Ramadan Mubarak!

It’s Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar. In 2023, it runs from March 22 to April 21. Ramadan celebrates the divine revelations of the Quran to the prophet Muhammad.

Ramadan is a period of fasting and spiritual practice. During the month, almost 2 billion Muslim people around the world will abstain from eating and drinking from dawn to dusk. Some will wake up before sunrise to eat a small meal, called suhoor, before the fast begins. When the day’s fast ends, Muslims celebrate with a festive meal, called iftar. Traditionally, a date is eaten to break the fast.

Ramadan is also a time when Muslims focus on religious and compassionate practices such as reading the Quran, giving more to charity, and spending time with family and friends. Many Muslims continue with their daily routines, going to school and work despite fasting. Many also gather together to say special Ramadan prayers and Quran recitations at night.

Ramadan concludes with the celebration of Eid al-Fitr, the Feast of Fast-Breaking. Muslims dress up, adorn their hands with henna, and decorate their homes. Eid al-Fitr includes special prayers and meals with friends and relatives, and gifts are often exchanged. This year, the three-day celebration of Eid al-Fitr will begin at sundown on April 21.

Want to learn more about Ramadan and Islam? The City Tech Library has some great ebooks to check out:

In the Footsteps of the Prophet: Lessons from the Life of Muhammad

Islam Explained: Essential reading for anyone who wants to know more about Islam

Towards Understanding Islam

Women in Islam : What the Qur’an and Sunnah Say

Ramadan Mubarak!

Black History Month 2023

Black History Month is observed in the United States annually in February. President Ford declared the first national observation of Black History Month in 1976, saying “In the Bicentennial year of our Independence, we can review with admiration the impressive contributions of black Americans to our national life and culture… I urge my fellow citizens to join me in tribute to Black History Month and the message of courage and perseverance it brings to all of us.”

This year’s theme is Black Resistance: A Journey to Equality. February 2023 is a time to honor the many battles fought and won by Black Americans, despite the unjust and often brutal racism they faced and continue to face. According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, “Black people have sought ways to nurture and protect Black lives, and for autonomy of their physical and intellectual bodies through armed resistance, voluntary emigration, nonviolence, education, literature, sports, media, and legislation/politics. Black led institutions and affiliations have lobbied, litigated, legislated, protested, and achieved success.”

There are many stories of Black Resistance from the United States, and from around the world. Here are just a few selections from Swank, one of the City Tech Library’s streaming video collections.

Swank is only available to current City Tech students and faculty. To view films from off-campus:

Click on Swank.
Enter your CUNYfirst credentials.
Click on the Student or Instructor buttons depending on your classification.
Click on the film you would like to watch.

Winter Holiday Cookbooks #3: Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa

Happy Kwanzaa

Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday nor a substitute for Christmas, and many people celebrate both across North America and the Caribbean. Maulana Karenga founded the weeklong festival in 1966 as a way for African-Americans to celebrate their families and communities, while honoring ancestors. The holiday is based on seven guiding principles, one for each day of the observance: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith. 

Celebrations begin by lighting candles, giving gifts, and decorating with the African colors of red, green, and black. Throughout the week, favorite African-American dishes, as well as traditional African and Caribbean favorites, are served.

The largest meal—Karamu Ya Imani—is held on December 31. The main dish served tends to be a stew, such as Ghanaian groundnut stew, Cajun jambalaya, Creole gumbo, or West Indian curry. Other classics include Hoppin’ John, Nigerian jollof rice, fritters, catfish, collard greens, fried okra, spoonbread, plantains, and (are you hungry yet?) sweet potato pie. Celebrate Vegan: 200 Life-Affirming Recipes for Occasions Big and Small offers delicious vegan versions of traditional soul food dishes. The Real Jerk : New Caribbean Cuisine provides recipes for Caribbean classics like jerk chicken, sorrel punch, and rum cake. Desserts might include soul food favorites like sweet potato pie, peach cobbler, or caramel cake. Global Bakery has recipes for delicious cakes from Africa and the Caribbean perfect for Kwanzaa, including Ginger Cake, Rum Cake, and Semolina Cake. 

Michael Twitty is a wonderful food historian and writer who identifies as “an African American who happens to be Jewish, or a Jew who happens to be African American.” He writes a little about Christmas but he writes much more about Hannukah and Kwanzaa. His blog is a rich resource for both recipes and food histories.

This post is an excerpt from this blog originally published in December 2021. It was co-authored by Monica Berger.

Winter Holiday Cookbooks #2: Christmas

Picture of festive holiday drinks
Happy Holidays!

Many New Yorkers from different cultural backgrounds will soon celebrate Christmas Eve and Christmas with big, multi-course feasts. One of the most elaborate is The Feast of the Seven Fishes, an Italian-American Christmas Eve celebration. It may include seven or more specific fish dishes, such as whiting in lemon, clams in spaghetti, or baccalĂ  (dried, salted cod). If you ever want to try to create your own feast, there are several pesci recipes in Canal House Cooking: Pronto! for you to try.

