Juneteenth. I have to credit noted food writer, editor and historian Nicole Taylor for bringing Juneteenth to my attention several years ago when I first entered the food blogging world. Nicole was one of a small group of mostly younger women who had defied the odds and created a space in the multi billion dollar food industry for the food, voice and culture of Black people in an industry that was notably mostly white. There were those who paved the way, but Nicole was my compere and so her stance was even more noticeable.
She understood the hidden politics of food, the history of food and used food to celebrate a rich and flavour full culture. What the USA and the world knows about Southern Comfort Foods is essentially the food of blacks in the South of the USA. They brought rich intense flavours with then across the Atlantic from the West Coast of Africa where they had been stolen from their homes and villages and sold like chattel into enslaved work.
But there is one thing about Juneteenth that bothers me deeply as a woman from the island nation of Jamaica.
It was in 1834 that the British Empire abolished slavery. But they had a fake pseudo slavery period called “Apprenticeship” for the remaining for years where they bastardised freedom, giving enslaved people freedom on paper but partial freedom in practice. They were to be “eased into freedom since all those who were to be freed were practically born into enslavement and had no prior knowledge of the dignity of freedom, which is every man’s right. In 1838, they were finally granted “Full Freedom.” The USA, which by then had become independent of the British Empire, carried with enslavement until 1863. As did the Dutch in Aruba. Except Texas.
Texas didn’t give full freedom until 1865 nearly THIRTY years after it was abolished in the British Empire. Americans in the North granted freedom two years prior in 1833. By extremes, Haiti first fought and won their independence from the French in 1804 and Brazil remained in chains wound by Portugal until 1888. And woven into all that history, is the defiant story of our food… the flavours that could never be contained, restrained and they methods that would be passed down from generations through meticulous training. A culture that has taken humble food considered refuse by the then elite and transformed with the robust culinary traditions of our Motherland- the continent of Africa- surviving that dreadful Middle Passage.
I shot all the food photos in this post in Zanzibar (off the coast of mainland Tanzania in East Africa) and I was enamoured when I travelled there to find that though so far truly found a place that looked and tasted like home. They didn’t receive their freedom from Oman until 1897.
We are the ones who have added seasoning and substance to pallid palettes. And it’s time that we get the credit and the rewards that our forbears were robbed of.
It’s time for the cookbooks of Blacks around the world to be published and pushed with gusto. It’s time for Black Food to be celebrated and chefs and writers and cooking classes to be booked out. It’s time for the wealth to spread into our economies and communities because this is really a war on poverty.
And on “this day of our Lord in 2020” quoting former Pinterest policy employee, Ifeoma Ozoma we still see that many still want to hold on to a faulty worldview. But finally, a change has come. Reformation and restoration is taking place in minds and hearts and restitution will continue to be made.
It’s time that Black bloggers like me take off and make the millions instead of having our recipes stolen and repackaged by others for others. It’s time that Black people, who provide so much flavour to this world get our share of the money pie. Google send me the millions of views my content deserves. Instagram and Facebook and Pinterest give us more visibility. Brands, engage with us as professionals and pay full rates that you would to others. Diners, visit our restaurants and order expensively and tip handsomely.
We’re taking the cookbook deals (I have many concepts), the well-paying commissioned writing gigs, the paid speaking engagements at all your big events. Let diversity have SEVERAL seats at your own dining table… at your boardroom table and at your breakfast and lunch meetings.
Put your money squarely in the place where you have declared your mouth. Tokenism is cancelled. Jamaican Artiste, Nadine Sutherland and Snow had a popular 90s song called “Action [Not a Bag of Mouth].” Passivity is cancelled. We have been working harder, longer with less resources and we continue to show up in excellence. It’s simply time for you to acknowledge it.
I have been plugging away at blogging for 10 years, written an international food column for 7, been commissioned for my food photography and writing and this year, this Juneteenth, I can say with hope, a change has come. Indeed, my time has come. Indeed, my time has come. And not just me. I’m naming names of hundreds of super talented brothers and sisters who are ready to eat WELL! I am bringing a trailer load with me to the cookout!