Tag Archives: roots

Prize-winning book chronicles history of racist thinking

Stamped from the Beginning, winner of the National Book Award winner for nonfiction, is a work of history very much rooted in recent events.

Ibram X. Kendi’s 600-page narrative traces racism in the United States, from colonial times to the present.

Kendi began working on the book shortly before the killing of Trayvon Martin in 2012 and he felt a special urgency to write about what he calls “stimulations,” individuals “who believe that black people were culturally or behaviorally inferior.”

“There are notions that scientists, and journalists, and scholars can be objective,” he says. “And typically those ideas that have connoted that black people are in some ways inferior have been cast as these objective ideas, which then legitimize them and allowed for their circulation.”

Kendi, an assistant professor of African American History at the University of Florida, structured Stamped from the Beginning around five people, ranging from Thomas Jefferson to Angela Davis, and around the efforts to combat racism, whether the self-help ethic of Booker T. Washington or the moral persuasion of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The book’s title comes from a speech by Jefferson Davis, given the year before he became president of the Confederate states.

“This country was created by white men for white men, and inequality between the white and black races was stamped from the beginning,” Davis said.

In a recent interview with The Associated Press, Kendi discussed his findings on racist ideas, why some breakthroughs in American history were not such breakthroughs after all and whether he would have made any major changes had he completed the book after the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States.


“I chronicle a history in which we’ve been taught this notion that it’s ignorance and hate that lead to racist ideas about black people, and then it’s these people with these racist ideas that are the people who create racist policies. And I actually find, through my research, that that line of thinking is ahistorical, and it’s actually been quite the opposite. Racist policies have been created typically out of self-interest and those policies have bred racist ideas to justify those policies, and then the circulation of those racist ideas has led to ignorance and hate.”


“Most Americans have not read the actual majority opinion written by Chief Justice Warren, and in that opinion, he states very clearly, and I’m quoting him, that ‘The segregation of the white and colored children in public schools has a detrimental effect upon colored children,’ and not white and colored children, but colored children, and his decision was based on all of these psychological and social science studies that were making the case that segregational poverty was literally making black children inferior. … These studies then suggested that what black children need is to be closer to white children.”


“One hundred years ago a wealthy New Yorker by the name of Madison Grant published a best-selling book called The Passing of the Great Race, and this book was translated into several languages, including German, and it became the bible of somebody by the name of Adolf Hitler, and this ‘Passing of the Great Race’ author made the case that the ‘great race,’ of course an Anglo-Saxon white race, was basically under attack by everyone else. By immigrants from Eastern Europe and Southern Europe, by non-white immigrants, by civil rights activists …”


“I would say that in order for anybody to bring about change you have to believe that change is possible, and so first and foremost that epilogue, and that ending, is coming from that perspective. And then, secondly, being an historian, I know that changes have usually come as a result of people feeling and recognizing that things are pretty bad. And so it would not surprise me if we are able to create an anti-racist America in the near future …”

On the web



Sanders in Congress: He arrived in Washington an activist

Bernie Sanders arrived in Washington as an activist, not a legislator.

The Democratic presidential candidate has preferred rabble-rousing to the schmoozing required to get bills passed. So it’s not surprising that his 25-year congressional career is defined by what he’s opposed — big banks, the Iraq War, the Patriot Act, tax cuts for the wealthy — rather than what he’s accomplished.

But Sanders has chalked up his share of victories as a congressman and senator. His successes in shepherding legislation into law involve less sexy stuff such as emergency funding for veterans’ health care, help for dairy farmers and securing money for community health centers after giving up on his “single payer” health care plan.

A Vermont Independent who says he’s a democratic socialist, Sanders often has found himself on the outside looking in. Republicans controlling the House set the agenda for 12 of his 16 years there. He did, however, display a knack for prevailing, albeit temporarily, on floor votes despite the odds.

Sanders has had a greater impact in the Senate, where Democrats were in control for eight of his nine years.

A look at his legislative record:


Probably Sanders’ biggest accomplishment in Congress came in 2014 while chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee. He worked with his House counterpart, Rep. Jeff Miller, R-Fla., on legislation to improve a veterans’ health care system scandalized by long wait times for patients and by falsified records that covered up those delays.

Sanders, Miller and Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., hammered out a $16 billion agreement after weeks of sometimes testy talks. At one point, Sanders and other senators refused to attend a public bargaining session called by Miller.

Eventually, the mismatched pair of Sanders and Miller, who represents Florida’s GOP-leaning Panhandle, agreed on a compromise that required the Department of Veterans Affairs to pay private doctors to treat qualifying veterans who could not get prompt appointments at VA facilities, or who lived far from those centers.

