Philanthropy is the new marketing

squash plants growing at Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden
squash plants growing at Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden

Philanthropy is the new marketing.  Take food activism. Our media team learned this lesson the hard way. This summer we launched a campaign to set up an urban garden, actually a mini-farm, called the Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden on the, a crowdsourcing platform.

Our team chose this particular project because we wanted to devote our efforts to an environmental or green cause for our social impact project. What could be better than helping to build a mini-farm or fixing a ‘food desert’ in Middle America (Columbus, OH.)?

A story from Paula Penn-Nabrit (Wellesley ’76), garden founder, food activist, and my seven-sister college sibling, made a compelling case as she outlined the importance of learning to grow and preserve our own food during these trying times of hunger and poverty in America.

“If growing your own food is like printing your own money, then preserving your own food is like saving your hard earned cash!” said Penn-Nabrit.

By now, the Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden, named for Paula’s husband, has made great strides. They had raised $5000 of a $10,000 campaign. But they still need more money. They need fencing to keep deers and critters out. And, they are getting ready for a robust harvest, farmer’s market and community classes.

Quote from Paula Penn-Nabrit about her Columbus, Ohio community mini-farm in the works
Quote from Paula Penn-Nabrit about her Columbus, Ohio community mini-farm in the works

‘Marketing’ your stories to your friends with the hope that they will participate and share with others unknown to you is a challenge. But it is a strategy that works. Like a garden, it takes time and constant tweaking.

A recent article in by Paul Van DeCarr explores how philanthropy is the new marketing and some tips to consider.

“How do we create or “market” stories so they’ll appeal to people other than those who already support us; so they’ll reach people who may be unfamiliar with our issue or even disagree with us? We’ve all been there before—with documentary-film screenings, story-sharing websites, or social-change plays that preach to the converted. To enlarge your audience, sometimes all you need to do is activate people who are sympathetic, but inactive. Or, you may sometimes want to engage people who aren’t already on board. As for engaging people who disagree with you, often times the best you can hope for is to neutralize their opposition.”

Consider the following principles to build your base through storytelling. Click on this link.

Want to solve hunger and poverty in Middle America? Contribute here to the Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden.

Is philanthropy the new marketing in your life’s work?

Vacation cooking items

What top 8 cooking items are you taking on your vacation? Some of you may run from cooking in a vacation rental. Not me. I find it relaxing to explore local markets, head for the kitchen and cook interesting food finds while on a trip. Maybe the sea air does something to me!  I avoid setting a menu to keep my soul open to the local food scene. Many vacation rentals offer lots of kitchen tools like tongs, corkscrews and grilling utensils. But why take a chance? The best way to cook in a vacation rental is to pack items that can guarantee some happiness. We are going on vacation with friends to a rental house on Martha’s Vineyard in September. Our travel companions share our love of fresh, healthy eating. No sandwich meats or canned soups for us!

Here’s my top 8 list:

  1. Olive oil. Fresh local produce with pasta becomes a lovely meal when you add great olive oil.  I usually pack 2 small bottles.
  2. One all-purpose prep knife. Our last vacation condo was supplied with beautiful dishes, wine goblets, serving platters, the works. Sadly, prep knives were dull. Avoid using up valuable vacation time shopping for kitchen tools! Bring a sharp knife.
  3. A favorite frying or casserole pan. I’m picky about my pots. Many vacation rentals skimp on quality pots and pans. So bring your go-to pan from home.
  4. Spice blends, cinnamon, hot sauce, dry beans, chocolate and sea salt. What a difference your favorite seasonings  and ingredients can make with barbecue sauce, a pot of chili, or crowd-pleasing potluck recipes.
  5. Coffee, Tea, sweeteners. Sometimes I bring my own French press coffee pot, as I am particular about my coffee. Whole leaf tea is another must for me!
  6. Flavor enhancers: Harissa paste, tomato paste, Parmesan cheese, olives, jams. Think of what you need to turn ordinary items into a gourmet meal. I always pack my husband’s favorite peach preserves. It makes his breakfast happy and enhances a variety of recipes.
  7. Zip-lock plastic bags and wax paper for food finds, storage and picnics.
  8. Pancake mix: buy a brand that can make piecrust.  Remember to pack vanilla extract! If you are anything like me, you may get inspired to bake cobblers or whip up some pancakes on vacation.

