Chef Connie teaches children about healthy eating

Things are cooking in a most unlikely setting— an elementary school.

Most of us have memories of terrible, unhealthy cafeteria food. There was even a time when ketchup was considered a vegetable.

Even now, there are some school children who turn their noses up at school lunches. They may be healthier, but many are far from palatable.

Enter Chef Connie, Baltimore’s own “celebrity chef.” She has taken school lunches to a new tasty level, by teaching elementary school children culinary arts. She shows the children that healthy foods can also be delicious.

Major Bill Grimmette, executive director, 100 Black Men of Maryland; Chef Connie Johnson; Will J. Hanna II; and Patricia A. Roberts.

Courtesy photo

Major Bill Grimmette, executive director, 100 Black Men of Maryland; Chef Connie Johnson; Will J. Hanna II; and Patricia A. Roberts.

The idea was born when Chef Connie Johnson proposed the idea before administrators at Calvin Rodwell Elementary School, located in the Howard Park community of Northwest Baltimore.

Chef Connie began working with the students, encouraging them to focus on healthy lifestyle choices, including delicious, healthy meals. About 50 students participated in the program called “Vegetable Time,” which includes even kindergartners.

The program at Rodwell was so successful, it was featured in the HBO documentary “Weight of the Nation,” which focused on the fight against obesity.

The school program began about four years ago and has been a success ever since.

Chef Connie has expanded the school program into a summer camp, with the cooperation of Gwynn Oak United Methodist Church. The camp opened June 24 and will run through August 5.

According to Chef Connie, this camp will feature “healthy meals/lifestyles, exercise, day trips, mentoring/tutoring and will help instill morals and ethics in young people.”

She has the full cooperation of the church and its minister, DeLynne Hinton, who will provide the “spiritual component” to the camp.

This is the first year for the camp and Chef Connie insists that “this is not a babysittting camp. The children will come home dirty and tired. They will cook their own healthy snacks.”

On Saturday, June 22, 2013, Chef Connie wanted to celebrate her sponsors and supporters, which include 100 Black Men of Maryland, MECU Foundation and Credit Union and ShopRite Supermarkets.

Will Hanna, president of the New Park Heights Community Association, presented the organization a check for $15,000.

She is especially grateful to Damion Cooper, a community liaison who brought much-needed funding to the summer program. He works in City Council President Jack Young’s office. Cooper received a special recognition — the Outstanding Community Outreach award — from Chef Connie.

“This is the only program of its kind in the state. Chef Connie is helping to prepare these kids and we’ve gotta celebrate that! There is enough bad news around; it ‘s time we share and celebrate the good things that are happening with our children,” Cooper said.

He admits to being “surprised” when he learned of the award. “This isn’t about me,” he insisted. “It’s about what we do to help our children.”

During the school year, the children in Chef Connie’s program work in the teacher’s lounge. She said, “ShopRite Supermarkets has promised us a state-of-the-art kitchen. The children will have a fully-equipped kitchen to work in.”

She says, “I am a mother, an educator, a chef and an athlete and we must value our most precious gems, our children!”

Black Girls Run! in Baltimore

— Gabrielle Powell said it all began from a blog post four years ago.

Too many African American women were overweight, and very few appeared to be doing something about it.

“I think it was something like 80 percent of African American females were obese, so there was a movement to try and encourage black women to run and exercise,” said Powell, a Charm City native and an ambassador of the Baltimore chapter of Black Girls Run!

Gabrielle Powell is the ambassador for the Baltimore Chapter of Black Girls Run!

Gabrielle Powell is the ambassador for the Baltimore Chapter of Black Girls Run!

Now, the group has thousands of members in running groups across the country and on Sunday, June 23, 2013 more than 400 women participated in a 5K Women’s Run to encourage and celebrate fitness among black females.

“It was a big race, fun. Last year, we had about 242 participants and this year we got over 400 so it greatly exceeded our expectations,” Powell said.

But, women show up for more than just race day, Powell said.

On most mornings, the group gathers for regular runs in Baltimore, Howard, Harford, and Anne Arundel counties.

The women take their workouts seriously. The camaraderie and the health benefits are an added bonus.

“I’ve run like three ten-milers and I’m getting ready to do my first half marathon on Sunday,” said Angel Hunter of Washington, D.C.

Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks started Black Girls Run! as a blog for women in March 2009. The friends were concerned about the growing number of black women who were not taking the time to exercise or keep themselves in good physical condition.

Now, Black Girls Run! has become a nationwide movement and chapters are active in approximately 30 states, including Maryland.

The organization has a simple mission, which is to encourage black women to make healthy living and fitness a priority.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reported that three out of four black women are overweight or obese, statistics the founders of Black Girls Run! say are troublesome.

“We put on special events like boot camps, Zumba and jazzercise,” Powell said. “We have social activities and we host meet and greets where we can get together and socialize.”

The group’s Facebook page:!Baltimore, also includes updates from members about their workouts and favorite running routes. It contains fitness questions and smaller local group meet-ups.

“We want to be able to reach out to the community to dispel the myth that black girls don’t run,” Powell said. “It’s not just about losing weight but it’s about saving your life, being able to exercise, to take down the numbers on the scale as well as what statistics shows us about obesity.”

The best case end result would be to see the high number of overweight African American women decrease dramatically. “It’s all about health and we need to be conscious of our health,” she said.

HBCU Sports Roundup

The Historical Black Colleges and Universities sports roundup for this week is about training, signing, and moving on to bigger and brighter opportunities:

Delaware State University Hornets: Former Delaware State University pitcher Jordan Elliott has signed a contract with the Frontier Professional Baseball League’s Washington Wild Things in Washington, Pa. Elliott completed his Hornets baseball career this past season as the team’s all-time leader in pitching wins and innings pitched, while ranking third in strikeouts. Congratulations to Elliot and it is just a matter of time before we see him in the major leagues.

Winston Salem University Rams: The Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Football Championship Committee has unanimously selected Winston-Salem State University (WSSU) as the host institution for the 2013 CIAA Football Championship Game, scheduled for Saturday, November 16. The CIAA selected WSSU to host the game at Bowman Gray Stadium following an evaluation process of bids that began in April. Most recently, the Football Championship Game was hosted at Durham County Memorial Stadium. Keep reading the Baltimore Times for information on tickets, times, and teams.

Coppin State Eagles: This past week the Coppin State Eagles had a few athletes sign letters of intent to play for the Eagles:

Head baseball coach Sherman Reed announced Bryant Miranda has signed a letter of intent to attend Coppin State University and play for the Eagles. Miranda attended Royal Palm Beach High School in West Palm Beach, Fla., and is scheduled to enroll at Coppin State in the fall of 2013. Also, Zollisca Sunkins has signed a letter of intent to attend Coppin State University and play women’s tennis for the Eagles announced head coach Diwani Lewis on Monday. Sunkins recently graduated from Varina High School in Richmond, Va., and will enroll at Coppin State in the fall of 2013.

University of District of Columbia Firebirds: Head women’s basketball coach Jay Butler and the University of the District of Columbia will host the 3rd annual Youth Basketball Camp at the UDC Gym this summer. The first session is already underway (June 24th-28th) and the second session is July 15th-19th. For more information on the basketball camp, visit

That’s a look at HBCU sports for this week. Please send any questions, comments, or HBCU Sports and news to You can follow Phinesse Demps on Twitter: @lfpmedia; Baltimore Times: @baltimore_times.

Indie Soul: Guess who’s back? Tavis Smiley

Radio and TV host, author and community activist, Tavis Smiley has a new home on radio. Smiley recently debuted his radio program Tavis Talk on In addition to his new radio show, Smiley also has a whole network called Tavis Smiley Network or TSN for short.

What is BlogTalkRadio? BlogTalkRadio has been around for seven years. It is used by thousands of regular people who want a platform. Even big name stars like Whoopi Goldberg, Bill Cosby, and Robin Williams have used BlogTalkRadio as a way to get their message to the masses.

TSN will feature new shows by hosts focusing on relationships and advice (Rolonda Watts), diet and lifestyle (Robert Ferguson), social media in business, sports, and entertainment (Beverly Macy), news (John Daly), fatherhood and mentoring (Kenneth Braswell), politics and pop culture (Stephanie Robinson) and humor (Rick Najera). Other shows will be announced and added to the line-up in the coming weeks.

