“Negroes in the North are right when they refer to the South as the Old Country. A Negro born in the North who finds himself in the South is in a position similar to that of the son of the Italian emigrant who finds himself in Italy, near the village where his father first saw the light of day. Both are in countries they have have never seen, but which they cannot fail to recognize. The landscape has always been familiar…Everywhere he turns, the revenant finds himself reflected. He sees himself as he was before he was born…He sees his ancestors, who, in everything they do and are, proclaim his inescapable identity. And the Northern Negro in the South sees, whatever he or or anyone else may wish to believe, that his ancestors are both white and black.”
James Baldwin, “Nobody Knows My Name: A Letter from the South”
Lech Lecha! (Go forth, get you out, Go to yourself…!) to the land which I will show you….” Bereshit/Genesis 12
It’s time for a deep, deep breath. It has been a little over two weeks since our campaign closed and well, as you may well know–we were successful. The past two weeks, apart from a visit to Pittsburgh for the Slavery to Freedom exhibit planning to Phillipsburg Manor and the end of Hebrew school…well.. you get it–its been busy. I can’t be happier with the love and support of a lot of people who took the leap of 5-10-8-36-bucks and beyond. Thank you for not saying, “I don’t have any money….,” thank you for not saying, “that’s nice but I’ll spend my ten bucks on Starbucks but good luck with your project.” We donated to other campaigns, several of which were successful and hopefully those campaigns will give healing to young patients, bring a grassroots movement for peace in the Middle East an anchor, and give other people a headstart on their visions, dreams and solutions for a better future. “Good luck” is not enough these days–it takes resources, action, good wil and moral support. You will see a lot of praise for our Anonymous Angel—who stepped in at about 12 hours to go or so and saved us and made me feel like there is a G-d, and G-d moves through people to answer our prayers.
Almost six months ago I was sitting at a Thai restaurant and asked a close friend the question, “What do you think of this project? I’ve always wanted to go to the Deep South and see the places where my family history started and write about it all through the lens of food.” First question: “What are other people going to get out of this journey if its personal, why should they help?” I had a road atlas in hand and a .50 cent notebook and a few pencils. In between vegetable spring rolls and a rice and tapioca pudding with black sesame, we took out a pencil, and a route started to form….and a vision shaped itself around that route.
At the tail end of the campaign an Amazing Anonymous Angel stepped forward with a check that completed the amount we set our goal for. We cannot begin to thank all of you–friends like Andrew, Heather and Mark who knew me when I was 20 and always told me I had what it took to do something special with my mind and vision no matter how bad things were in life or how far away good things like this seemed. It was new friends like Rob and Megan who gave this project a major boost and provided constant support :) It was long time friends like Beth and Jennica and Misty who have never stopped believing in me from the day they met me and share with me the love of bringing history to everybody. It was Rabbi Jack Luxemburg of Temple Beth Ami and Rabbi David Shneyer of Am Kolel both sources of constant support and moral care. It was master archivist Janet Stanley–who has watched me walk through the door of her library for almost 20 years. It was scholars Kym Rice and Martha Katz-Hyman my editors for World of a Slave, and anthropologist Richard Wilk, my editor for Rice and Beans who gave substantially and told everyone they knew! It was Vernice Woodand–who gave not once–but twice–just because she believed in me/us that much. Wow..It’s people like Sandor Katz, Ira Wallace and Southern Exposure Seed Exchange, Denzel Mitchell and Five Seeds Farm and Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen, Nancie McDermott, Bryant Terry, Jane Ziegelman, and other figures of note in today’s culinary world and people like Michael Pollan and the Lee Bros. who tweeted about it and gave new life to our buzz. This is for Gretchen McKay who ran the FIRST story about this project! This is for Bill Daley of the Chicago Tribune, my ” sister” Brook Obie of Ebony.Com, Larry Brook of Southern Jewish Life, and for Miki Turner at Jet Magazine. It was Kat Kinsman at Eatocracy on CNN and Claire Thompson of Grist. It was the Henrique of the the Ebony Hillbillies for granting us a song to use for our campaign video and it was Joey W. for setting up my blog and getting the word out to thousands of people and being there for me every step of the way. This is for Corey W. whose pictures got people’s attention and galvanized so many! It was Andi Cumbo trying to tell the story of her home in Virginia….It was Sharon Morgan and Grant Hayter-Menzies constant posting and reposting of the news….It was all the people who liked me on Facebook and It was my so called Tweeps–you know who you are…..who constantly constantly retweeted about us. @stellacooks, @stellatex, @savoryexposure, @NEXTStepsYEP, @jwlucasnc, @virginiawillis, @megbailey, @WilliamsWrite, @ChefAmadeus, @Blackgayjewish, @superspace_zac, @Rexi44, @namoore, @blackamercooks, @Wordsmyth199, @Janenhowe, @indoorgarden_er, @LCAfrica, @sandrajlawson, @Sacredfoodguru, @Stephaniekays, @Robb4progress, @aywalton, @foodculturalist, and so so so many others who retweeted!
This is a special thank you to Tricia/Rose/Richard/Katrina of Colonial Williamsburg for being the FIRST to say–we want to be a part of this project! It is a thank you to Ser Sesh Abtu-Heru/C.M. Boxley of Forks of the Road, and Kathleen Jenkins of Melrose Plantation at and Kathe Hambrick of the River Road African American Heritage Museum for being the guiding lights for this project–and to Somerset Place Plantation, Historic Brattonsville, Kingsley Plantation, Redcliffe State Park, Historic Latta Plantation, Hope Plantation, the Hermann-Grima House, Old Alabama Town, the people of Charleston, Savannah, Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill, Annapolis, Baltimore, Williamsburg, Birmingham, Natchez, the Slow Food chapters of Richmond and Savannah, the JCC’s of Atlanta and New Orleans, Rabbi Michelle Goldsmith and Temple Beth El and the Jewish community of Birmingham as well as Larry Brook of Southern Jewish Life!
Nicole Moore–you are the Mother of this project you are the channel of our ancestors!
Joey W–you are the infrastructure behind this project!
Johnathan and Khi –you are the creative magic behind this project!
The entire list of donors is on The Cooking Gene website….But this isn’t about a list..this is about being grateful and not being able to work on this posting without crying and praying and knowing that what I was created to do is finally coming together…that it and of itself is a miracle I wish on everyone.
“This ain’t no dream. We ran away as slaves, but we come back Fighting Men! Go tell your folks that Kingdom come, the year of Jubilee!” Morgan Freeman, as “Sgt. Major John Rawlins”, in Glory, (1989)