hella black brunch

Why what we eat matters (Spoiler alert: It's about more than counting calories)

At Khafra, we approach community building through an intersectional lens.

Intersectionality, coined by Dr. Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, describes overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination.

In our case, intersectionality forces us to acknowledge the complicated presence of food at our brunch and within the Black community. So, our newest community project, Hella Black Brunch, is focused on creating an intentional space for Black folks to gather, connect and build community with one another, over a delicious meal.

While our intention with the upcoming iteration of Hella Black Brunch: Libertad is to celebrate transcultural modes of freedom within community, we still acknowledge that:

  1. Food lives at the meeting place of Black joy and Black struggle. There’s no denying that thousands of Black people across Oakland regularly go without access to adequate, healthy, and sustainable foods.
  2. This deficit is often a product of discriminatory policy ignoring the needs of economically vulnerable communities.

In fact, in the flatlands of Oakland, where the median household income is $32,000, there’s an average of one supermarket per 93,126 residents. In 2008, Oakland residents spent an estimated $230 million outside of Oakland on groceries. Additionally, in a 2009 community survey, 33% of East Oakland residents shared that there was not a full-service, affordable supermarket near their house. Unfortunately, much of this data remains the same today.

oakland food policy council

This is why we jumped at the opportunity to partner with Oakland Food Policy Council (OFPC) for Hella Black Brunch: Libertad.

pictured: Shaniece Alexander, photos courtesy of OFPC

pictured: Shaniece Alexander, photos courtesy of OFPC

Led by Shaniece Alexander -- a Black woman determined to ensure Black folks’ voices are present in food policy decisions directly affecting their lives -- OFPC’s mission is to build an equitable and sustainable food system for the city of Oakland.

oakland food policy council

Shaniece and I talked gardening with her mom, what makes her proud about working with OFPC, and how food justice truly impacts us all. You can read our interview below.

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Shaniece Alexander took on her title as Executive Director of Oakland Food Policy Council in April 2016, with a goal of transitioning from direct-service non-profit work to a role with potential for making long-term impact within Black and Brown communities. Before joining OFPC, she admittedly undervalued the power of food in social justice spaces.

"Until I started in this role I didn’t recognize how centered food was in my social justice experience. … 

I’m committed to learning more about our food system and as a tool to break down the barriers in the social justice movement. …

We can all connect through food. I’m focused on the intersections between every social justice movement."

Shaniece’s expansive approach to food justice directly aligns with the incredibly important work that OFPC is doing within the city. Last fall, they were active proponents of the successful passage of ballot measure HH (aka the soda tax) which raised taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages by one penny per ounce, with the promise of allocating new funds to programs that counteract the poor health impacts caused by overconsumption of sugar, especially in communities of color.

Still, Shaniece’s pride in the achievements of OFPC is coupled with an ongoing frustration with the lack of presence of Black voices at food policy tables, deeply impacting her approach to the work.

oakland food policy council

“As a Black woman in this role ... there is a lot of pressure for representing Black people and what we feel about food, which isn’t fair.

The food justice movement has been a white middle class space forever and this isn’t to say that Black people aren’t doing food justice work. It’s just that the narrative that we experience is from a privileged white middle class lens.

My role is to uplift black people’s [voices] within the food justice movement and convince folks that our experiences with food are important.”

When thinking about what makes OFPC unique in the food space, the recipe lies within their inclusive understanding of food justice and how it impacts all of us.

“OFPC sees food as a human right. No matter what you look like you deserve access to good food. And you should be able to choose what types of food you eat and consume.

[In] a lot of our neighborhoods, we have food forced upon us. It should be a human right to have access to fresh food without poison and [we should be able to] grow our own food. That’s how we see food justice.”

OFPC doesn’t only advocate for policy affecting food consumption. It is also a proponent of expanding opportunities for mobile food vendors and urban agriculture, a cause that hits home for Shaniece.

“I grew up in Detroit and my mom has always had a garden. When I was 7 or 8 she would have me out there turning the soil and weeding the greens. And now that I’m an adult I so appreciate that access to healthy foods which I took for granted when I was younger. [...] We had corn and tomatoes, squash and greens. That’s such a privilege to have especially as an adult without my own growing space.”

Currently, OFPC is focused on building its network and collaborating with a variety of organizations to deepen the impact of the work.

“We do a lot of collaboration with organizations doing direct services and ground work, and we work closely with city council to hold them accountable. We want to make sure the voices of the folks impacted by implementation of this policy are brought to the table, so that we can transform the system that has oppressed marginalized groups forever.”

We ended our conversation with Shaniece sharing deep gratitude for this opportunity for OFPC to join the Hella Black Brunch family and help propel this powerful message of food sovereignty within the Black community.