TSN Schedule

Tavis Talks, Weekdays, 4PM Eastern

Sundays With Rolonda, Sunday 5PM Eastern

Ties Never Broken (Kenneth Braswell), Monday 7PM Eastern

Social Media Radio with Beverly Macy, Tuesday 3PM Eastern

Diet Free Life (Robert Ferguson), Tuesday 5PM Eastern

Almost White with Rick Najera, Tuesday 6PM Eastern

Roundtable with Stephanie Robinson, Thursday 11:30 AM Eastern

Informed Not Inflamed (John Daly), Thursday 7PM Eastern

Go to: and search Tavis Smiley to listen today.

Indie Soul welcomes your questions and comments. To contact Phinesse Demps, email: or call: 410-941-9202. You may follow Phinesse on Twitter: @lfpmedia; The Baltimore Times: @Baltimore_Times.

Public invited to participate in flag stitching as part of bicentennial celebration

— Beginning July 4, 2013, The Maryland Historical Society (MdHS) will recreate the 30 x 42 foot Star-Spangled Banner flag that inspired the writing of our national anthem. Using authentic materials, MdHS will employ traditional stitching techniques that Mary Pickersgill used 200 years ago.

Once completed, the flag will fly over Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine and, along with the original Star-Spangled Manuscript, will be a part of the 2014 Flag Day celebration at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

“We are so fortunate, during the Bicentennial celebrations, to make an idea like this come alive!” says Kristin Schenning, MdHS Director of Education. “It means so much for our state of Maryland, and its place in American history.”

The Maryland Historical Society has recruited more than 100 experienced quilters from around the country to construct the majority of the flag. The group will gather in MdHS’ France Hall and, by working up to eight hours a day, will assemble the flag in three sections, including: the long stripes, the short stripes, and the blue field. Descendants of Mary Pickersgill are scheduled to participate.

On Saturday, August 3 and Sunday, August 11 from noon until 3 p.m. the general public is invited to come and add a stitch to the flag. During these days, MdHS will host the Fort McHenry Fife and Drum Corps, celebrity guest appearances, actors in period costume, exhibit tables from our friends and partners, and mobile food vendors outside of the

Museum. To register for the public days, visit

“This is the ultimate participatory event,” says President Burt Kummerow. “It will be a once in a lifetime opportunity. Visitors will be able to participate in the creation of an artifact that will become part of the nation’s proud history.”

Participants in the sewing days will also receive a stamp in the 1812 Bicentennial Passport, a free passport from the Baltimore National Heritage Area that includes over a dozen Baltimore-area historical sites.

Annapolis welcomes new citizens on July 4th

— Join Historic Annapolis in welcoming forty new citizens into the American family at a naturalization ceremony on Thursday, July 4, 2013 at 10:00 a.m.

The free event, which has become an Independence Day tradition, will be held on the rear terrace of the William Paca House and Garden, home of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, at 186 Prince George Street in Annapolis. William Paca, Samuel Chase, Charles Carroll of Carrollton, and Thomas Stone were the four Maryland men who signed the historic document in 1776, and all of them lived in Annapolis at different points in their lives. 

Robert C. Clark, President and CEO of Historic Annapolis, will host the ceremony. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services officials will administer the Oath of Allegiance to the candidates for citizenship. 

The NJROTC unit at Annapolis High School will provide the color guard, and the All Children’s Chorus of Annapolis will lead the singing of the national anthem and perform a selection of patriotic songs.

Squire Frederick Taylor, Town Crier of Annapolis, will officially open and close the program. 

Seating for the outdoor ceremony will be reserved for the new citizens and their invited guests, with limited seating and standing room available for members of the general public. 

Following the naturalization ceremony’s conclusion, the William Paca House and Garden will be open free of charge from 11:00 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the restored two-acre colonial garden on their own, and guided tours of the home’s first floor will begin every fifteen minutes from 11:00 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. 

The Historic Annapolis Museum at 99 Main Street and the Museum Store at 77 Main Street will both be open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on July 4th. The Museum’s new exhibit, “Freedom Bound: Runaways of the Chesapeake,” highlights the stories of nine slaves and servants who attempted to escape from bondage between 1728 and 1864.