Sanders and Miller had their disagreements, but they had little choice but to find common ground. The VA crisis was generating headlines in every congressional district as problems emerged at VA hospitals and clinics nationwide. In an election year, doing nothing was not an option.

Both men acknowledged that the bill was not what each would have written on his own. Miller wanted the VA to be able to fire senior executives without an appeal to ensure greater accountability. Sanders was wary of allowing private doctors to treat veterans, fearing it could be the first step to privatizing the VA.

Republicans say their concerns about the appeals process negotiated by Sanders have come true with the reversal of several high-profile firings and demotions by VA leaders.

The Merit Systems Protection Board, an independent agency that handles appeals by federal workers, reversed demotions of two VA executives accused of gaming the department’s hiring system for personal gain and the firing of an Albany, New York, medical director over patient safety concerns.


Sanders was, and still is, a proponent of a government-run, single-payer health care system patterned after Medicare. He proposed the idea in 2009 as an alternative to the health care measure developed by President Barack Obama with Democratic leaders.

Sanders was forced to abandon the effort for lack of support. He regularly complained during the writing of the president’s health overhaul that it wasn’t progressive enough.

Instead, with his support needed to pass the measure, Sanders turned his sights upon procuring money for community health centers that provide primary care to millions of people for free or at a reduced cost. In the end, he played a major role in getting more than $12 billion for community health centers, particularly in rural areas.


Sanders was instrumental in the 2009 fight to deliver money to dairy farmers struggling because of low milk prices. As the Senate considered a routine agriculture spending bill, Sanders offered an amendment to provide $350 million in emergency aid. He won a surprising 60-37 vote with help from four Republicans. Other dairy state Democrats embraced the proposal and Obama signed the measure into law.


In the House, despite a GOP stranglehold, Sanders displayed skill in winning votes on amendments to legislation, often spending bills. These included increased funds for low-income heating assistance, weatherization help for the poor and funds for rural schools.

In most instances, however, they were temporary victories; GOP leaders reversed the outcome later in the legislative process. One exception was an amendment Sanders authored with Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., to prohibit the Pentagon from reimbursing defense contractors for costs and job cuts associated with mergers. The proposal was accepted and signed into law as part of a Pentagon spending bill.

“At a time when people are scared to death about whether or not they are going to have their decent paying jobs, they do not want to see their tax dollars going to large multibillion-dollar corporations so that these companies can then merge and lay off American workers,” Sanders said. 

Mile of Music brings Americana artists back to Appleton

Appleton becomes Americana Central during the weekend of Aug. 7–10, when the Wisconsin city hosts the second Mile of Music Festival.

More than 200 performing artists will take the stage in more than 60 venues in and around downtown for a grand celebration of the Americana genre of music in all of its forms.

Included on the schedule are big names, such as Peter Buck and Mike Mills, both formerly of R.E.M., now playing in the Baseball Project; and Butch Vig, the legendary producer of Nirvana’s Nevermind and Smashing Pumpkins’Siamese Dream albums, playing with Emperors of Wyoming.

In addition to the name acts, top local musicians from throughout Wisconsin will perform.

The Mile of Music Festival launched last year, co-founded by Appleton natives Cory Chisel and Dave Willems. The first year was a great success, with more than 100 artists appearing at more than 40 venues, ranging from local bars to the Lawrence University Memorial Chapel. The festival was advertised as a cover-free zone designed to celebrate original music and outstanding songwriting.

A highlight of Mile Of Music 2013 was the surprise appearance of Norah Jones with Chisel and his band The Wandering Sons.

Most of the events at Mile of Music 2014 are free, but $150 priority access passes are available. They will get you priority access to the top 11 music venues and the Lawrence University Chapel showcases.

But most performances are open to all, and seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. 

The genre of music known as Americana is a loose combination of sounds from folk, country, blues and rock. The Americana Music Association was founded in 1999 to create a networking infrastructure to support recognition of the genre.

The association has sponsored the Americana Music Honors and Awards each year since 2002 to recognize outstanding achievements. Past recipients of album of the year awards have included Emmylou Harris, Johnny Cash, Alison Krauss and Loretta Lynn.

In 2009, the Grammy Awards added the category “best Americana album.”

Americana also has emerged as a unique radio format dedicated to sounds connected with American roots music.

