International Hummus Day

International Hummus Day


May 13th is International Hummus Day — a day to celebrate the deliciousness of this beloved Middle Eastern spread. The basic ingredients in hummus are simple: cooked or mashed chickpeas, olive oil, tahini, lemon juice, salt and garlic; but it’s history is not. Every country, culture, and religion in the Middle East has a different twist on the recipe, which in turn has created long standing arguments about who makes it best. Both Israelis and Arabs have made a strong claim to being the original creator of hummus, and in recent years a Guinness Book of World Records inspired feud has broken out between Israel and Lebanon, known as the Hummus Wars.

Yet, May 13th is not about who owns hummus, it’s about spreading the love for this dish. Ben Lang, a tech entrepreneur who lives in Israel, created the holiday in 2013 and since then it’s spread internationally. Lang even created a global Hummus Map to help people find the best local hummus. To participate in International Hummus Day you must eat it for breakfast, lunch, or dinner…or all three. After that you can share your chickpea love in a number of ways: organize or participate in a hummus-related event; document your hummus eating on social media with the hashtag #hummusday; participate on facebook; or add your hummus place to the Hummus Map.

Fugitive Waves – The Building Stewardesses: Construction Guides at the World Trade Center 1968-70

Fugitive Waves – The Building Stewardesses: Construction Guides at the World Trade Center 1968-70

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As construction commenced on the largest building project since the pyramids, questions and controversies swirled around Lower Manhattan. How tall? Why two? What’s a slurry wall? A kangaroo crane? Where are the small businessmen going to go? What’s a world trade center, and who needs it anyway? Guy Tozzoli, the Port Authority visionary behind the building of the Twin Towers, had an inspiration—”Construction Guides.” Friendly co-eds in mini-skirt uniforms were posted at corner kiosks on the site to inform an inquiring public and put a pretty face on a controversial issue.

This story is part of the Peabody Award winning Sonic Memorial Project, an intimate and historic documentary commemorating the life and history of The World Trade Center and its surrounding neighborhood, through audio artifacts, rare recordings, voicemail messages and interviews. The Sonic Memorial Project was produced by The Kitchen Sisters in collaboration with NPR, independent radio producers, artists, writers, archivists, historians and public radio listeners throughout the country.

The Sonic Memorial Project began in October 2001 as part of the Lost & Found Sound series. We opened a phone line on NPR for listeners to call in with their stories and audio artifacts relating to the Sept. 11 attacks and the history of the World Trade Center. Hundreds of people called with testimonies and remembrances, music and small shards of sounds.

Combining interviews, voicemail messages, audio contributions from listeners, oral histories, home videos and recorded sounds of all kinds, the Sonic Memorial Project team created a series of stories for broadcast on NPR’s All Things Considered.

These stories and contributions from listeners across the country can be heard at the Peabody Award-winning website where you can explore the archive, contribute your own sounds and stories, and immerse yourself in the Sonic Browser, an interactive soundscape of stories and audio fragments.

Wall Street

Wall Street

Produced in collaboration with Nathan Dalton, Brandi Howell, Nancy Mullane and  Life of the Law, a group of journalists, editors, producers and scholars working together to produce stories about the law.  Mixed by Andrew Roth.

Every time we do a piece, so many great stories and extra material gets cut because of time constraints. The same is true for this story about Wall Street. We thought we would put up an early transcript of the mix, one before we had to cut for time, because perhaps some of you might be interested in seeing how we lay out our work and because the stories and little extra lines that hit the cutting room floor are ones we miss and are haunted by.

WS 6-by Nigel Poor

Curtis Carroll, aka Wall Street, photo by Nigel Poor

Wall Street

The Kitchen Sisters
(in collaboration with Life of the Law)
NPR’s Morning Edition
Friday, August 14

MUSIC: The Coral Route, Lanu (establishes and fades under)

WALL STREET: I couldn’t believe that this kind of access to this type of money could be accessible to anybody. Everybody should do it. And it’s legal.

MUSIC: Doors and Distance

WALL STREET: Business to me is like watching a soap opera. Always trying to anticipate what’s happening. I’m excited when I get the newspaper. Can’t wait to get home to read. I probably read about 5-600 articles a week. Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Forbes, Fast Track, Entertainment Weekly, Movielines… I like to know what the CEO’s doing. I like to know who’s in trouble. Once I read the articles I memorize certain content that I need. I create stories.

MUSIC: Seahorse, Moondog

NANCY MULLANE: He sits in this very small room at a desk, like one of those old school desks that has a big opening where you put your books. He’s made it like an office. Nobody sits at that desk but Wall Street. He invests in stocks from inside San Quentin Prison. And he helps other people. He’s their financial advisor. He’s called “Wall Street” inside the prison. Everyone knows him that way.

