Soledad O’Brien Dispatches

Soledad O’Brien Dispatches

Soledad O’Brien Dispatches A Reporter’s Life On the Run Interview by Lauri Lyons TV journalist Soledad O’Brien has tirelessly crisscrossed the globe to report breaking news and produce social documentaries for CNN, Al Jazeera, and HBO. We were lucky enough to catch up with Soledad en route to the airport for her annual Starfish Foundation Gala, through which she works to assist young women scholars get to and through college. Here is the veteran reporter’s take on how she lives life on the run. For your big stories that you’ve covered (Hurricane Katrina, Thailand tsunami, Haiti earthquake) what are the logistics and preparation time for getting you in the field and on camera? Soledad O’Brien:  I’m sitting in traffic on my way to Newark airport. So, I’m living your website. The logistics are usually pretty crazy, but I work at CNN, and they are pretty amazing at that. They are just masters of the logistics.  They would have a whole apartment, and then their goal is just to get you physically there. Then I travel with stacks of books and printouts, and any information I can find. While I’m on the flight, I’m reading. We’ll often travel without knowing very much. For example, I know there’s an earthquake in Haiti,  but what’s the history of Haiti? How did Haiti become a country? What are some of the big stories and issues in Haiti?  You spend the entire flight reading until you really understand all the different contexts of the story, while somebody else is trying to figure out how to get you in. Then you get in there, and,...
Afrique in 3D

Afrique in 3D

Afrique in 3D Cross-Cultural Beats & Rhymes Interview by Lauri Lyons Nadjib Ben Bella is a globetrotting music producer and gallery owner. After touring for more than ten years as DJ Boulaone, one of Europe’s most popular Dj’s, Ben Bella is now remixing the creative boundaries between Europe, Africa, and America. Lauri Lyons: You’re from Northern France, tell me about the region and the history of that area? Nadjib Ben Bella: Roubaix was considered in the beginning of the 20th century the Silicon Valley, the richest region in the world because it was mostly textiles and mining industry. Now it’s one of the poorest in France because now all of the industries are now in India, North Africa, so we don’t get so much activity here. It is a bit like Detroit with a lot of unemployment and old factories. The good thing is the politicians decided to recycle this region with culture. We have a lot of art centers, museums, galleries, and ventures. There are a lot of good things happening now. Most of the resident’s heritage is Algerian or North African? Yes. It corresponds to the waves of immigration that France asked for when they needed to increase their workforce in the factories. We had some Polish people, Italians, Portuguese, Moroccans, Algerians, Senegalese. For example, in the city next to Roubaix, for every 100,000 people we have 120 different nationalities. It is very rich with a lot of different cultures. What attracts you to Arab and African music in your work? I really like African music. In some countries in Africa you have maybe 40 different languages,...
Holy Santos

Holy Santos

Holy Santos Ancient Black Saints Interview by Lauri Lyons Welcome to the magnificent world of Barron “Africanus” Claiborne, a renowned self-taught photographer, cinematographer. Originally from Boston, Claiborne has mastered the art of weaving historical facts into vivid feats of imagination.  Lauri Lyons: What inspired the Sable Goddess series? Barron Claiborne: My photos usually come from what I read. I was reading about the saints before the catholic church was moved to Rome, when the church was located in North Africa. I read about Saint Nirvana and Saint Perpetua. They were saints in the early church in North Africa. Saint Augustine was the head of the catholic church. The were a lot of saints but the first saints were black, and the first popes were black. The saints were also black in the christian church. You see images of them in catacombs and in Rome. You will see black russian icons, a lot of eastern european icons. Even Santa Claus (St. Nick) was a black man, that’s why today the Dutch recognize Zwarte Piet, his sidekick apprentice, who was also black. What are your favorite subjects to read about? I like archeology, history, and mythology. What inspired you to start photographing people as saints? The women I know and my mom. Your mom is like your saint. I was photographing women who were around the age of my mother, when she had me. Did you pick women that fit into the character of the saints? Yes, that’s basically what I do. I see someone and sometimes it’s just completely aesthetic. I see the person as I want them. It’s pretty simple....
Fake Alcohol