Chisel grew up in Babbitt, Minnesota, and Appleton. Key musical influences came from his uncle, who introduced him to blues musicians such as Howlin’ Wolf and Robert Johnson. His father, a Baptist pastor, exposed Chisel to the spiritual power of church music.

After touring extensively, Chisel and The Wandering Sons grew a core fan base that resulted in a major label deal with RCA subsidiary Black Seal Music in 2007. In 2012, they toured with Norah Jones.

Chisel was recognized by his Wisconsin peers in 2010, when he was named artist of the year by the Wisconsin Area Music Industry. 

At this year’s Mile of Music, be sure to catch Milwaukee pop-rock duo Vic + Gab. The sisters Victoriah and Hannah Gabriela Banuelos have received strong support from 88NINE Radio Milwaukee. They were named one of the must-hear Wisconsin bands by Paste magazine late last year.

Vic + Gab have placed a song on the MTV show Skins and are looking prime for an upward trajectory.

Also, look for the Oshkosh-based indie rockers The Traveling Suitcase, who delivered one of the most talked-about performances at last year’s festival. The trio’s Nicole Rae and Brandon Domer began making music together in high school but then drifted apart for a number of years before reuniting in 2010 to form a band that at one point counted seven members. It’s since been pared down into a trio with guitarist Bill Grasley. Rae is both lead vocalist and drummer, which gives the band a unique focal point onstage.

The definitively Americana Milwaukee-based band Hugh Bob and the Hustle also are worth catching in their return engagement at Mile of Music. Hugh Robert Masterson, aka Hugh Bob, refers to the band’s music as “north country.” It has roots in traditional country and folk music but its subject matter focuses on the lives of people who live up north. The band has received strong support from both Country Music Television and Paste magazine.

In just two years, Appleton’s Mile of Music has grown into one of Wisconsin’s top music events of the year. Artists from both coasts, Canada and places in between will present songs that celebrate roots music in all of its vast variety.

Whether you travel to Appleton for one night or the entire weekend, you can expect to be moved by the experience. For the schedule and other information, visit www.mileofmusic.com.

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Treat Mom to brunch on her day

It’s no wonder that brunch has become the traditional Mother’s Day meal: There’s plenty of time afterward to recover with a cocktail. Hedge your bets on having an enjoyable time by booking reservations at one of the following eateries.

Coquette Café

If Mom is a Francophile, this is your best option, short of a flight to Paris.  Amid simple but refined décor, this Third Ward eatery serves traditional French bistro fare. The onion soup with gruyere cheese is one of the best versions of the classic dish to be found in the area.  A vast selection of patés and wines rounds out the experience. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (316 N. Milwaukee, 414-291-2655, coquettecafe.com)


Old World glamor abounds in the 1920s-era Ambassador Hotel. Envoy is known for its unlimited small-plate menu, but Mother’s Day features a traditional brunch with the requisite stations – meat carving, waffles and omelets. 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. $25.95 adults, $14.95 for kids 12 and younger. (At the Ambassador Hotel, 2308 W. Wisconsin, 414-345-5015, ambassadormilwaukee.com)

Fleming’s Steakhouse

You won’t find a better steak than at Fleming’s. Treat Mom to a three-course brunch and Fleming’s will throw in a $25 dining card for a future visit. This special is available at both the Madison and Brookfield locations. (Brookfield: 15665 W. Bluemound Rd., 262-782-9463, flemingssteakhouse.com/Milwaukee; Madison: 750 N. Midvale Blvd., 608-233-9550)

Il Mito

Il Mito has perfected its blend of breakfast and lunch dishes, plating up heaping helpings of eggs and waffles, breakfast pizzas and gluten-free options for its entrée menu. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (6917 W. North, 414-443-1414, ilmito.com)

Boerner Botanical Gardens

If Mother is a gardener, brunch by Bartolotta’s at the Boerner Botanical Garden is certain to be a hit.  A buffet of epicurean delights is served amid nature’s finest. 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (9400 Boerner, 414-525.5635, boernerbotanicalgardens.org)


If Mom was a wild child or wants to get in touch with her inner biker chick, lead her down the orange carpet to enjoy a buffet brunch. If you’re going with the entire family, there are special kids’ brunch tables. Each guest receives “Mom” temporary tattoos. Depending on the weather, patio dining will be available. 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. $24.95 per adult, $9.95 children. (At the Harley-Davidson Museum, 400 Canal, 414-287.2778, harley-davidson.com)


This sustainable and organic bi-level spot serves its plated brunch menu for Mother’s Day. All mothers will receive a free plant (tomato, peppers and flowers), tied up with a bow. The great view of the city is an extra treat. Brunch service is from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (1818 N. Hubbard, 414-374-8480, rootsmilwaukee.com)

