Athens Group Holds Ga.’s First ‘Empty Bowls’ Event On MLK Day

When Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was at his height, he fought tirelessly against poverty, racism, and militarism.  Though 2017 marks the 49th year since his assassination, his ideals are still represented through many organizations here in the southeast.

The Empty Bowls Project fights the same war King did.  Founded by potters, the Project’s goal is to raise both awareness and funds for traditionally underrepresented groups, including minorities, refugees, undocumented immigrants, and women.  While the Empty Bowls Project has taken place in numerous cities around the country for several years now, Athens-based group The Seed & Plate is co-hosting Georgia’s inaugural event with Regina Mandell, a local potter.

“This first year was targeted toward a certain moment in time,” says Erin Wilson, one of the event organizers at The Seed & Plate.  “All of the Empty Bowls events are happening during inauguration week.”

The entire event is donation driven; potters make and donate bowls, farmers donate locally grown meats and produce, chefs and restaurants donate their time and talent, and guests donate money.  Participating restaurants include Donna Chang’s, The National, The Seabear Oyster Bar and Kiki’s Bake Shop; Woodland Gardens, The Turnip Truck, and Community Meat Co. all donated fresh, local ingredients to be used in all the dishes.

All of the proceeds are slated for the Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition and the American Civil Liberties Union.

Athens favorite The Old Pal is playing host to the expected 60 guests; two seatings of 30 are planned, the first of which is already sold out.  The event is $40 per guest.

Upon arrival, each guest chooses a handmade bowl in which they will eat dinner and, more importantly, take with them.  According to The Seed & Plate, carrying the bowl home is symbolic and a “reminder to do good every day this year.”

Mingling with other guests, each of whom feel passionately about human rights, is encouraged, and hopefully those guests will leave the event feeling a large sense of community.

“We want to leave people feeling like they’ve played a part in taking back the protection of our fellow man,” Wilson says.  “Guests should feel a sense of empowerment.  You can make small but large impacts in your community by participating in events like this.”

Humberto Mendoza, a founding member of the Athens Immigrant Rights Coalition, is a proponent of community; after all, that’s one of the pillars of the AIRC.

“Community support for families in need is a big part of what we do,” Mendoza says.

From legal fees to schooling to basic needs such as food, water, and rent, the AIRC takes care of local migrant workers and their families.

“Migrant issues are a family issue, a workers issue, a community issue – we’re not nasty criminals or rapists or drug dealers.  ANY community has this.  ANY race has these types of people,” Mendoza says.  “It’s important to switch the language they’re using against the Latin community – recognize that we’re all humans.”

An idea that fit’s King’s dream.