Baltimore City student receives outstanding school safety patrol award

The Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education recently honored 14 Maryland students by presenting them with the 2013 Outstanding School Safety Patrol Award. Selected for their extraordinary leadership, dedication, responsibility and service to their schools and communities, each of these students received a plaque and a $100 Visa® gift card from the Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education.

Baltimore City student, Kiara Gordon of Abbottston Elementary School in Baltimore City was one of 14 Student Patrollers out of nearly 30,000 Patrollers in Maryland to be honored with the 2013 Outstanding School Safety Patrol Award.

“All of Maryland’s AAA School Safety Patrollers are valued students, serving as role models while protecting fellow classmates, teachers and others from traffic dangers, as well as other hazards through their daily efforts,” said Myra Wieman, Safety Services Manager for Mid-Atlantic Foundation for Safety and Education. “We are especially proud to honor several students for going above and beyond the call of duty as AAA School Safety Patrollers, as they truly make their schools safe for everyone.”

Established in 1920, the AAA School Safety Patrol is one of AAA’s oldest programs. More than 585,000 children throughout the country participate in the program by safeguarding their classmates on the way to and from school. Over 93,000 patrollers alone are in the AAA Mid-Atlantic territory with nearly 30,000 in Maryland.

The primary purpose of the AAA School Safety Patrol program is to enhance the safety of students walking to and from school. Schools utilize Patrols in many different ways including positioning them at street corners that lead into the school, on school buses, at parent pick-up/drop off areas, and coordination of arrival and dismissal. The program also promotes the development of leadership skills and good citizenship qualities in students.

Candidates for School Safety Patrol are selected based on the following criteria: Ability to follow rules; Good attendance record; Good judgment; Courtesy; Respect for classmates; and Desire to help others

Many famous Americans have held the position of AAA School Safety Patrol, including Vice President Joe Biden, former U.S. Presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, five current and former Supreme Court Justices, five Olympic Gold Medalists and 21 astronauts.

Five unexpected ways to get your kids to eat veggies – and like them

— (BPT) – Peas, carrots, broccoli and spinach … some kids love vegetables, but many do not. We know that veggies provide nourishment, especially for growing children, but getting your kids to eat healthier can be a challenge. Luckily, there are plenty of creative ways to increase the amount of veggies in your kids’ diets. Here are five tips to get the little ones in your life to eat – and even enjoy – their vegetables.

Smooth operator

Picky eaters might turn up their noses at the sight of leafy green vegetables, but they’ll gladly accept a tasty, blended treat. Incorporate a variety of veggies, plus some fruit for sweetness, into a smoothie, and your kids will just taste the sweet fruit flavor. Throw a few broccoli florets and a handful of spinach, along with some green grapes, a bit of pear and avocado, plus water and pineapple juice, into a Vitamix 5200 to create a sweet green smoothie. The little ones will think they’re enjoying a decadent treat, but they’ll also be getting antioxidants, vitamins and other nutrients.

Squeeze the juice

Most kids enjoy a nice glass or box of refreshing juice. Rather than giving them store-bought juices, which could be loaded with sugar and missing essential nutrients, utilize a high-powered blender to make whole-food juices at home. Use carrots, pineapple and a little water to make a sweet yet healthy juice that contains antioxidants and fiber. With whole-food juices, you’re able to keep the healthiest parts of the fruits and vegetables: the seeds, skin and pulp. Plus, you’ll know exactly what your kids are drinking.

Sauce it up

What kid doesn’t love macaroni and cheese? Increase your children’s veggie intake by making a homemade cheese sauce with healthy ingredients. Puree cauliflower, carrots or butternut squash, add them to your sauce and serve over whole-wheat macaroni noodles for a more nutritious version of this favorite dish. You can also make a fresh tomato sauce to serve over spaghetti squash “noodles,” a wholesome, gluten-free alternative to traditional pasta. To make the “noodles,” simply halve and seed the squash, then bake in a dish with one-half cup of water at 375 degrees for 30 minutes. When the squash is cooked, use a fork to scrape the flesh, which creates the “noodles.”

“Souper” healthy

Another great way to get more veggies into your kids’ diets is to add them to a soup. Many kids would rather not eat plain broccoli, so try a low-fat cheesy vegetable soup that incorporates this essential ingredient. All you need is broccoli or cauliflower, low-fat milk, low-fat cheese and some spices to make a nutritious, satisfying soup. Your kids will love the cheesy taste – and you’ll love that they’re eating more vegetables.