Pfister Hotel

The folks at the Pfister brag that the brunch in the grand ballroom will make your mother “feel like a queen.” If you’re willing to share your throne by treating Mom to the $49 buffet brunch, she’ll get a $25 gift certificate for the Well Spa + Janice Salon. With prices at the Pfister, that might be enough to manicure one hand. But it’s the thought that counts. (424 E. Wisconsin Ave., 414-273-8222, thepfisterhotel.com)

Edelweiss – Milwaukee River Cruise Line

Be a “proud Mary” and take your mother “rollin’ on the river” with a scenic tour of the city. Edelweiss Champagne brunch tours leave at noon from 205 W. Highland and last for two hours. $42 per adult. (1110 N. Old World Third, 414-276.7447, edelweissboats.com)

Roots’ sense of place … and peace

1818 N. Hubbard St.

The late John Denver wrote perhaps one of the most place-descriptive songs ever in “Take Me Home Country Roads.” When I first heard it, I fell in love with the Blue Ridge Mountains, even though I’d never seen them. The song just evoked a sense of place and peace that appealed to me – and millions of others, judging by the record sales.

The reason I take you, dear reader, along for this stroll down memory lane is that a recent dinner at Roots, perched high on a hill overlooking the city, evoked that same feeling of place and peace. We sat along the windows flanking the patio, which provided a gorgeous view of the city, especially at sunset. The fading skyline was bathed in a golden glow.

The view and the delicious cocktails would have been rewarding enough, but the food and service were equally breathtaking.

Just as John Denver created a song to celebrate American roots, chef John Raymond orchestrates a menu that celebrates the changing flavors and textures of the seasons. Each plate reflects his passion for the art of food and his respect for those who raise or harvest his food products.

“We believe the best-tasting foods are whole foods grown ecologically and respectfully,” Raymond says. “We believe in supporting sustainable agriculture as well as aquaculture. All of our meats are naturally raised. Our fish is sashimi grade, wild caught, flown in whole, and filleted here to ensure freshness. A large quantity of our vegetables are grown in Wisconsin, and we are proud to support as many local farmers as possible. Everything is made from scratch with the same love and care we show in selecting our ingredients.”

That respect and care may mean that your meal at Roots might take a little bit longer to prepare than at other restaurants. Roots is definitively not a “fast food” joint, it is a place to settle in and savor every moment. The menu offers a wide variety of unique dishes and the knowledgeable staff is excellent at explaining every dish.

We began our meal by sharing the BBQ shrimp cooked in the style of Carolina low- country cuisine and served with phenomenal crisp cakes of creamed grits. The garnish of mustard sprouts added a nice little bite to the dish. The accompanying pimento sauce was delicious, but completely unnecessary, as the dish stood on its own. We also sampled the escarole & asparagus salad. Crisp greens arrived topped by a five-minute egg, although I’d suggest asking for a four-minute egg instead. In a dish like this, the poached egg is supposed to augment the salad dressing (a refreshing almond vinaigrette). Our egg was almost hard-boiled.

Our entrées were sheer perfection. Pan-seared scallops arrived cooked to perfection, shimmering on the inside with a slight caramelized coating. The seafood was served atop a generous mound of sunchoke-infused barley risotto and braised baby arugula.

Fork-tender Korean BBQ brisket was paired with kim chee braised pork belly and bok choy. A deep and flavourful sauce added a piquant accent, and steamed Chinese buns provided an excellent material to soak up all the good juices. Grilled tilapia, lightly glazed in a soy-miso blend was perfectly complemented by cashew-studded sticky rice. A micro-salad of sesame-yuzu dressed pea shoots and coconut curry sauce rounded out this dish. The vegetarian in our group raved about the seitan kibbe. The Middle-Eastern inspired dish was accompanied by couscous pilaf and a sumac salad dressed with an avocado and tahini sauce.

Desserts, while perfectly adequate, didn’t rise to the level of the rest of the meal. A trio of sorbet, cantaloupe, poached pear and cucumber, were all quite tasty, especially the cucumber, but were frozen so solid that we needed a knife and fork to hack off pieces to taste. The crème bruleé and chocolate mousse were well-made but uninspired.

I’ll definitely head back to Roots. Next time I’ll check out the brunch. I’m particularly drawn to one of the brunch menu items, Roots Benedict, seared rare tuna and poached eggs topped with wasabi hollandaise and tempura nori and shiitake-daikon hash on the side. Try and keep me away!