann Romney spelled it out right near the top of her speech: "I want to talk to you tonight not about politics and not about party."

Instead, her mission was to present to voters a softer and warmer side of her husband, something that polls show isn't apparent to many Americans.

Read the full story


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