An Open Letter & Invitation
Hello Friends in Atlanta and the State of Georgia,
My name is Michael W. Twitty. I am an African American culinary historian and living history interpreter and Jewish educator from Washington D.C. I am a food blogger and food writer whose personal mission is telling the story of the African/African American contribution to Southern and American food and the story and legacy of food in enslavement. I believe our contemporary best practices can be informed by this history as we pursue a path of better eating, community and personal gardening and homesteading, environmental sustainability and racial reconciliation and healing as well as the passing on of our tradition to our children. Dana felt that it would be great if I could spell out our needs to make this project happen.
In collaboration with friends I decided that this was the time to hit the road to tell that story while digging up information on my own family’s history. We are not nameless “slaves” in nameless textbooks..we are a people who built America and helped create and forge the contours of American cooking. This project, The Cooking Gene, and its “Southern Discomfort Tour” is a wide reaching effort to talk to our young people, put the focus on African American food producers, farmers and fishermen, and utilize the wisdom of our elders in telling the story of African Americans through food from Africa to America and from enslavement to freedom. I wanted to do this project while my mother and father and grandfather were alive to see it despite health issues from the past few years. This project means the world to me–but it is not about me–this is about my Ancestors, OUR Ancestors, our children and those to come. This is an investment in the African American cultural and culinary narrative.
Reaching out is not easy. We are optimistic but overwhelmed. We are blogging, coordinating a trip, and trying to make our calendar sync for the next two months and the remainder of the year. While on the tour we will be doing workshops, living history sites, we will pick cotton work tobacco, cook big house meals, show the origins of barbecue, cook for the quarters, interview elders, provide an outlet for Black farmers to discuss their businesses and bring people together across lines of race throughout the South. We need you.
At this point we need about 280 donors with 18 bucks to push this project to success. We have seen an enormous outpouring of good will from multiple sources but we want communities to invest in this project. I hope there are 280 people out there who have the 18 bucks we need to make this project happen. We are crowdfunding through Indiegogo to make this happen and all links have been included at the bottom of this email. We have higher donations slots and all slots have perks so its not something for nothing…we believe in reciprocity as much as the next guy. But point blank—we love you and we need you. The most important thing at this point is getting the word out and people who are willing to give up four days of Starbucks to make Black history possible. There are only 25 days remaining to our campaign.
About 200 years ago my ancestors were enslaved in Georgia among other Southern States including Virginia, North and South Carolina, Alabama and Tennessee. Through the lens of my family history, through contemporary food justice projects, through plantation museums and sites of culinary memory and through living legends we want to bring this story to the forefront. In order to understand where we are going we have to know where we have been. This is our chance. I want Atlanta and the people of Georgia’s help. I humbly submit to you that without your help this project cannot happen. We cannot go on the road for less than our goal. We have made our promise to Dana that we will be there for her non profit — The NEXT Steps Youth Entrepreneur Program — every step of the way to give back–but we need your help to get there. Michael Eric Dyson’s show, Ebony, the Chicago Tribune, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Jewish Forward and other publications are saying this is a project to watch. Come join us in a win for our children, our Ancestors and ourselves.
Our needs in Georgia:
- we intend to work with the NEXT Steps Youth Entrepreneur Program as one of our seven official community service projects
- we may need places to stay if possible in Atlanta, Athens, Columbus and Savannah
- we are interested in both African American chefs and those chefs who are Farm to Table, and those who rely in part on community gardens etc. for restaurant produce, and those chefs who do updated Southern classics with an African American influence–black eyed peas, okra, fried chicken, bbq, sweet potatoes etc.
- We are interested in community organizations and food justice organizations in Atlanta and those that promote racial reconciliation and healing
- we are interested in synagogues that incorporate Soul Food in their culinary identity, and kosher Southern restaurants
- We are interested in urban farming and organic farms esp those run by people of color or in minority communities
Thank you in advance!
Michael W. Twitty
Akiba Ben Avraham
Facebook: Michael W. Twitty (fan page)