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Friday, May 4, 2012

Beacon Bits -- Embrace Your Community

After trying to schedule a Saturday evening outing to the Gospel Cafe at the Howland Cultural Center for over a year, my weary soul could wait no longer and I finally showed up at the door on Saturday 4/29/12. The evening's theme was Apollo Night, like the iconic people's choice competition in NYC.

The MC, Deacon  Alvin Bell, proprietor of the hair salon at 211 Main Street, opened the evening with his rendition of "Victory is Mine", a rousing song with his signature

notes. (I've seen him belt this upbeat number out at other community events such as the MLK celebrations at the Howland with as much heart and soul. I've also run into Deacon Bell, an ex-boxing champ, at the local bank; I love to listen to his stories about Main Street pre-Dia Beacon. He's a willing ranconteur and runs a friendly and energetic barber shop where our very own Pete Seeger gets his hair cut and the buzz about town is always ongoing as a recent visit revealed.
The entrance fee for the Gospel Cafe included a comfortable seat with tables set up cabaret style and a tasty homemade dinner replete with baked chicken, stringbeans, macaroni and cheese and biscuit. Since it was the 4th anniversary of these monthly community gospel celebrations, a generous serving of strawberry-filled chocolate cake was passed around during the intermission.

Four diverse choirs performed during the course of the evening.  My favorite, the Brothers of Gideon representing Beulah Baptist Church, reminded me of The Dixie Hummingbirds, but to my disappointment, was not the choir selected as the evening's winner.

The most unusual group, Souls United, spearheaded by the local Baha'i's, sang more contemporary songs with soulful messages of unity, peace and harmony. A rousing performance of one song included the phrase, "embrace your race", which denoted the multiracial aspect of this group and the universal message of the Baha'i faith. It was no surprise to see local performer Chis Ruhe as part of the group; he is a troubador for social justice and action-oriented causes like anti-fracking.

Overall, the evening was a winner, just like the Balm in Gilead that heals the sin sick soul.

Some food for thought:  While gospel might not be every Beaconite's choice of music, the Gospel Cafe venue affords the opportunity to mingle beyond the usual racial divide and serves as a chance to cross multicultural boundaries within our community. (If you've noticed up to this point, there isn't much diversity represented in some of the areas along Main Street or even within this blog.)  As a white person in attendance, I was frequently reminded about being in a minority role. Some of the regular attendees appeared a bit skeptical about my presence initially until the music touched us all; then I was greeted several times with the query, "are you having a good time?" One local couple told me to stop in their church, Star of Bethlehem, located in the converted bank building a few doors up from Bank Square, "anytime." I think I might just do that. I've heard their choir singing some Sunday mornings when passing through town and they've been quite uplifting and it will be good to keep crossing the invisible lines of segregation found in Beacon's community. To do so will further expand one's comfort zone and to enrich one's connecteness with all neighbors.

Gospel Cafe meets at 7pm on the 4th Saturday of the month at the Howland Cultural Center. Souls United will perform on June 2, 2012 at the Howland Cultural Center.

"Change-It-Up" Macaroni & Cheese
A white girl's blend of healthy and traditional

1 tbs. butter
2 tbs. flour
1/2 cup skim milk
4 oz. aged white Vermont cheddar cheese, grated
1 tsp. Grey Poupon Country Dijon Mustard
2 tbs. Hudson Valley Fresh sour cream
2 cups uncooked 100% Whole Wheat Chiocciole
(Bionature Organic available at Beacon Natural Market)
Unseasoned breadcrumbs

Cook the macaroni according to package directions. Heat the butter in a saucepan and incorporate the flour , then add the milk and  continually stir to blend thoroughly. (You are essentially making a bechamel sauce or as we called it growing up a 'hvit sus', white sauce, that can be used for 'creaming' any vegetable.) Add the cheese gradually until melted. Then add the mustard and sour cream. Add the sauce to the cooked macaroni. Place into a buttered casserole dish and sprinkle the top with the breadcrumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minute. Makes 4 side servings.
You can bring the fat down with low fat cheese and sour cream or you can bring the fat up with dots of butter on top of the bread crumb topping for extra crispy crumbs.

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