MUSIC: Everybody Got Their Somethin’, Nikka Costa

NARRATION # 1/ KITCHEN SISTERS: (Davia) We first heard about Wall Street through a friend who teaches yoga at the prison, hatha yoga, weekly inside San Quentin. Curtis Carroll aka Wall Street, was raised in Oakland, mostly homeless. His mother was addicted to crack, his grandmother too. Curtis and his brother ran the streets.

(Nikki) Curtis hated school, fell in with a gang, paid other kids to do his homework. His first crime, at 11 or 12, was robbing a mail truck with his brother. Someone told him the welfare checks were being delivered that day in his neighborhood. The envelopes were color-coded, they said, so those were the ones they looked for and stole.

MUSIC: Strut


WALL STREET: My Number One Rule is “Don’t get what?” Don’t get greedy. Criminals are greedy by nature. We want it all, all the time…

TROY WILLIAMS: Wall Street came inside the prison system at 17 years old. He was illiterate. Didn’t know how to read or write. One day he stumbled upon the financial section of the newspaper. He thought it was the Sports Section, he used to have his cellie read it to him. This guy asked, “What are you doing with that financial section? You don’t know nothin’ about that.”

WALL STREET: I was like, “What’s that?” The guy asked me if I played stocks. I had never heard the word before. He explained to me how it works, he said “This is where white people keep their money.” When he said that I said, “Whoaaa… I think I stumbled across something here.”

MUSIC: Elfdance, Moondog

NANCY MULLANE: Is there a regulation that a prisoner cannot invest in the stock market? Not that I know of. I’m Nancy Mullane, Producer of Life of the Law and a reporter on prisons. Wall Street feels that he is a natural. He was made to do this.

TOM DE MARTINI: Everybody knows Wall Street. Everybody. They seek his advice out. He pins up on the wall all his picks. You’ll see the COs, the Correctional Officers, go in and they’ll be writing stuff down. A lot of sergeants talk to him about it.

NANCY MULLANE: He makes predictions. Tapes them to the wall in an envelope, dated. And they check to see how well he did. It was like a game they all played.

WALL STREET: (in class, teaching) Do the math …if you buy a thousand shares, every ten cent hike in the price is how much?

Troy Williams, photo by Peter Merts

Troy Williams, photo by Peter Merts

TROY WILLIAMS: My name is Troy Williams. I just paroled from San Quentin State Prison after serving a life sentence. We started a Financial Literacy Group prior to my leaving prison called Freeman Capital. Right now, Wall Street is the CEO of that organization on the inside He will teach the stock program. That’s his realm.

WALL STREET: (teaching) There’s four steps. Every person on this planet that has made money has mastered these four simple steps.

TROY WILLIAMS & WALL STREET (duet): We easily (SAVINGS) have about 70 people in our class a week. (COST CONTROL) We teach the men personal finance (BORROWING PRUDENTLY) about stock investments, (DIVERSIFICATION) about retirement and how to manage your money. (THAT’S IT).

TROY WILLIAMS: You got a lot of older guys at San Quentin. I myself am pushing 50. A guy getting out at the age of 50, who hasn’t invested anything into his retirement at all, what is this guy gonna do? Half the prison guards don’t know who’s managing their retirement fund. They’re just somewhere in La La Land and it’s being taken care of.

MUSIC: Entrada (Music for Bowed Piano), Stephen Scott. A mix of Entrada and sound design from the sounds from San Quentin run under the next section

TROY WILLIAMS: The original prison, they would put prisoners on this boat at night and row them out into the middle of the water and they stayed locked up there. In the morning they would come get the barge, bring the men back to shore and they would do the work of the prison.

Fog Over San Quentin by Sandow Birk

Fog Over San Quentin by Sandow Birk

: The first state prison was a boat called The Waban, moored at San Quentin Point in the 1850’s. My name is William Secrest. I’m the author of the book, Behind San Quentin’s Walls: The History of California’s Legendary Prison and Its Inmates 1850-1900. During the Gold Rush San Francisco Bay was filled with hunreds of abandoned ships. People sailed to California and couldn’t get to shore fast enough to hunt for gold. They abandoned their ships in the harbor. They had to have prison because they had criminals pouring into California. The prison ship filled up pretty fast. They were 8 foot square cells as many as they could squeeze in the bottom of the ship. That was the beginning of it.