Filipinos celebrate Christmas from December 16 until the first Sunday of January and the Feast of the Three Kings. After Christmas Eve midnight mass, preparation begins for Noche Buena, when family, friends, and neighbors drop by for an open house celebration. Food is often served in buffet style. Among the typical foods prepared are lechon (roasted pig), queso de bola, ham, spaghetti, and fruit salad. Filipino Family Cookbook : A Treasury of Heirloom Recipes and Heartfelt Stories is a great resource if you’d like to learn more.

For many Latinos in the United States, the holiday season is synonymous with tamales. Mexican Americans often opt for corn-husk-wrapped tamales, while those from Central America typically wrap theirs in banana leaves. And while most Mexican and Central American tamales contain corn-based masa, Puerto Rican pasteles don’t use any, instead using a combination of ground yautía (yuca) and green plátanos (plantains). Tamales, Comadres, and the Meaning of Civilization is filled with family recipes and stories. It also celebrates tamaladas, large family gatherings to prepare the Christmas tamales.

There are many special desserts traditionally made at Christmas, such as German Stollen, Spanish Turrón, French Bûche de Noël, and Italian Panettone and Struffoli. The United States is best known for its varied Christmas cookies that reflect America’s immigrant heritages. City Tech Professor Michael Krondl is a culinary historian and the author of Sweet Invention: A History of Dessert. You can listen to his interview on The Takeaway about the history of Christmas cookies. For your own holiday cookie baking, take a look at The Great Minnesota Cookie Book : Award-Winning Recipes from the Star Tribune’s Holiday Cookie Contest.

This post is an excerpt from this blog originally published in December 2021. It was co-authored by Monica Berger.

Thanksgiving and the National Day of Mourning

A pumpkin pie with the words This is Stolen Land

Thanksgiving, the traditional story goes, began  in 1621 when the Pilgrims celebrated their harvest by feasting with their Native neighbors, who had taught them how to fish, hunt, plant and otherwise survive in the New World.

The problem with the traditional story of Thanksgiving is its false premise: peaceful friendship between Indigenous Americans and those invading their homelands. The truth about the Pilgrims’ arrival in Massachusetts is that it resulted in centuries of escalating violence and dispossession for Indigenous people.

Here are some facts about Thanksgiving that many Americans are unaware of:

Thanksgiving more likely began in 1637 when Massachusetts Bay Governor William Bradford designated “a day of thanksgiving kept in all the churches for our victories against the Pequots.” The holiday was meant to celebrate the victory of colonial forces over the Pequot tribe in Mystic, Connecticut. In one raid, soldiers massacred over 700 Pequot men, women and children. Survivors were sold into slavery.

Bradford declared an official day of Thanksgiving to celebrate the annihilation of the Pequots. The celebration, which included a feast, became a custom observed every year. This is one possible origin of our current holiday.

Given this history of Thanksgiving, it is understandable that many Native Americans celebrate an alternative holiday on the fourth Thursday of November: the National Day of Mourning.

National Day of Mourning began in 1970 when Frank James, a Wampanoag activist, was asked to speak at an event observing the 350th anniversary of the Mayflower landing. But his invitation was retracted after his bluntly honest speech stunned the event planners.

James wrote: “It is with mixed emotion that I stand here to share my thoughts. This is a time of celebration for you—celebrating an anniversary of a beginning for the white man in America. A time of looking back, of reflection. It is with a heavy heart that I look back upon what happened to my People…Even before the Pilgrims landed it was common practice for explorers to capture Indians, take them to Europe and sell them as slaves for 220 shillings apiece. The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod for four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors and stolen their corn and beans.”

The event planners dis-invited James, calling his speech “inflammatory.”  So James created a “National Day of Mourning” as an Indigenous response to Thanksgiving. Native people from throughout the Americas came to Plymouth, Massachusetts, where they mourned their ancestors who were sold into slavery, massacred, displaced, and exploited after English invasion.

Every year since 1970, Indigenous People have gathered in Plymouth, Massachusetts, where they honor their ancestors and advocate for surviving Native American communities, who continue to face oppression and mistreatment. National Day of Mourning brings attention to American history that is often obscured. As James shared in 1970, “What has happened cannot be changed, but today we must work towards a more humane America, a more Indian America, where men and nature once again are important; where the Indian values of honor, truth, and brotherhood prevail.”

Further Reading

On Thanksgiving: why myths matter

My grandfather founded the National Day of Mourning to dispel the myth of Thanksgiving. I’m carrying on his legacy.

This tribe helped the Pilgrims survive for their first Thanksgiving. They still regret it 400 years later.