Sweet treats

A frozen treat is a satisfying way to end a meal. Create an avocado sorbet using soymilk and a touch of sugar, or make a spinach-lime sorbet with fruit juice for sweetness. You can make the sorbet ahead of time and let it freeze, or use frozen fruits and vegetables to whip up a quick treat in a high-powered blender. Your kids will enjoy their dessert, and you’ll enjoy knowing it’s full of healthy veggies.

You may have to be creative to get your children to eat the recommended three to five servings of vegetables each day, but there are many ways to introduce them to new flavors. Try some of these ideas, and your kids will be getting the nutrition they need. Also, when it comes to eating your veggies, be sure to lead by example. Children are much more apt to try new things if they see others enjoying the food.

Vitamix All Green Smoothie


1/4 cup water

1/2 cup pineapple juice

1 3/4 cups green grapes

1/4 Bartlett pear, ripe, seeded, halved

1/2 avocado, pitted, peeled

1/4 cup coarsely chopped broccoli

1/2 cup spinach, washed

1/4 cup ice cubes


Place all ingredients into the Vitamix container in the order listed and secure lid.

Select Variable 1.

Turn machine on and slowly increase speed to Variable 10, then to High.

Blend for 35-40 seconds or until mixture is smooth.

Paula Deen and Southern food: Critics say credit is past due

— No matter how you slice it, Southern food is complicated. Some detractors dismiss the whole menu as an over-larded, gravy-drenched, carbed-up monolith; they clearly just haven’t been invited to the right homes for supper.

At its core, Southern food is one of the most multilayered, globally-influenced and constantly evolving cuisines on the planet. It’s inextricably and equally tied to the rhythms of the seasons and the lives of the people who cook it the way their grandmother did, and her grandmother before her, and so on.

No one cooks Southern food alone; there’s always a ghost in the corner giving guidance. For millions of people, that’s Paula Deen, a celebrity chef whose sugary, bubbly bonhomie has earned her the moniker “Queen of Southern Cooking” – as well as her share of critics.

Deen has come under fire in the past for promoting aggressively unhealthy recipes, then failing to disclose her diabetes diagnosis for three years before picking up a lucrative endorsement deal for a drug to treat it. Her more recent admission of a racial slur in the past and that she had once discussed putting on a “plantation-themed” wedding party – complete with waiters dressed in a manner reminiscent of slaves – has proven even more sickening to some.

Internet backlash was fierce and pointed, and at least four of Deen’s major sources of revenue – the Food Network, Walmart, Caesars Entertainment and Smithfield Foods – have cut ties with her and condemned her words. Although many fans have gone out of their way to express support for her online and at her flagship restaurant in Savannah, Georgia, Deen apologized in online videos and in a teary appearance on the Today Show.

But some African-American food and culture scholars find it’s what Deen didn’t say that’s the bitterest pill to swallow. They claim that she has profited off the culinary legacy of African Americans, a group she’s repeatedly failed to credit in her cookbooks or on her television shows. Their contributions to American cuisine are often marginalized in the food world, despite having introduced rice cultivation techniques to the South, along with watermelon, okra, chile peppers and other foods that were already part of the African palate. Representatives for Deen weren’t immediately available to comment on the issue.

In the wake of the controversy, pre-orders for Deen’s cookbook are red-hot, but some feel frozen out.

“We’re burned by this,” says writer and image activist Michaela Angela Davis. “Why does she get all the money and fame around the food that our ancestors created and sweated over?”

Davis argues that minimizing the role of the African-American culture’s contributions to Southern cooking isn’t unique to Deen, but fallout from a cultural system that needed to dehumanize slaves to keep the status quo. “Completely divorcing us from our history, our cuisine, our languages – that’s just all par for the course. You can’t let people have pride and then have them be your slaves.”

Culinary historian Michael Twitty agrees. “Our ancestors were not tertiary to the story of Southern food,” he says. “Whenever our role is minimized to just being passive participants or just the ‘help,’ it becomes a strike against culinary justice.”