SOUND: Fog horns emerge from the mix with music and sounds

A cigar box full of tiny nooses

A cigar box full of tiny nooses

NARRATION 2 / KITCHEN SISTERS: (Davia) The first time we came to San Quentin the prison was covered in fog. We parked and the woman next to us looked over, rolled her eyes and said “Fogline. Good luck getting in.” San Quentin, just north of Golden Gate Bridge is right on the fog path that famously shrouds San Francisco. Perfect conditions for an escape, the passing of contraband, the procurement of a weapon. Prisoners are kept in their cells, visitors kept out. It’s the Bay Area, where fog and eccentrics and do-gooders pour into every nook and cranny of the region, including San Quentin. (Nikki) For two and half hours we sat on a bench outside The East Gate with all the others who couldn’t get in that morning … the computer guys teaching coding to the men, the Mormon guy who goes in to talk to the inmates on Death Row like he does every few weeks. The volunteer at the San Quentin Museum who oversees their historical artifacts, including a cigar box full of tiny nooses made by the last hangman at the prison. The woman sitting nervously, waiting for her husband to be released after 15 years. We waited for the fog to lift.

MUSIC: Bouncin’ Back, Mystikal

CLARENCE LONG: My name is Clarence Long and I’m in San Quentin Prison. Me and Wall Street was cellies at one time. He used to stay up til four in the morning studying his stocks. I be sleeping. He be up going through his portfolio and reading papers.

WALL STREET: When I first learned how to read, I started reading candy wrappers, clothing logos and it was like my mind opened to a whole different thing. Once I read the articles and memorize content that I need I take a vanilla envelope and I file them into a system. Currently I’ve probably got about 10-15,000 articles that I got in my cell right now.

CLARENCE LONG: I used to see him teaching classes on the yard, people sitting in bleachers listening to him. Once he showed me you could invest in companies and get dividends that what got me started learning about the stock.

NANCY MULLANE: The way it works is they have access to a phone. They can call anyone who will accept their call. “This is Global Tel Link. You have a call from Wall Street, San Quentin State Prison…” (fades under Wall Street)

WALL STREET: I don’t have any computer time. I don’t have access to be on the Internet. What I do is I call home and I say I want to buy 1000 shares of American Apparel. When I’m on the phone with them they’d be on the computer — online brokers, E-Trade. And they’ll tell me what the closing prices are for the day and I would know what to tell them to buy.

TOM DE MARTINI : Wall Street really has some far out ideas about finance. He doesn’t feel that buying and holding long term is going to make it for him. My name is Tom De Martini, volunteer at San Quentin Prison Financial Literacy Program. Being a prisoner he’s willing to take more risks.

WALL STREET: If you talk to a hedge fund manager he’ll tell you they never go with penny stock. Because the book says don’t go with that. But I never read the book so I don’t know what to fear. I don’t grab penny stocks, I grab stocks trading at penny status.

NANCY MULLANE: Inmates in California prisons can have jobs. Most inmates make something around 15 cents an hour. They don’t get all of it. Some of it goes to restitution. Some of it goes to an account for them for the prison canteen.

WALL STREET: Every time you’re working over there in the PIA (Prison Industry Authority) when you get that check for $50 you shouldn’t be spending $50 at the canteen. When your family send you 20 dollars that’s earned income, and if you’re not putting that aside you’re not setting up that nest egg.

TOM DE MARTINI: There’s a lot of guys in there who are trading through their family. They call every week. We talk about that. There’s Sam in therer whose got his daughters who he’s teaching. He’s providing information to her. They call every week and talk about that. So I ask, what did you tell your daughter this week, what did she tell you?

MUSIC: Under My Hat, DJ Vadim

WALL STREET: I’m in prison but I’m on just the same playing field as Warren Buffett. I can pick the exact same companies. I can’t buy as many shares. But technically we’re just the same…

Sam-Robinson-doorLT. SAM ROBINSON: I’m Sam Robinson, Public Information Officer at San Quentin. I think if that guy had had different opportunities in the community he was in, we wouldn’t be talking about Wall Street behind walls in San Quentin. He may have been Curtis Carrol, The Baron of Wall Street. You never know.

NARRATION 3 / KITCHEN SISTERS: (Nikki) Wall Street is 37 now. He’s been in prison for 20 years doing a sentence of 54 to life.(Davia) Word of Wall Street has started to leak outside of San Quentin. Small community-based investment clubs have been reading about him online, people living paycheck to paycheck, trying to get a financial toe-hold, are being drawn to his strategies and his story. Wall Street, they tell us, has the time they don’t to study the market and get wise about money.