Native American Heritage Month

National Native American Heritage Month is celebrated each year in November. It is a time to celebrate the traditions, languages, stories, and survival of Native American, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian communities.

What is now New York is the ancestral home of the Lenape Nation. The Lenape thrived here for thousands of years before the arrival of Europeans. Their homeland Lenapehoking spanned from Western Connecticut to Eastern Pennsylvania, and the Hudson Valley to Delaware, with Manhattan at its center.

A Lenape Village
“An Indian Village of New York Prior to the Occupation by the Dutch,” George Hayward, lithographer, 1858, from the New York Public Library Digital Collections [Public Domain]
The lives of the Lenape revolved around communal hunting, fishing, and planting. They practiced small-scale farming, growing the “three sisters” crops of maize, beans, and squash, as well as pumpkins, tobacco, and sunflowers. During the rest of the year, they would fish and hunt. They also picked field greens like wild leeks and onions in the spring. In summer, they gathered beach plums, wild grapes, and berries. In fall, they collected chestnuts, acorns, and walnuts. They had a prosperous, communal, and sustainable way of life.

The arrival of Europeans in North America was devastating to the Lenape. In 1626, the Lenape “sold” the island of Manahatta to the Dutch. The Dutch were of course deceptive in their dealings, as the concept of shared land use was fundamental to Lenape, and they did not believe that land could be privately owned. After the loss of their land led to a scarcity of essential resources, the Lenape could not farm and were forced to over-hunt.

Between 1600 and 1700, the Lenape were decimated by diseases and war. By 1700 their numbers were reduced to 3,000 at most. Before the European invasion, Lenape numbered at least 20,000. Smallpox, malaria, measles, and other diseases brought by the colonizers took a terrible toll. By 1750, the Lenape had lost an estimated 90% of their people.

The Treaty of Easton, signed in 1758 with the English, forced the Lenape to move westward into Pennsylvania and Ohio. More deceptive land treaties and forced migrations followed, and the Lenape were pushed further and further west, losing their connections to their traditional homeland.  After the Indian Removal Act of 1830, passed by Congress during the Jackson administration, Lenape remaining in the eastern United States were forced to migrate to Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).

Today, many modern Lenape reside in Oklahoma and Kansas, where their ancestors settled after forced removal and relocation. Still others reside in their ancestral homelands. Their struggle for the preservation of their culture and heritage continues.

Other Resources:

Lenapehoking is the first Lenape-curated exhibition of Lenape historic and contemporary cultural arts in New York City.

Native Cinema Showcase is a week-long celebration of the best in Indigenous film. This year’s online program includes a total of 35 films representing 30 Native nations in eight different countries. And it’s free!

The Lenape Center “has the mission of continuing Lenapehoking, the Lenape homeland through community, culture, and the arts. Since 2009, the Lenape Center based in Manhattan and led by Lenape elders has created programs, exhibitions, workshops, performances, symposia, land acknowledgment, and ceremonies to continue our Lenape presence. We push back against our erasure and seed the ground with Lenape consciousness for the next generations.”

Get Ready to Vote! Election Day is November 8.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022 is Election Day. By participating in democratic elections, you can have a say about the people elected to represent you in local, state, and national government. Explore our voting rights book display to learn about the history of Americans fighting for the right to vote. Check out a few voting resources below, and make a voting plan to be sure you, your family members, and your friends are organized and ready to vote this fall.

Check your voter status

First check  to make sure you are currently registered to vote in New York. Only registered voters are allowed to cast a vote. You can also call 1-866-868-3692 to check your registration.

If you are registered outside of New York, please check out the U.S. governmental website to confirm your voting status.

Not registered to vote? There’s still time!

You can register to vote through CUNY First or through the DMV website. You can request your voter registration application online or by calling 1-800-FOR-VOTE (1-800-367-8683). The voter registration deadline is October 14, 2022.

To register to vote, you must:

  • Be a citizen of the United States (includes those born in Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands)
  • Be a New York City resident for at least 30 days
  • Be 18 years old by the date of the election in which you want to vote
  • Not be serving a jail sentence or be on parole for a felony conviction
  • Not be adjudged mentally incompetent by a court
  • Not claim the right to vote elsewhere (outside the City of New York).

Figure out who you’d like to vote for

Not sure who’s on the ballot in your district? Head to https://vote.nyc/page/find-your-poll-site and enter your address. You’ll see your poll location, and you’ll also have the opportunity to click on “View Sample Ballot” for a full list of all the people on the ballot in your district, as well as any special proposals you’ll be able to vote on.

You can also find out who will be on your ballot at Who’s On the Ballot  or Who Represents Me NYC. Or visit vote411.org and enter your address to find all of the relevant races and candidates in your district.

