Guest contribution by Gabriel Matthew Schivone
News of Sixteen Minutes to Palestine’s winter cupcake contest inspired in me fond thoughts of a passionate, savory poem I’d read once by the marvelous German anti-Nazi dramatist and poet, Bertolt Brecht. (His poem, “The Bread of the People”, is included at the bottom of this post.)
I am continually humbled by the role that food and culture—really everything in everyday life—plays in political thought and action. I lament that this role is not overtly appreciated or highlighted enough.
SMP’s bake-off has the potential to remind us that baking can be a political act.
It is miraculous that the abundant fruits of the earth can be kneaded, caressed, shaped and formed into fiery servings of sustenance that arms the body and feeds the soul with whatever content is baked within: existence, growth, desire, struggle, resistance, self-determination, justice, freedom. In “Bread of the People”, Brecht so seamlessly interweaves into the senses of the reader several crisp, ordinary feelings of bread and politics that, immediately, within a few lines, these ideas of bread and justice become indistinguishable. After all, there is a deep-seated cultural knowledge of bread and baking that is immemorial to people, because it is often perennial in our upbringing. The effect of the metaphor itself is strongest as a representation of solidarity between these two seemingly unlike things, that their merging is that much more special and meaningful.
The collective strength of family and community rises from the ingredients of sympathy and solidarity, and sharing this act together animates these feelings within everyone. To such an extent that to bake and dine together is a way of maintaining strength especially through times of social struggle.
So, I hope that when those of you who are planning and executing your delectable political activities, with the oven as your weapon, this poem may bring you a warm and sweet delight that you can feel in the soft pit of your gut.
Gabriel Matthew Schivone
Gabriel Matthew Schivone is a Chicano-Jewish American from Tucson, AZ, and an organizer on the ad hoc steering committee of Students for Justice in Palestine National Conference 2011. He was a passenger aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla 2. E-mail: email@example.com. Twitter: @GSchivone.