WALL STREET: Overall the goal is to get the money to give back to the communities. When I look at how Bill Gates and Warren Buffet have made these pledges to give 90% of their wealth away I thought what better way than to go back and help the things I’ve destroyed.

MUSIC: Everybody Got Their Something

TROY WILLIAMS: These men are coming home. Guys who have been locked up for 20-30 plus years. You’re given 200 bucks and it’s like: “Good luck. We’re gonna pray for you. Stay out of prison.” Who do you want coming home? Do you want the animal that’s been caged away for years that’s the same bad-assed gangbanger that he was when he went to prison? Or do you want somebody coming home thinking differently?

WALL STREET: I try to re-iterate to the men that I’m not teaching you some for-sure plan. I’m teaching you to plan. It’s fine to take a loss, it happens. You just know I take loss and it doesn’t have to lead back in to whatever you was doing, drugs, or crime or gangs.

WALL STREET: So this is your homework, 1 call home to your family and I want you to say, “Hey! Do you have a retirement plan? Do you have a 401K? need to know everything happening with your money…”

KITCHEN SISTERS SOC: For NPR News, We’re The Kitchen Sisters, Nikki Silva & Davia Nelson




Special Thanks: Curtis Carroll, San Quentin Financial Literacy Program, Anna Deavere Smith, Arnold Perkins, Troy Williams, Lt. Sam Robinson, Nancy Mullane, Tom De Martini, Zak Williams, Clarence Long, Nigel Poor, James Fox & The Prison Yoga Project, Tracy Wahl, Jacob Conrad, TED, Pop-Up Magazine, Moondog


Georgia Gilmore and the Club from Nowhere

Georgia Gilmore and the Club from Nowhere

On the 50th anniversary of Selma, here’s Georgia Gilmore’s story. An unsung kitchen hero who died cooking for the marchers.

In the 1950s, a group of Montgomery, Alabama women baked goods to help fund the Montgomery bus boycott. Known as The Club from Nowhere, the group was led by Georgia Gilmore, one of the unsung heroes of the civil rights era
New Fugitive Waves – The Green Street Mortuary Band

New Fugitive Waves – The Green Street Mortuary Band

Lawrence Ferlinghetti wrote a poem about them.  Amy Tan’s mother was serenaded by them as she lay in state.  Jessica Mitford’s memorial procession was led by them. And more than 300 Chinese families a year hire the Green Street Mortuary Band to give their loved ones a proper and musical send-off through the streets of Chinatown.The band traces its roots back to 1911 and the Cathay Chinese Boys Band, the first marching group in Chinatown.

The Green Street Mortuary Band, made up of mostly Italians playing Christian hymns and dirges, accompanies traditional Chinese funeral processions through the streets of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Tubas, gongs, firecrackers and spirit money tossed in the air, ward off evil spirits and carry on a tradition that dates back to 1911.


New Fugitive Waves: Taylor Negron: Portrait of an Artist as an Answering Machine

New Fugitive Waves: Taylor Negron: Portrait of an Artist as an Answering Machine

A look into the life of Taylor Negron— actor, comedian, and telephone message hoarder— told through the voicemails on his machine. We produced this piece with with Taylor’s dear friend producer Valerie Velardi in 1999 as part of the Lost & Found Sound series on NPR. Taylor died on January 10, 2015. We present this story in his honor.

Musical Monday – The End

Musical Monday – The End

Like the most glorious Star Wars marathon, or an extensive bout of food poisoning, our Musical Monday blog series has run its course and has reached its end.

Needless to say, there are still countless incredibly talented female musicians in the Bay Area, and our intern Max remains eager to tell their stories, and others, as he continues to learn and create both audio and written pieces for us. For the time being, his hipster talons remain lodged in our office.

Thanks for reading!

Musical Monday – Bells Atlas

Musical Monday – Bells Atlas

Some band names manage to sound pretty cool and ominous even if you have no idea what the heck they’re referring to, like Talking HeadsBeach House or The Men; there’s also a category of band names that take aim straight for your gut, like Diarrhea Planet or Fucked Up. But then there are bands whose names shine light on something more profound in their music; Bells Atlas is one of those bands.

The Oakland four-piece composes constellations of sound; layers and layers of percussion (including bells) that intertwine with melodic guitar lines and syncopated bass parts. In the middle of it all is Sandra Lawson-Ndu, whose fluid voice furls and unfurls, drawing you in and guiding you through the organized chaos. On standout track “Video Star,” the addition of a xylophone and backing vocals add to the swirling, hypnotic sound.

