Monthly Archives: February 2016

fruity nutty affair 2016

Welcome to the Fruity Nutty Affair!

American chestnuts, peaches and a sweet cherry, oh my!

Last Saturday, Feb. 20, was Victory Garden Initiative’s aptly-named Fruity Nutty Affair. This is Alysse’s big evening she pours her heart into every year, and it was my first time being able to go! The Affair is all about raising the money needed to plant five urban orchards in Milwaukee communities. VGI’s goal with the Fruity Nutty Five Contest: To protect the environment, improve public health, and strengthen their community, all through growing fruits and nuts in the city—where food is needed most. In the past, neighborhoods have won and planted apples, pears and paw-paws in their front and back yards. Churches, schools and community centers have also been awarded orchards, connecting their missions with food and where it comes from—the outdoors! One of the coolest ones to me: the grocery store that planted their trees along the sidewalk, welcoming all passersby to pick some fruit on their way in. Continue reading

meet lesley and jami: chicago entrepreneurs helping women cover up with confidence

Jami and Lesley, Bwell 11, People with Panache

Jami (left) and Lesley (right) met in 6th grade. “We were in the same homeroom, and we just clicked,” Jami says. “We’ve been best friends ever since—and now we’re 51!”

Cancer and Crohn’s disease.

I knew these scary-sounding, taboo things would be major topics of discussion when I went to interview Lesley Foreman and Jami Weiman, both 51. But as I opened the door to Lesley’s office, where she has her therapy practice, the first thing I saw was the pair of them giggling while Jami sprayed Lesley with something to stop static cling. Her silk shirt wasn’t cooperating. They looked at me and laughed harder now that I’d caught them. I laughed too, and all my fears melted away.

Jami has been living with Crohn’s disease for more than 35 years, and Lesley was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 48. They told me about their friendship, growing up together, and the impact their respective diseases have had on them—and how that led them to create Bwell 11. Bonus: I also learned that Jami attended Drake University for a year—our alma mater! Go Bulldogs!

Launched on July 15, 2015, Bwell 11 is a line of versatile fashion swimsuit cover-ups. Their Bandtastik can be worn in seven different ways to cover up a number of areas on your body from thighs to chest. The Bandiva is a colorful head scarf that can get wet and still stay firmly in place. It seems so fitting that swimwear that makes you feel comfortable and beautiful—even in life’s toughest moments—comes from such a kind and loyal friendship. Continue reading

people with panache turned three!

Panache Parties

Our 2015 People with Panache parties! The top is the whole crew in Milwaukee at the Ruby Tap. Bottom is the Panache women in Chicago at Beauty and Brawn Art Gallery and Think Space.

People with Panache just celebrated our third birthday! So we looked back on our year, and some themes popped out: Courage. Creativity. Commitment. And, of course, compassion.

The women we’ve met through this adventure traversing the Midwest aren’t doing what our culture would consider “realistic.” If there are rules related to what they’re doing, they’re breaking them. They’re setting their own paths, sticking to them and making plans that become reality. Beyoncé’s not the only one, ladies.

Whether your dream is to have a solid job so you can take your two weeks at the turquoise-iest beach a plane can reach, or you will not stop until you start the business that puts your values out into the world, we are with you.
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meet atieno: detroit community organizer, farmer and sangoma-griot

Sometimes it feels like we are powerless.

  • Families in Flint, Mich., reach for bottled water, now painfully aware that they have already, unknowingly, poisoned themselves and their children with one of life’s basic necessities.
  • Refugees, now in the press less, still struggle to redefine home, reconnect family and find some semblance of stability.
  • People of all colors, genders, religions and cultures check the calendar to confirm that yes, it is actually 2016, and yes, we are actually still as a country pushing forth a presidential candidate that unabashedly and loudly discriminates against a wide and beautiful part of our population.
“Some of these foraged foods I’m talking about tend to grow where the soil isn’t so rich—they’re hardy, less intensive,” Atieno says. “My position when it comes to this farming movement is to advocate for the inclusion of these other greens and vegetables and flowers into our diets. They are indigenous, Native American, culinary heritage crops. For many of us in different parts of world, you see so much more continuity in our diet over generations.”

“Some of these foraged foods I’m talking about tend to grow where the soil isn’t so rich—they’re hardy, less intensive,” Atieno says. “My position when it comes to this farming movement is to advocate for the inclusion of these other greens and vegetables and flowers into our diets. They are indigenous, Native American, culinary heritage crops. For many of us in different parts of world, you see so much more continuity in our diet over generations.”

Holy mother of pearl, this is dire. It truly is no time to give up—so bowing to perceived powerlessness just can’t be a thing. We all have different levels of resources and connections, but we also each have a voice, a heart, a purpose.

Atieno Nyar Kasagam, 25, shows us that we can rise above our situations and come together with others for a common goal. Our leaders can only put their political gains ahead of the public good for so long; people like Atieno are bringing their voices together to be louder, to be challenging, to be visionaries.

Atieno is changing the world by changing her world, starting in Detroit’s local food scene. I met her this fall at her home and urban farm. While we talked and spent time with her sharp and funny little girl, my boyfriend, James, helped her husband, Lorenzo, install the next section of their roof. Nothing cures powerlessness like picking up a hammer. Continue reading