Southern Folk & Southern Food: Putting It All on the Table
Every one of us in this picture is from the South, and each of us in our own way embody and defy what it means to be a Southerner. That, to me, is what the Southern Foodways Alliance is all about. Their organization exists to tell the story of the South through food.
This past weekend, I was invited as a Fellow to join Southern Foodways in Oxford, Mississippi for their 17th Annual Symposium. From chefs to servers and farmers to food writers, we gathered from across the South to eat, talk, laugh, cry, dance…and drink.
Together we attempted to embody and defy the South. We ate catfish and cornbread. We drank whiskey and bourbon. We drooled over the Lumbee collard sandwich, broke bread with tamale corn husks and chowed down on Southern dim sum. By night, we sang and stomped our feet to Gospel music of the Delta, shaking our tambourines alongside the Appalachian banjo and the Cajun trombone.
By day, we mustered that Southern courage and talked about racism and segregation in the South. Yet it was clear we still have our own deeply rooted practices that continue to perpetuate racial divides. Speakers like Ta-Nehisi Coates and Francis Lam breathed truth into the room for me by recognizing some of those divides. They highlighted the failure to truly face our moral debts as a nation built on slavery, and - for this group of foodies -the proclivity to celebrate only one face behind the food: the white male face.
Looking at the faces behind our food in the kitchen, as opposed to on the farm, was a new perspective for me. But the dynamic remains the same and is all too familiar for the farmers in my book.
Paraphrasing the words of Francis Lam:
"This is a dynamic we see all the time, when chefs—often white, always English-speaking—become famous for cooking the food of immigrant or minority cultures. They become more famous for cooking that food than the immigrants or minorities who inspire or teach them. Many world-renowned chefs are all more famous for cooking the food of cultures they didn’t grow up in than the people who did.
Why does the interpreter of food remain more visible than the source? “
I enjoyed these and other rich discussions with some of my favorite “backstage speakers” like Michael Twitty and Darnella Burkett Winston, both fellow Symposium Fellows who are holding it down for black chefs and farmers in the South, alongside some of the weekend’s chefs like Duane Nutter and Sophia Vaughn.
All of us Southerners, in our own identities, came together around food and that sweet Southern hospitality this weekend. We then went our separate ways, hopefully recognizing the long dirt road that still lies ahead of us.
Grateful to walk that road with you all,
Excited for the Southern Foodways Alliance 17th Annual Symposium next weekend! The ultimate gathering for food and farm storytelling in the South.
Honored to be attending as part of their first class of SFA Symposium Fellows alongside Michael W. Twitty, Evan Mah and Darnella Burkett Winston. Looking forward to speakers like Ta-Nehisi Coates!
Can’t wait to share The Color of Food book with everyone!
The Color of Food is a Finalist in the IYFF Photo Competition!
The Color of Food has had the honor of having two of its photos (the two at top left) selected as top 20 finalists across North and Central America in the International Year of Family Farming Photo Competition!! The photos of these Powerful Black Female Farmers (across generations!) were taken at My Sister’s Farm and Marshview Community Farm in the Carolinas. Both farms are members of the Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network and both have their stories and portraits featured in The Color of Food book!
Woot! Thanks #IYFF and Thank You Amazing Farmers!
I’m back ya’ll! And The Color of Food book is ready for pre-orders!
I have been on radio silence and under the radar all summer working to finish this amazing book of stories and portraits from farmers of color across the country. (And also moving across states, pulling off a DIY wedding and getting married! whew!) But I’m back and have big news: the Release Date for the Book is April 10, 2015!
Look out for a lot more from me to come!
Happy Juneteenth! Reposting this favorite painting from last year’s post:
Celebrating the seeds our ancestors planted to start our current agriculture system, and those still being planted today.
Celebrating Emancipation and continued Freedom. Happy Juneteenth!
Art by Gullah artist, John W. Jones
"Foods are our Teachers" from Valerie Segrest, Muckleshoot Tribe
I just wrote the last farmer chapter for The Color of Food book!! And as if I’m not already feelin’ good about that, the last line of the chapter, entitled Foods are Our Teachers, poses a question that has me shutting off my computer for the day feeling even more charged. Valerie Segrest of the Muckleshoot Tribe in western Washington asks:
"How can we live our lives like our teachers, the plants and foods around us? How do we grow and thrive in diversity and be big medicine in the world?”
photo from ravenredbone.wordpress.com
Yes I just found them. Yes I have fallen in love. And yes there is more to their mission than their bad ass & hilarious flavor of healthy food.
Thug Kitchen is “getting readers to think about what kind of behaviors they attribute to people who try to eat healthy food. Everyone deserves to feel a part of our country’s push toward a healthier diet, not just people with disposable incomes who speak a certain way.”
Kristyn Leach, Namu Farm, San Francisco, CA
From Generation Rising, a chapter in The Color of Food's upcoming book!