This past July Bells Atlas wrote and recorded a handful of new songs during a residency at Oakland’s Zoo Labs Studios. Each Monday this month, the band will be testing them out during a series of shows at Oakland’s ERA Bar, with a rotating cast of special guests.

Watch Bells Atlas play “Video Star,” and a short teaser on their residency at Zoo Labs, below.

Musical Monday – The Best of 2014

Musical Monday – The Best of 2014

With 2014 drawing to a close, our intern Max decided to put together a list of some of his favorite music of the year. However, his brain has been fried from a recent jaunt to the sauna, and so lacking the brain power to actually rank anything that he heard this year, he opted to give us a handful of 2014’s musical highlights.

Best Song About the Meaninglessness of Life – Father John Misty – “Bored in the USA”

—Only Father John Misty can sing soul-crushing lines like “How many people rise and say, ‘My brain’s so awfully glad to be here for yet another mindless day?” and you kind of swoon.

Most Likely Explanation for Why You Want to Dress Like an Egyptian Goddess – FKA twigs – “Two Weeks”

—The video is as hypnotizing as the slow-burning jam. Plus, it’s good proof that it would be pretty awesome to have a bunch of miniature dancers for friends.

Best Growl – Future Islands’ Sam Herring

—Earlier this year Future Islands took the world by storm with their album Singles and their spectacular Letterman performance – already the stuff of legend. The song they performed, “Seasons (Waiting On You),” is pretty great, but hearing Herring hit those demonic Tom Waits growls live takes it to new heights.

Biggest, most Joyful and Euphoric “Thank God!” sigh of relief – D’Angelo – Black Messiah

—It’s been 14 years since D’Angelo released his iconic neo-soul record Voodoo. Then, just a couple weeks ago, he surprised the world with Black Messiah, an album he originally planned to release next year but moved up in light of the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. Explaining the album’s title, D’Angelo says, ““For me, the title is about all of us. It’s about the world. It’s about an idea we can all aspire to. We should all aspire to be a Black Messiah.”
In hindsight, it might be easy to say that we knew he had another incredible album in him, but for those of us who were holding our breath, the pay off is pure ecstasy.

Best Spoon Song – “Inside Out”

—This year the rock band Spoon they put out their eighth studio album, They Want My Soul. Standout track “Inside Out” ditches their brittle guitars for a hip-hop beat, dreamy synthesizers and Britt Daniel’s heartbreaking request to “Break out of character for me.”

Hip-Hop Beat That Most Sounds like a Pinball Machine – clipping – “Work Work”

—Are those steel drums or recorded pinball machines?! What’s happening??? The strange, rattling percussion builds slowly, until the thumping kick drum hops in and sets everything straight.

Hook That You’re Least Likely to Get Out of Your Head – Sharon Van Etten – “Even When the Sun Comes Up”

—This song is so simple: verse, chorus, verse, chorus, ooh-ah thing, chorus. But the titular refrain is pure magic, bringing to mind Fleetwood Mac’s sun-soaked Rumours.

Best Collaboration – Brian Eno and Karl Hyde – High Life

—Master-of-all Brian Eno and house / techno mainstay Jack Hyde team up for High Life, a wacky album of funky grooves that brings to mind Eno’s work on Talking Heads’ Remain in Light.

Best Guitar Work – St. Vincent

—It’s not just her technical strength, or her brilliant melodies. It’s the range of sounds that Annie Clark, also known as St. Vincent, can wrangle out of six strings. On “Rattlesnake,” from her self-titled album, the menacing climactic riff crashes through the buzz of the synthesizers and never lets go.

A Note from Ira Glass: Support the Sisters

A Note from Ira Glass: Support the Sisters

Dear Friends,

For all of us doing documentaries on public radio, Davia Nelson and Nikki Silva
are iconic figures. The Senior Producer of the radio show I run, This American Life, got into radio because she heard one of their stories over two decades ago. She’d never heard anything like it.

The Kitchen Sisters’ stories are intimate and lively and often joyful in a way few things on the radio ever achieve. These are stories about everyday people, done with such originality and charm. There’s no other word for it. I admire their whole mission and the expert way they pull it off.

There’s also a side of their mission which is about preserving and remembering various histories and subcultures. That’s obvious, but just to say. There’s a anthropological side to their documenting.

Everything they do reaches millions of people over radio and internet, but unlike
This American Life,
which has underwriters and donations and plenty of money as a result, what Nikki and Davia do is hard to fund. They’re making stories that are much more labor-intensive than the average news story, but they’re paid by NPR at the rates that normal reporters on quick-turnaround stories get.

Which means they need money. It’s built into their deal. I hope you help them with your support.

Thanks and happy holidays,
Ira Glass