The Power of Potlucks

HOW’S THIS FOR a soul-stirring stew? Take a generous number of
folks hungry to kick back and socialize; stir in a piquant mix of
progressive groups; and serve with lots of food, libations, and
laughter.

That’s the recipe concocted by the Austin Progressive
Potluckers, who take the time-honored tradition of shared suppers a
step further. Each month, one of the dozens of activist groups that
enliven this Texas university town plays the role of host, and
people join them to learn more about their work over plates of
homemade fare. “We’re changing the world–one covered dish at a
time,” says Bruce Kravitz, who helped found the potluckers with
compadres Diane Miller, Selwyn Polit, and Charlotte Jernigan.

“Our whole point is connecting people,” Diane Miller says. The
social ambience created when folks trade ideas over lasagna and
brownies lends a resonance often unmatched by meetings, flyers,
e-mails, or direct mail solicitations.

Planners of the potlucks solicit hosts with an eye toward timely
issues–in November, the host group was Dialogue for Peace, which
brings together Palestinians, Jews, and others to discuss peace
issues. In October at the Austin Center for Peace and Justice,
potluckers shared curries and other Indian dishes to celebrate
Mahatma Gandhi’s 133rd birthday. In July they picnicked among the
ripening tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers at the Oasis Gardens
Community Supported Agriculture farm.

“We want to make these events fun, and we don’t want to add to
the burden of already busy people,” notes Selwyn Polit. She and her
fellow organizers linked up last year at a political gathering and
decided that food, not meetings, connects people more
effectively.

Their success reaffirms the political power of sharing a meal.
notes Kravitz. “Food, conversation, cool people: You just can’t
beat the combination.”

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