What cooking items do you take to your vacation rental?

must-have vacation cooking items
Examples of some must-have vacation cooking items: olive oil, sharp knife, beans, favorite pan, honey, hot sauce, vanilla extracts, tea, coffee, sea salt, plastic baggies

Caribbean Mother’s Day

Caribbean Mother’s Day: I always marvel at mothers like my maternal grandmother Violet Chan Keong, who arrived in Harlem from Trinidad. She was newly divorced and travelling with three small children, including my mother. She left behind three older children.

Aunt Sybil, Agnes, Elaine in Trinidad
It took over a decade before my Trinidadian maternal Aunts Sybil, Agnes, and Elaine were reunited with their mother and siblings in NYC.

It would take more than a decade before they would reunite. Once settled in Harlem, my grandmother worked day, night, and weekends taking care of other people’s children and cleaning other people’s homes. She was very resourceful. Grandma came here to work.  Her side businesses included work as a seamstress, tailor, caterer and special events planner, especially Caribbean weddings. She taught me how to cook, clean, garden, sew, knit, crochet, manage events and read palms.

Like thousands of Caribbean mothers, Grandma Violet was motivated by the American dream. She saved every penny so she could send for her children and provide for the ones living with her. She did not worry about her daughters back home because they lived with our extended Caribbean family. Grandmother belonged to a unique network of tough West Indian mothers who learned by trial and error how to hold everything together in their cold new world.

Grandmother participated in a sou-sou, an old-fashioned Caribbean savings cooperative similar to a lottery.  A group of people deposited an equal amount of money for a period of time (monthly or bi-weekly) with a trusted banker in the circle. After that time was up, each person in the circle got a turn to keep the full pot.

Grandmother’s sou-sou and her extra jobs provided for all of the family’s needs—a new home, trips back to Trinidad and raising the children who lived with her.  Her generation did not believe in banks, loans or credit cards. Everything was about sacrifice and integrity! There were lots of letters and barrels sent back and forth between Trinidad, “BG”-British Guyana and New York. Articles such as clothing, fabric, sewing supplies, toiletries, books, magazines and traditional food and religious items were shipped on a regular basis. My elders shared everything in their tight-knit Caribbean community, especially precious news, letters and photos from back home. I inherited quite a collection of exotic postal stamps, news clips and photos from that time.

Most importantly, I learned about my family’s cultural history —from our mother and grandmother’s stories. With each barrel sent and each new arrival from the old country, there were stories, photos and new chapters about Trinidad and Guyana’s independence. I was a teen when my Aunt Elaine, my mother’s oldest sister, arrived in NY. I was given her name as my middle name. Aunt Elaine’s son William lived with us in Brooklyn while he attended Howard University. I can recall the scene. There they were, sisters meeting for the first time–laughing and crying tears of joy. Circumstances, family drama, post-colonial politics and immigration laws were some of the reasons for this belated reunion. So, on Mother’s Day, I give a special salute to Caribbean mothers everywhere for your courage and sacrifices to start a new life. Check out how Mother’s Day is celebrated around the world:


Genealogy Vacation Tips

Review archival photos and artifacts before taking your genealogy vacation.
Review archival photos and artifacts before taking your genealogy vacation.

I love to combine vacations with genealogy research trips. I experience deja vu and can almost feel my ancestor’s spirits guiding me. To walk the same streets, eat the same foods and hear traditional music and language of my ancestors can be quite emotional. I sometimes feel pure joy and incredible sadness. But overall, a genealogy vacation can be exciting and rewarding for the whole family.