“I wanted to grow something distinctly Korean and I sort of stumbled upon the seeds for perilla (known as deulkkae or ggaennip in Korean). It’s a staple Korean herb. I brought some into Namu Gaji, a Korean American restaurant in SF. And their response to it was magical. Now I farm for the restaurant. It’s interesting how it’s turned out, having been adopted away from Korea and raised out of my culture, now coming back to my roots through food. It’s very validating.” - Kristyn Leach, 33 , Namu Farm
“There’s an epidemic of sickness among my people, my community. It has a direct correlation with the food, the food that we eat and the food choices that are available to us. It’s important for people to know how important their diet is to their life.” - Manny García, 25 years old, 2012 AFSC Farmer Training Student, New Mexico
#The Color of Food Book #Latino Farmers #Young Farmers
A Reflection on Teaching Youth Agriculture, an excerpt from Generation Rising, a chapter in The Color of Food book!
“I wanted to work in the garden with people who grew up like me and didn’t necessarily have a connection to land or growing food, and thought of dirt as something that you wash off of you and not something you put your hands in. The little ones, they get revelations as magical. Just digging in the dirt and eating new things would blow their minds, it was so powerful. To question where our food comes from, to question where anything comes from, like our history books or authority, I wished I’d had that in my pocket as a seven year old. It’s about food but it’s also about deep change.” - Cristina Rivera-Chapman, Tierra Negra Farms
The Color of Food has a Publisher!
New Society Press will be publishing The Color of Food book in 2015
I am excited to announce that after four long years since the idea for The Color of Food was born, after much travel interviewing and working hard to put the stories and portraits of farmers of color into a book over the last two years, The Color of Food now has a publisher! It’s official - I just signed a contract with New Society Press to have The Color of Food published! And I could not have made it to this point without your support from the beginning.
It has been a long journey to find a publisher, one that has been quite a learning curve for me. After much research, writing and sending many book proposals, the responses came in with overwhelming interest from presses including: Beacon Press, Cornell University Press, Columbia University Press and University of Georgia Press among many others. The decision to sign with New Society Press was ultimately made based on their progressive, activist-centered ideals, their deep understanding of this book’s mission, their experience with books on farming and their sustainable printing methods. New Society’s capacity to print all of the colorful portraits in this book was significant - and they will print them with eco-friendly inks on eco-friendly paper.I look forward to updating you as this journey to the book launch unfolds. Still a lot of work ahead, but look out for pre-order information a little further down the road!
With the biggest grin - thank you!
Food Network called me about joining this show, I declined, but told them I’d help outreach! Want to start a food truck in your community? Check it out! And hit me up if you’re serious.
Happy Women’s Day from The Color of Food!! #womensday
In honor of Women’s History Month and Women’s Day tomorrow, here’s to women in Ag and the female farmers of our future! #womensday
Celebrating Our Black Farmers for Black History Month
WFU Divinity School presents Half the Earth, Half the Sky: A Conference on Women, Food & Faith
Excited to be presenting portraits and stories from The Color of Food at this women’s food conference on March 19 at Wake Forest University in NC! Honored to be speaking alongside women such as my mentor Cynthia Hayes of Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network!
Oral History of a Black Agrarian New Orleans, from The Color of Food
Jenga Mwendo in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans:
Gardening and growing your own food was just a part of the life in the Lower Nine. People would forage in the bayou for wild onions and pepper grass or take their dogs out to hunt or catch crawfish when the rivers would flood. People in this neighborhood have always been more connected with the land, hunting and fishing in the river, because the Lower Ninth Ward was kind of rural and cut off from the rest of the city when they dug the Industrial Canal in the 1920s. This area used to be one of the few places during segregation where black people could come and buy property and build communities, it was like a safe little bubble for black people to grow and prosper.
Despite that connection to the land, folks never really think about themselves as gardeners or part of urban agriculture - nobody uses those terms, it’s just what they do. It’s a cultural tradition and this work is about encouraging and supporting that.
-Jenga Mwendo, Backyard Gardeners Network
Oral History pulled from The Color of Food book currently in production!
© Artwork “Bayou Fishing” by Knute Heldner
Eugene Cooke in Atlanta, Gebsite featured on HGTV Gardens!
"Some people like to talk about being a farmer, but the way things are shifting, we have to do so much more to make people want to deal with the land."
How does Cooke describe what he does? “I create food abundance systems,” he says, “which means grow food wherever you are, and in a way that’s abundant.”
Pang Chang, PEC Tropical Farm, Fresno CA
Pang, a Hmong farmer who fled from Laos in the ’70s when the Hmong came under attack throughout Laos and Vietnam, found refuge in California and started doing what had been passed down to him from generation to generation: farming.
He now grows rare tropical fruits like papaya, guava and jujubes (Chinese dates) right in the heart of the dry central valley of California and sells them to Asian markets throughout the state.
Working on reorganizing stories/chapters for The Color of Food book!
#SharingtheProcess #DocumentingtheDocumenting #GotMyOwnGoogleGlass :)
The Color of Food Prints!
When not exhibiting The Color of Food portraits they happily live on the walls of my office :) I particularly like my power wall of women for inspiration!
Check out some available prints in my shop
So proud of this sister, mother and friend for all her work with The BLK Projek and their upcoming Mobile Market, Food Buying Club and Urban Farm in the South Bronx. If you haven’t heard of Tanya Fields, check a sistah out.