“Paula Deen once did hoecake on her show and never once mentioned that this was the hardtack and daily bread of enslaved people,” he adds. So were, “gumbo, okra soup, red rice, fried chicken, black eyed peas, various greens, sweet potatoes, boiled peanuts, cala, jambalaya, hot sauce, barbecue, the list goes on.”

In Deen’s autobiography, “It Ain’t All About the Cookin’,” Deen touches on her dealings with the African-American community in her hometown, saying, “None of us were strangers to the black community, although they seemed to live their lives and we lived ours. I would say we lived a pretty unexamined life in terms of politics or civil rights.”

Perhaps if Deen were just “a cook” and not “the Charles Barkley of food,” as Syracuse University scholar Boyce Watkins argued in a discussion with Davis on CNN’s AC360, that lack of context around her food would be understandable and even acceptable. But as Davis pointed out, “She’s a brand.”

That brand reportedly pulled in more than $17 million dollars in 2012 alone, and Davis ascribes Deen’s lack of connection in some part to that level of success.

“We all related to her when she was at the bottom and worked her way up, ” Davis says. “When you put money in it and you’re in a different class, you get all the benefits of being white and privileged. Your sensitivity and need to know about us goes away. There’s nothing in your life that brings about the urgency of knowing about the culture you’re benefiting from.”

Twitty and Davis are both eager to have some potentially difficult and painful conversations – over a meal.

Twitty is on a mission of reclamation and healing in a project he calls The Cooking Gene. He spent much of 2012 on the “Southern Discomfort Tour,” visiting the former plantations where his ancestors were enslaved, meeting the descendents of the people who claimed ownership over his family, and sharing meals together. Through breaking bread in these haunted locales and having difficult conversations with people of all races, Twitty seeks to dispel any romantic notions of slavery, and begin to heal.

“I think the enduring myth is that slavery was a time when blacks knew their place, didn’t make trouble and served as the perfect status symbol of Western superiority and white supremacy. Nothing could be more un-American or untrue,” Twitty says.

“People who worked in the ‘big house’ didn’t have it easy. Women and men who cooked and served usually had one of three fates. They were often treated abusively and savagely punished; they could be family figures of great respect and trust or they were autocrats who used their unique role to carve out a special power niche with lines and boundaries not to be crossed.”

Cooking meant power in many cases, Twitty says, and per plantation records, good cooks were often “worth” more than a “plain” or “tolerable” cook.

There’s power in owning your culture’s narrative, Davis says, and it’s painful when a thing that should be a great source of pride and joy is instead used as a vehicle for shame. “Fried chicken is creative. Collards with smoked neckbones is creative,” Davis says.

“This generation gets to say, ‘No! Fried chicken is amazing!’ Everybody gets to participate in it, but let’s be clear about whose brilliance made this thing be popular.” It worries her that Paula Deen and Colonel Sanders are seen as “the face of fried chicken,” and sees it as a failure of an educational system that diminishes African-American contributions to history.

“We are the fried chicken makers – everybody’s grandma, Sadie, whomever, can make some fried chicken that would make your wig fall off,” she says. “African-Americans being ashamed to eat fried chicken or watermelons is heartbreaking and in complete alignment of the philosophical alignment of oppression and slavery. You’re made to turn against yourself and abandon your culture.”

Davis combats that in the kitchen, she says. While she doesn’t fry chicken every Sunday like her grandmother did, she corrals her daughter a couple times a year to show her how it’s done. Her daughter is from the lean-chicken-breast-on-the-grill generation, Davis jokes, but there’s a serious point: “We lose our food, we lose our stories.”

“I would sit in the kitchen while my grandmother told the story about her grandmother made this pound cake – as she’s making it and I’m watching,” she recalls. “I remember that she would use the notches in her fingers as measurements.

“It wasn’t precise, but there were all these stories and our history was completely folded up in telling these stories as you’re sitting in the kitchen and watching your grandmother and your mother cook. This happens with everybody. That’s why they call it ‘soul food.'”

And that’s what Davis wishes Deen would acknowledge – that she’s peddling and profiting off the food part, but leaving the soul behind.

