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Link Roundup: Slow Food Nation, Black Conservatives for Obama, Faith-Based Initiatives

WinneMark Winne, author of Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty, will be participating in Slow Food Nation, "the first-ever American collaborative gathering to unite the growing sustainable food movement and introduce thousands of people to food that is good, clean and fair," and he's also contributing to their blog. In his first post, Extraordinary Food for All, he contrasts a prospective college student wowed by the amazing selection of food in the Bowdoin dining hall with a shopper at a New Mexico food pantry.

Not to give this young gentleman a hard time – if my choice was to eat at Bowdoin or the pantry, well… – but choice is what it comes down to in America's food system. For the nation's "haves," things couldn't be better. Cosmopolitan cuisine is at our beck and call, locally and organically produced food is virtually everywhere, and a super abundance of culinary skills are making extraordinary magic of it all.

But for the "have nots" it's a different story. Hunger and food insecurity plague 36 million Americans, obesity and diabetes are rampant posing greater threat to the poor than to the affluent, and "food deserts" – places with few healthy food choices – are a common feature of our urban and rural landscapes.

Braceysaviorsorsellouts Kevin Ross is a black conservative and identifies as a Republican, but this November he'll be voting for Democratic nominee Barack Obama. Listen to this exchange between him, Michael D. Cobb Bowen, and Beacon's own Christopher Bracey (Saviors or Sellouts: The Promise and Peril of Black Conservatism, from Booker T. Washington to Condoleezza Rice) on NPR's News and Notes. You can also hear Christopher Bracey commenting on Rev. Jesse Jackson's crude reference to Senator Obama on yesterday's News and Notes. And you can read Christopher Bracey's Beacon Broadside post on the Black conservative tradition in American politics here.

Frederick Lane, author of The Court and the Cross, has posted several times on Beacon Broadside about the tricky intersection of politics and religion. Alternet published an excerpt from his book last week about the Bush administration's policy of handing big bucks to Faith Based Organizations. Bilgrimage, a blog by theologian William Lindsey, posted a thoughtful response here.

While it's not quite as comprehensive as musician Art Garfunkel's list of every book he has ever read, Eboo Patel, in an appearance at the Unitarian Universalist Association's General Assembly, shared his list of favorite Beacon Press books. Patel is the author of Acts of Faith: The Story of an American Muslim, the Struggle for the Soul of a Generation, and he recently posted here about pluralism on college campuses.

Before I was a Beacon writer, I was a Beacon reader.  Several books that Beacon published, or brought back into print, literally changed my life. In college, I wrote a major paper on Cornel West's Race Matters. Geoffrey Canada's Fist Stick Knife Gun helped me see how one person's life story could become an organization that transformed lives. Acts of Faith is very much written in the model of Canada's book - how my own life story inspired me to start the Interfaith Youth Core

I remember reading the last couple hundred pages of Gandhi's autobiography, which Beacon recently brought back into print, straight through in about 24 hours while staying in an Indian village.  A colony of voracious bedbugs helped keep me awake. Frankly, I was grateful to those bedbugs because the story was so inspiring that interrupting it with sleep would have been a damn shame! 

I consider Diana Eck's Encountering God to be one of the great books in the field of interfaith relations and progressive religion. 

I literally had a stack of the books I cite above on my desk as I wrote Acts of Faith. When I realized that they were all published by Beacon, I couldn't help a flush of pride.  What an honor to join such august company!