“BLACK FOOD” By Miles Jaye

A history of Black People— African People in the Americas, must transcend stories of slavery, freedom-less emancipation, Jim Crow, the leaders and martyrs of the Civil Rights Movement, a handful of inventors, statesmen and sports figures. As important as they are, the story must provide a panoramic view of Black culture, inclusive of home life, social life, education, religion, music, fashion, and food, childhood, youth and adulthood.

Ideally, the observance of Black History Month might be viewed best through the lenses of scholars and professionals in the fields of sociology, psychology, philosophy, theology, social-anthropology and Jurisprudence, whose job it is to pursue hidden clues to the underpinnings and inner-workings of individuals, groups and societies. They’re equipped to reveal who we really are, what we’ve endured, how we’ve persevered through the years and why we are the way we are today. They have the tools to dig and dispel the misconceptions and shed light on centuries of lies.

As a student of the Culinary Arts, I have a particular interest in Black Food. Reliance on industrialized food sources and the Western healthcare industry is a new development. Without any deep digging at all, right on the surface of modern Black culture is the Black diet. One need not be armed with the gifted mind of Healer/Bio-Chemist, Dr. Sebi, to take a drive along Dunn Avenue or Edgewood Avenue, to see that Black Food has essentially become synonymous with Fast Food. Sadly, this is the case across Black American communities where you’re more likely to find KFC, Church’s, Popeye’s, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Domino’s, Taco Bell, Papa John’s, Chinese Take-Out, food trucks and the local road-side BBQ pit than a Whole Foods, Fresh Market or Trader Joe’s.

Local convenience stores and gas stations provide goods and groceries in areas that are now commonly known as Food Desserts where major grocery chains choose to overlook. How close is the nearest Publix to Edward Waters College on Old Kings Road? How many Winn Dixies will you find on Myrtle Avenue? Is it a simple matter of basic economics, supply and demand, or is it something a bit more questionable at hand?

In my Admissions Interview at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, I informed my counselor that my interest in food and food preparation was to discover what modern day dietary factors were killing Black people in numbers disproportionate with the American population, at large. Why were words like Hypertension and Diabetes so common in the Black community? I noted that among the most common misconceptions about the Black culture and mindset were the notions that Black folks prefer Junk Foods, are inherently predisposed to poor health and sedentary life-styles—we’re lazy. Fake news!

Comedian Chris Rock asked if you ever noticed that after a funeral service, the food provided at the repast was the very food that killed the deceased? To the extent and degree to which that humor houses some sad truths, the true history of Black Food is one of self-reliance where great-grandma and greatgrandpa were farmers and physicians—natural healers. The food came from the field or the yard, the pen or the coop. Everything was fresh! Nothing came from South America or South Korea. If anything, it may have come from South Carolina, or Georgia, but most likely it was local.

Not only was the food-source local but it was fresh and free of industrial additives necessary for long journeys and longer shelf-life. Additives like chemical coloring, anti-biotics and steroids are poisonous to our systems. White flour, white sugar, processed salts and processed foods are killing us. Great-grandma and Great-grandpa would have been unable to identify 90% of the ingredients on the labels of foods we eat every day. They knew too, that some vegetables and fruits were never intended to be in season yearround, and they wouldn’t be caught dead eating dinner out of a box or Styrofoam carton.

Dick Gregory and Dr. Sebi tried to warn us. They tried to tell us for years that we are committing suicide one bite at a time. They taught us that it is impossible to be clear-minded, creative and competitive without our health. They tried to tell us that if we, as individuals, are living with avoidable physical illness, it follows that our communities are ill, as well.

This Black History Month, as I enter my 14th day of fasting, I choose re-emancipation over slavery to prescription drugs, insurance companies, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, cancer. We go from one premature funeral to the next, as though it is normal. This year, as we celebrate Black History Month, let us pledge to find our way back to real Black Food—growing, canning and cooking. Making jams and jellies, and when needed, healing with the plants and herbs God provided us.

“And by the river on its bank, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for food, whose leaf shall not fade, nor its fruit fail.” “And its fruit shall be for food and its leaf for healing.” Ezekial 47:12

Miles Jayewww.milesjaye.net

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