Deen writes frequently about learning in the kitchen at her Grandma Paul’s side, and shares that story with a wider audience. African-American food traditions were often shared orally, and only within the community, Davis says. She now believes they need to take control over their own story, document it and spread the gospel. Cookbooks by African-American celebrities like Pearl Bailey and Patti LaBelle are a great start, but there needs to be more, and in cooks’ own words.

“If our stories aren’t told correctly and through a proper lens, we get cut out of the narrative,” Davis says.

“In those kitchen moments, my grandmother and grandfather’s life became real to me. We have to write it down. We’re not living in a time where people are eating fried chicken for four or five hours on Sunday, with anybody. This is the perfect time to take our oral history, film it, write it down so it’s not lost.”

Food justice activist and podcast host Nicole A. Taylor, a native Southerner, said in a recent video blog that she’s “done with Paula Deen,” but that the incident sheds a light on the food world needing more African-American representation on Food Network and in mainstream media outlets.

“We need to show that the South is just not Paula Deen,” she said. “The South is me. The South is immigrants who are moving here. We need to lift these people up so that Paula Deen does not become the poster child for what is Southern in terms of food.”

And Twitty would like to sit down and talk about it over a meal. In a much-read open letter to Deen on his website yesterday, he invited the embattled chef to a gathering at a historic plantation in September when he’s hosting a fundraiser for Historic Stagville, a North Carolina, plantation that once held 900 slaves and is now a historic tourist destination.

“I want you to walk the grounds with me, go into the cabins, and most of all I want you to help me cook,” Twitty wrote. “If you’re brave enough, let’s break bread…This isn’t publicity this is opportunity. Leave the cameras at home.”

Davis, too, believes in the power of food to soothe and stitch painful rifts. “Food and music are the foundations of African-American – and American culture. They’re a perfect way to talk about race and move forward. And they’re a thing that people love about us, and we love about us – but it’s been abused,” she says.

Davis continued, “The first thing you have to do is admit that it’s happened, talk about it, move on and forgive. Have a conversation over a meal with some music. These conversations: This is the work. This is how we heal.”

Want to know more about African American contributions to Southern cooking? Dig in:

Books (note: some are out of print, but available through used book stores):

  • The African American Heritage Cookbook: Traditional Recipes & Fond Remembrances – Carolyn Quick Tillery

  • Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine One Plate at a Time – Adrian Miller (Coming August 15)

  • Mama Dip’s Kitchen – Mildred Council

  • The Taste of Southern Cooking – Edna Lewis

  • High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America – Jessica B. Harris

  • Hog and Hominy: Soul Food from Africa to America – Frederick Douglass Opie

  • A Taste of Heritage: The New African American Cuisine – Toni Tipton-Martin and Joe Randall

  • The Dooky Chase Cookbook – Leah Chase

Obama heads to Africa to promote investment, democracy

— President Barack Obama flies across the Atlantic on Wednesday for a trip that takes him to Senegal, South Africa and Tanzania — his second visit to sub-Saharan Africa since taking office.

The trip aims to bolster investment opportunities for U.S. businesses, address development issues such as food security and health, and promote democracy.

It comes as China aggressively engages the continent. The Asian nation is pouring billions of dollars into Africa, running oil and mining firms, and replaced the United States in 2009 as the largest largest trading partner.

Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, will be in Africa at the same time.

Bush has made multiple visits to Africa since leaving office, and will be in Zambia next week, where he’s working with his global health initiative to renovate a cervical cancer screening and treatment center.

While the 44th and 43rd president are not scheduled to meet, first lady Michelle Obama and her predecessor, Laura Bush, will attend the African First Ladies Summit in Tanzania on July 2.

Obama’s trip is being overshadowed by the declining health of South Africa’s revered former president, Nelson Mandela, who is in critical condition at a Pretoria hospital.

Mandela, who emerged from prison after 27 years to lead South Africa out of its dark days of apartheid, is considered the father of modern day South Africa.

Obama will be in Senegal Thursday and Friday. He arrives in South Africa on Saturday, where he will spend the weekend taking part in a host of activities, including meeting with the nation’s leaders and visiting Robben Island, where Mandela spent a majority of his prison term.

He will spend Monday and Tuesday in Tanzania, and is expected back in Washington on July 3.

The president made a brief trip to Ghana during his first term in July 2009.

CNN’s Kevin Bohn and Ashley Killough contributed to this report.


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