This year, my itinerary will include the Caribbean, Mississippi and Louisiana and England. Using oral histories, family stories, inherited photos and artifacts, I will dig for more stories. I planned months in advance. I also set appointments and allotted time to improvise or change plans.


Right now, I am finalizing a trip to New Orleans and Ocean Springs, Mississippi. My current research project is about family recipes—especially gumbo. There is a community of “gumbo people” that I hope to meet. I learned that you could do a lot of cooking, eating and tasting in a few days if you make a good plan.


My genealogy trip will also include family gravesites, churches and neighborhood landmarks. Colleagues have already made introductions for site visits and events. Most importantly, I did my homework and developed a few checklists.

My Top 5 Genealogy Vacation Tips:

  1. -Choose your research project: a specific family, individual or tradition.
  2. -Know where you are going. Call your relatives or their neighbors to plan a visit. Check the web for the church, courthouse, and libraries to confirm a time, location, and direction. Official buildings can close for repair without notice!
  3. -Learn what sources and events are available. Some original source records require prior reservations. Events can change venue and details. The drama of your ancestors’ lives is documented in a variety of newspapers, court, land transfer, tax, voting, school, health records and more. If your ancestor lived near a county line, you might find records in two different counties. Click here for a link to tips for onsite genealogy research.
  4. -Map out your strategy. Get familiar with the area using various maps like highway or Google maps. Small and large-scale topographic maps can help greatly with logistics.
  5. -Packing Tips: I pack as light as possible— notebook, pedigree charts or family group record, pencils (many repositories don’t allow pens!) camera, tripod, portable scanner, mobile phone, batteries, memory cards, magnifying glass, tape measure, white archival gloves, comfortable clothes and shoes.

Do you combine vacation and genealogy trips? What are your tips?


Diverse chefs aspire

Diverse chefs aspire – The pressure of a four-star kitchen was recreated as 21 multicultural NYC public high school student finalists faced off in a cooking challenge. The diverse, young aspiring chefs were participating in “Careers through Culinary Arts Program (C-CAP) New York-Cooking Competition for Scholarships.” Teachers, families, sponsors, C-CAP alums and staff and mentors  were present to cheer them on. They all believe that supporting the students’ chef school education is key to their success. (C-CAP operates in several states around the nation.)

Hosted by ICE (Institute of Culinary Education), a two-course French meal featuring Hunter’s Chicken with Tourne Potatoes and Dessert Crepes with Pastry Cream and Chocolate Sauce, was prepared under the scrutiny of a team of judges. Besides taste and presentation, the students were judged on speed, sanitation, safety, organization, timing, workflow, technique and skills.

Pep Talk

After a pep talk by Richard Grausman, C-CAP founder, Susan Robbins, C-CAP president, and some of the judges, the students got to work in three kitchens crowded with judges and media.

“Work with your heart and don’t be afraid,” said Robbins. “Taste your food, and go light with the salt,” said Grausman. “If you cut yourself, raise your hand and label your plate with a number so that we know who you are,” said another judge.

All-Star Chef Judges

“I look for a rhythm, a flow like a dance in the kitchen. This group is very confident,” said Thiago Silva, C-CAP alum, judge and executive pastry chef, EMM Group, The General.

“I wish I could take each one of them back to my restaurant. It’s obvious that they are very skilled already,” said Maria Loi, executive chef at Loi Restaurant.

“I told them to cook like you are cooking for your mother,” said JJ Johnson, chef de cuisine, The Cecil and Mintons. “I could see that they were nervous in the beginning. But, as prep moved to cooking, their confidence was there,” Johnson added.

“Nervousness is expected. This is their first time in this kitchen. They got into their zone pretty quick. I saw a few mess-ups and they recovered very well. My job is to remind them to stay calm, watch the timeline and replace potatoes if they got rotten ones,” said Rebecca Rios, the kitchen manager and C-CAP alum.

All competitors will be invited to a final awards event on April 11 at the Pierre Hotel where the results of this competition will be revealed and $500K in scholarships will be presented, according to a C-CAP spokesperson.