“I value the platform that Hella Black Brunch is opening for OFPC. Community engagement and building is hard work and takes lots of people power. I really appreciate that and being able to connect with folks who may not be connected to OFPC right now but would love to support. We’re all working toward the same thing at the end of the day which is try[ing] to be healthy and happy, and live our best lives.”

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Oakland Food Policy Council holds full council meetings on the third Thursday of each month. Learn more about them HERE.  

There’s still a few tickets left for Hella Black Brunch: Libertad THIS SATURDAY, JULY 29  from 1- 4 pm.

Reserve your spot TODAY!

By Marrion

 

hella black brunch

A Word From the HBB Kitchen: I talked food history with The Pleasure Principle

photo via jasmin porter

photo via jasmin porter

When I decided to write a piece about Hella Black Brunch, I knew I wanted to start in the kitchen.

photo via jasmin porter

photo via jasmin porter

Why, you ask?

First off, the food. So, duh.

Second, and more importantly, the entire menu is carefully crafted and passionately prepared by two Black women.

Christina + Red, Hella Black Brunch Resident Chefs

Christina + Red, Hella Black Brunch Resident Chefs

Dope, when considering this country’s sordid history of overlooking, and quite frankly, erasing Black women’s contributions to American cuisine.

Toni-Tipton Martin, author of The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks, speaks to this erasure.

the jemima code

The Jemima Code illuminates how in the nineteenth century white women often took credit for their enslaved servants’ work when recording their own family food traditions. “You owned Sally, [so] you owned her recipe,” Tipton reported.  

"You owned Sally, [so] you owned her recipe."

Thinking about agency and, of course, visibility, I reached out to Christina and Red, twin sisters and founders of The Pleasure Principle Dining Events -- oh, and also Hella Black Brunch’s resident chefs. We talked cooking technique, the origins of The Pleasure Principle, and how they see themselves fitting into the larger narrative of Black women in the kitchen.

Below is a little bit of what I learned.

photo via jasmin porter

photo via jasmin porter


April’s Hella Black Brunch: Resurrection was the first time Red and Christina cooked together professionally. Christina, who had enjoyed curating menus and preparing food for large gatherings of friends while living in Chicago and Barcelona, was a big fan of the idea of using food as a tool to foster community.

photo via jasmin porter

photo via jasmin porter

“I [always] wanted to design a concept around supper clubs. At the start and very heart, it was [an] idea for folks open to meeting other people around the table with really good food.”

- Christina

photo via jasmin porter

photo via jasmin porter

“It makes sense that it would come about out of a casual get together where we were cooking for the homie.”

- Red

When thinking about what makes Christina and Red stand out as cooks, two things come to mind: care and culture. While both sisters have traveled extensively, learning different techniques from an array of chefs, they hold on to the fact that their lack of formal training is what makes them unique. Instead, they’re committed to making food that people will care about -- food that cares for their bodies.

photo via jasmin porter

photo via jasmin porter

“I believe in a reclamation of full self-sustenance and getting back to the culinary origins of Black cultural cooking, which is to plant, grow and harvest [food],” Red shares. “I have an interest in what it must be like to prepare food with care and technique. And have it be for family, for all, for whoever is here.”

When they’re putting together the menus for their catered meals, Red isn’t the only sister considering sustenance, especially when it comes to foods that we, as Black people, are familiar with. Christina is also intrigued with expanding folks’ palates to more nourishing foods.

“It is important to think about foods that are going to fortify us as a people,” Christina says. “And expose us to flavors that we haven’t considered and that are better for you in the long run. I’m always thinking about what is going to taste amazing that will leave no one wanting.”

Being that so much of their approach to food considers a re-examination of the origins of Black cooking, it's no surprise that both Christina and Red were aware of the tradition that they walk into as Black women in the kitchen. Red was particularly fascinated with the reclamation of the unique skill and approach to food that made Black cooking so spectacular in the first place.

“I think that a lot of the practices that are historically ours were taken away with some intention. Intention to cause harm over time.

And I’m interested in reclaiming those as best as I can, as a Black woman with privilege and the ability to navigate my kitchen a lot differently than my ancestors were able to.”

As Christina wrapped up our conversation, she echoed some of her sister’s sentiments, sharing deep gratitude for the innovation and sacrifices of the Black women cooks who came before her, and whose shoulders she surely stands on.

“They didn’t have access to a lot of tools or ingredients, [and still] the ingredients they improvised with turned out to be better. Ingenuity and lack of willingness to settle for something that didn’t taste as good.

That’s the part that makes me proud to cook as a Black woman. I have that running in my veins. No matter what, I’m gonna make it taste great and good for you.”


Be sure to join us at Hella Black Brunch: Libertad on Saturday, July 29 from 1-4pm where you can meet these two amazing women and enjoy their delicious, thoughtful meals.

RSVP HERE.

 

By Marrion