I started this project a little over 7 years ago with the very simple idea that I would do my part to tell the narrative of blackness in American cooking. This story is one that evolves as our nation matures and its the a story that is in need of stewardship. I heard the call to this work from women like the late Grande Dame Chef Edna Lewis, Dr. Vertamae Grosvenor, Dr. Jessica B. Harris, and Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson, whose work highlights the importance of food as a conduit to understanding culture and the power of shaping our own narratives, and it is in the spirit of all of these women and so many others that I joyfully announce the first Soul Summit.
Maybe the most gracious and lovely people I've ever met, Toni Tipton Martin, an icon in our industry and one of the most fearsome keepers of our culinary past, has curated this summit to be held this Juneteenth weekend at Huston-Tillotson University in Austin,TX. The weekend will not only commemorate Juneteenth and the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, but will be the first event of its kind that bring together our country's best and brightest scholars, researchers, chefs, historians, activists, and writers expressly to focus on our foodways!!
The symposium begins on Emancipation Day with a welcome reception in the elegant foyer of the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center. We will spend the next day and a half eating and drinking together on the historic campus of Austin’s historically black college, Huston-Tillotson University, while discussing the complex intersection of African American foodways and traditions, and how they have been used to define culture.
Over the years there have been so many amazing conversations, gathering, and books written around the topic of black food and culture and I've been part of many of them, but this event is going to be a game changer. From strictly culinary to food justice and policy I have watched so many brilliant food folk dedicate their lives and careers to our foodways and I couldn't be prouder. What this weekend will do is set the tone for the future of scholarship around our foodways and serve notice that our community is equipped and ready to take charge of the narrative around our foodways. Toni has sent out the proverbial bat signal to all the food folks around doing their separate brilliant food work to come to TX and be art of strengthening this collective.
I know food folks are always busy grinding, I am too, and taking a weekend away from your life and work may be a big ask, but I know for sure that this weekend is one you do not want to miss. The power that will be in this place, the spirit of our ancestors that has divined this weekend, and the energy of so any of our peers who have signed on to cook and talk and share is staggering. This symposium is so necessary, so please support this work by coming out and joining the conversation, if you can't come maybe buy a ticket for some young person you think might benefit from a weekend surrounded by amazing food folk of color, or simply spread the word!! Every little bit helps. I so hope to see you there!!