Fake Alcohol

Fake Alcohol Poison in Paradise By Dr. Deborah Mills Methanol poisoning of travelers has recently been in the news. An Australian teenager has died from methanol poisoning after a New Year’s eve visit to a bar in Lombok, Bali. His father reported that his son was served what he thought was imported vodka, mixed with lime from genuine bottles behind the bar. There have been cases of poisoning in Indonesia, most notably in Bali and Lombok, from alcoholic drinks adulterated with harmful substances, particularly methanol. Locals and foreigners, have died or have become seriously ill. Cases have usually involved local spirits and spirit-based drinks, such as cocktails, but supposed brand name alcohol can also be adulterated. A number of deaths have also been reported after drinking adulterated arak – a traditional rice based spirit. Various substances can contaminate the drinks of unwary travelers. I received an email, from a patient who has now lived in Beijing for about 10 years. Below is a story of a likely poisoning with isopropyl alcohol. Dr Passanante had seen numerous of these cases from westerners going to popular bars frequented by foreigners. His symptoms were racing heart rate, weak pulse, tingling in arms and legs, tiredness and possible low blood pressure. The onset took place about 10 hours after his last drink. His condition improved rapidly after administration of a small amount of valium. I have known for many years that there is a lot of fake alcohol in Beijing but I tend not to drink much when I am out and usually when drinking, buy red wine. The target for the fake...
Chinese Wonton Noodling

Chinese Wonton Noodling

Chinese Wonton Noodling The Lunar New Year Story & Photos by Jo Yee   As I sit here and write this I hear the clang of stainless steel bowls, pots and pans, vibrating through my mother’s hundred year old house in New England. I’m now thousands of miles away in London, but sometimes I swear her pitter-patter in the kitchen is still loud enough to stir me awake in the early dawn, as if my bedroom is still just three yards away. She is anything but predictable when it comes to most things but her penchant for noise pollution in the kitchen can be timed to cockcrow.     Wonton noodle soup is not the most classic of lunar new year dishes, I cannot recall a time when it was made specifically for a new year in my mother’s household, but it is laden with symbolism of good fortune. In the length of noodles there is longevity; good tidings of abundance is wrapped up in a wonton, like presents. I don’t know who makes this stuff up, but whoever it is has great taste in food, so I do not protest.     Wonton noodle soup is to my family what a full English Breakfast is to England. My maternal grandfather was the wonton noodle man, in the midst of Saigon streets filled with steaming pho bo pots. His product was handmade and homemade. He did just well enough to raise a hearty family of fourteen. While he never made it to the States, my aunts, and his youngest two daughters, brought with them a tradition of cooking up...
Damascus Déjà vu

Damascus Déjà vu

Damascus Déjà vu Life In Syria Interview by Lauri Lyons     There are people that choose a nomadic lifestyle for pleasure, there are people destined to become nomads because of their culture, and now in growing numbers, there are people that have become nomads because of war. Waref Abu Quba is a Syrian video director who is beautifully reframing the narrative of culture, memory, and migration. His award winning video In Damascus is an ethereal voyage into an ancient culture transforming in modern times.     Where are you from? Waref Abu Quba: I am from Al-Tall a town in Damascus Suburb area, it’s only 14 km far from Damascus. I’ve studied and lived in Damascus for a number of years.     When did you decide to leave Syria and why? Waref Abu Quba: As I graduated from the Faculty of Fine Arts in Damascus in 2007, I wanted to stay for a little longer in Syria and give it a try, starting my own business, so I started a small production company and things were going well for me at the beginning. Then comes a point in every Syrian male life, where we are offered two choices from the government: stay in the country and serve two horrible years in the military which is mandatory, or leave the country for five years to work and then pay a $5,000 fee, to be excused from the military service (which is a big amount of money for Syrians). I went with the second choice, and decided to leave Syria. I didn’t want to serve in Al-Assad army, so...
Saffron Scented Aubergine Stew

Saffron Scented Aubergine Stew

Saffron ­Scented Aubergine Stew Aubergine Stew in the Persian Manner Story & Photos by S​hayma Saadat     The first thing I think about when the leaves turn ruby­-red and my shawls come out of the hidden part of my closet, is a hearty tomato­-spiced stew. Now that the days are shorter and we are beginning to spend more time indoors, the scent of saffron, mingling with tomatoes and cumin, bubbling away on the burner, seems to be the best way to spend a night in.     Aubergine, with its glorious shades of violet is in season right now and one of my favourite ways of preparing it is to incorporate it into a k​horesht;​ a stew.     With its jammy tomato base, all you need to have with this K​horesht­-e­-adejmaan​ is a tahdig​– saffron­ rusted basmati rice – and creamy strained yogurt. It seems to be the best way to start a new season and to give thanks for all that we have. Speaking of giving thanks, I recently became a Canadian citizen. Canada is now the country which this P​akistani-Persian-­Afghan n​omad,​ now calls home.​   R​ecipe   Shayma Saadat i​s a Toronto based f​ood writer,​ p​hotographer, stylist, ​c​ook,​ t​eacher,​ p​ublic speaker​ a​nd storyteller. Follow Shayma @SpiceSpoon. Photos ©Shayma Saadat  ...
A Taste of Estonia