Figure out where to vote

Search for your poll site. It’s important that you double-check your poll site this year, because some electoral districts in New York have changed: your district and poll site may have shifted as well. Find your polling place here. Election Day is Tuesday, November 8, 2022. Polls are open from 6am to 9pm.

Vote early? Yes you can!

Voters are allowed to apply for an absentee ballot for several reasons, including being unable to appear at the polls due to illness like COVID-19. Request your absentee ballot online by October 24 and postmark it by November 8, 2022.

Voting Resources

Check if you’re registered

Find out who will be on the ballot

Find your polling place

Read voting FAQs

CUNY Votes

This post was co-written by City Tech Librarians Jen Hoyer and Rachel Jones.

BWRC Annual Conference: Sea Level Rise and Brooklyn’s Jamaica Bay Communities

The Brooklyn Waterfront Research Center invites the City Tech community to join its virtual annual conference, held this Friday, May 13th, 9am-4pm.

This year marks the ten-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, a time when many of the city’s coastal vulnerabilities became glaringly apparent. Since then New York has taken major strides in making the coastline more resilient, yet immediate and long-term risks associated with global climate change and sea-level rise remain. Recent research on sea-level rise outlines the possibility, some would say probability, of the inundation, by the end of the century, of vulnerable communities along the Brooklyn waterfront, especially those along Jamaica Bay.

This full-day conference will explore these possibilities and the questions they raise for Jamaica Bay: What is the science behind sea level rise predictions? How will sea level rise affect the communities surrounding Jamaica Bay? What actions are underway and what further actions are being planned to mitigate these impacts? The main question the conference will address is: What can be done if none of the planned measures prevents the inundation of Jamaica Bay’s vulnerable neighborhoods? Leading these explorations will be local officials, community activists, business leaders, scientists, and academics.

Registration is free.

BWRC Annual Conference Program

41st Annual Literary Arts Festival

Join City Tech student writers and award-winning poet Layli Long Soldier to share ideas and creative work on Thursday, March 24th at 4:30pm on Zoom as part of the College’s 41st Annual Literary Arts Festival.

Layli Long Soldier earned a BFA from the Institute of American Indian Arts and an MFA with honours from Bard College. She is the author of the chapbook Chromosomory (2010) and the full-length collection Whereas (2017), which won the National Books Critics Circle award and was a finalist for the National Book Awards. In 2015, Long Soldier was awarded a National Artist Fellowship from the Native Arts and Cultures Foundation and a Lannan Literary Fellowship for Poetry. She was also awarded a Whiting Writer’s Award in 2016.

This event is free and open to the public. For more information and to register, please visit bit.ly/3hS8FmH.

41st Annual Literary Arts Festival

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

March 16: Freedom of Information Day

“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” Article 19, UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Freedom of information is a fundamental ideal in American society. According to our federal laws, the American public have the right to know about the activities of the government. Government records are the people’s records by law.

The Freedom of Information Act was proposed by John Moss, a Democratic Congressman who believed that “government secrecy could end in a dictatorship.” He argued that the public needed adequate knowledge of government actions and decision-making processes in order to make intelligent decisions about their government and particularly elected representatives.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) into law, saying, “A democracy works best when the people have all the information that the security of the Nation permits. No one should be able to pull curtains of secrecy around decisions which can be revealed without injury to the public interest.”

The Freedom of Information Act is one of the most significant laws ever passed by Congress. It protects the right of American citizens to access government information, such as records from federal agencies, unless the information is classified. Federal agencies are required to disclose records upon receiving a written request for them, except for specific types of protected information. FOIA requests must satisfy three requirements: the request be made in writing, the request must reasonably describe the records being sought, and the request must follow the agency’s FOIA regulations.

By making records of federal agencies available upon request, FOIA protects the public’s right to inspect government documents. FOIA and other transparency laws are intended to make our government more open, so we (the public) can participate in decision-making and also hold politicians accountable for their actions. Public records are vital for protecting our right to know how our taxes are spent and what our government officials are up to.

National Freedom of Information Day is an annual event celebrated on March 16th. The holiday honors the Freedom of Information Act and highlights its importance for American citizens. The holiday also celebrates the March 16th birthday of President James Madison, a strong advocate for transparency in government.  On Freedom of Information Day, the American Library Association gives awards “to recognize those individuals or groups that have championed, protected, and promoted public access to government information and the public’s right to know.”

FOIA 101: Tips and Tricks to Make You a Transparency Master: A compilation of FOIA advice from MuckRock.

The FOIA Wiki: is a free and collaborative resource on the Freedom of Information Act, provided by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.

Federal FOIA Request Samples: Sample letter templates for requests, appeals, and fee waivers, as well as Privacy Act letters for access, appeals, and amending records.

State FOIA Request Samples: Sample letter templates for each state that you can use for preparing and submitting your open records request under your state’s public disclosure laws.