Black food summit draws chefs, farmers, creatives and foodies to the Bay Area

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  • Published on November 23, 2022
  • Last Updated December 22, 2022

Faith Adiele recounts the Black Food Summit with Chef Bryant Terry at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, California.

My travels have always involved food. What better way to learn about a place and culture than through eating? I also love seeing how food itself travels. From leaping across borders to keeping receipts, food is key in revealing hidden histories. Upon arriving in Brazil, I immediately recognized acarajé as àkàrà (Nigerian bean fritters) and appreciated its importance to Afro-Brazilian history. One bite of Portuguese Chicken, on the other hand, exposed an edible map of colonial travels and trade.

These are the kinds of connections that James Beard and NAACP Image Award-winning chef, activist educator and authorBryant Terry makes in his sixth (and according to him, last) book, “Black Food: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora,” which charts the Black experience through food, travel, migration and spirituality. No doubt you’ve seen George McCalman’s striking cover, as since its release a year ago, this book has racked up such accolades such as The Art of Eating Prize, a nomination for the James Beard Award and one of the Best Cookbooks of the Year from The New Yorker,San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Washington Post and a number of other publications.

In September, Terry hosted a two-day Black Food Summit inspired by the book and its collaborators. The first day focused on storytelling and took place at San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), where Bryant has served as chef-in-residence since 2015. His innovative programming around food justice, gender and queerness, farming and Diaspora foods consistently draws pilgrims from across the country.

During the summit I met cooks and foodies from Seattle, Tennessee, New York, even a representative from the United Nations. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who was in town, asked “to crash the party” and discuss her work creating a global roadmap for food security. “I practice ‘gumbo diplomacy,’” Thomas-Greenfield, who has held postings in Kenya, The Gambia, Nigeria and Jamaica, said. “Black food is a contribution to the world.”

Terry’s ambassadorial work involves spreading the gospel of plant-based eating, with his acclaimed cookbooks “Vegetable Kingdom,” “Afro-Vegan” and “Vegan Soul Kitchen” providing a roadmap for Blackfolks, who are the fastest growing demographic of vegans in the US, according to one panelist. “My mother, a woman with cancer in rural North Carolina, can find “Vegan Soul Kitchen” and learn she doesn’t have to give up the foods that offer connection and comfort,” another panelist explained.

In her keynote address, cultural anthropologist Dr. Gail P. Myers described her journey with farming: “When my hands hit the soil, the memory came back. We never forget. Our ancestors knew that land is freedom,” she said. Day two took this idea even further, inviting participants to road trip down to TomKat Ranch, an 1800-acre, grass-fed cattle ranch focused on regenerative ranching education, for a day of learning and relaxation.

The day started with raw juice smoothies and a soothing, 90-minute session with Tricia “The Nap Bishop” Hersey, whose “rest is resistance” framework challenges notions of productivity and supports restorative travel. “We can’t imagine liberation if we’re exhausted,” she instructed over calming ambient music. “Rest is generative. Rest is a meticulous love practice.”

Sufficiently blissed out, I tried a session on healing herbs before remembering that I don’t really like gardening — or the outdoors, for that matter. I wandered over to pet the horses that were involved in the practice of equine therapy. I passed groups doing breathwork and journaling beneath the trees, then caught the world premiere of Rhythms of the Land, Dr. Myers’ documentary film on Black farming, and her conversation with Natalie Baszile, author of the novel “Queen Sugar” and nonfiction collection, “We Are Each Other’s Harvest: Celebrating African American Farmers, Land, and Legacy.”

A member of Terry’s team collected me in her truck to visit local chefs like Joselyn Jackson of JUSTUS Kitchen and star pitmaster and James Beard finalist Matt Horn, who was preparing the evening feast. Dining under tents, against a soundtrack of live music and happy chatter, it felt like I had traveled around the world and come home.