A Taste of Estonia

A Taste of Estonia Sweet Red Onion Jam Story & Photos by​ Marija Sponza       The first time I had onion jam I didn’t like it. Truth, there is a lot of different kinds and this one, that I didn’t like, was runny with totally inappropriate spice mixture, not too sweet. My next accounter with this jam was completely different. In a medieval Olde Hansa restaurant in Tallinn (I know, uber touristic, but I just couldn’t live here and not visit it) along with the appetizer came sweet red onion jam. Not sure anymore, but I think I could taste a hint of thyme, or some other herb. The main thing was that the jam was sticky, leaving the taste of molasses on my tongue. Later we had it with the main prepared with deer meat, and some bear sausages, and both times it was a winner. As we went home, we were thinking that the food at the restaurant was not so special, but we could always come back for a bucket of that jam. Funny thing is, you can buy this jam in a souvenir shop adjacent to the restaurant, a small clay kind­of­a­jar for the price of 15 €. And seems like a best seller!!! Some might think that it’s too much for a small jar of onion jam, which actually may be truth, especially when you see how fast, cheap and easy you can make this at home. But, this version I’m giving you today is only a good enough copy, still not as good as the original.     This jam goes best with roasted meats, especially game, as a burger condiment, and with cheeses, which is my favorite way to...
Afropunk Takes Over

Afropunk Takes Over

Afropunk Takes Over The Black Cultural Shift Interview by Lauri Lyons   If you haven’t noticed, there is a cultural shift taking place in America, and across the globe. The shift is loud, colorful, disruptive, and at times entertaining. Afropunk, the international music festival and community, is part of the alternative cultural shift taking over New York, Paris, and Atlanta. Afropunk’s Jocelyn Cooper takes a moment to share its masterplan.     How did you first learn about Afropunk?  Jocelyn Cooper: I first learned about Afropunk with a conversation I was having with artist Danny Simmons, and he was talking about the Afropunk film, and an Afropunk event. I was working at the time for L.A. Reid’s publishing company. One of the writers signed to the publishing company was Beyonce. Afropunk certainly was not, in my mind from the name, sort of my world. Then I met Matthew Morgan and he started talking about Afropunk and all of the bands that were on the Afropunk.com platform. He told me there were 350 bands that were fronted by people of color and I was like, “There is no way there are 350 Black bands in America!” and he said, Yes there are and they’re on my site!”.   Jocelyn Cooper & Matthew Morgan   Then we met again and we were talking about the cultural shift and that conversation changed my life, because in my history I’ve been involved in major cultural shifts in Black music. I signed D’angelo many years ago, when I started my publishing company and that was the shift into neo-soul. When I was at Universal, I signed Cash Money Records...
The Feast of a Lifetime

The Feast of a Lifetime

The Feast of a Lifetime Chef Lidia Bastianich Interview by Lauri Lyons   Lidia Bastianich is renowned as one of television’s most popular chefs, a restaurateur, and cookbook author. Today, she reflects on her journey, passion for food, and the expansion of her empire.     At this time, some of the world’s most pressing issues surround war, displacement, immigration, and identity. Were you a World War II border child? Lidia Bastianich: I was born in Allied controlled Pola. At the end of World War II the victorious wartime Allied powers, negotiated the details of peace treaties and borders with Italy, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, and Finland. The Paris Treaty was signed on February 10, 1947. I was born a few days later. The area was under Allied supervision until June of 1947, when the treaty was ratified.   Editor’s Note: The Paris Treaty required Italy to cede most of Istria, including the province of Pola (where Lidia was born) to Yugoslavia. The area later became governed by the communists.   Now more than ever borders are such a discussion and problem because people are kind of left in nowhere land, like the Jerusalem incident. If you were born in Jerusalem you are not Israeli or Palestinian, so what are you? Border people go through a lot. They are unidentified, and feel unsure for the rest of their lives, and ask “Where was I born? Who am I?” I know I’m Italian, but it’s such a predicament after wars, and it’s still going on today. I feel for all of these people around the world with the border situations and what they’re going through with their...

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