Updated: Jul 19

There is hard cracked leather underneath my bare sweaty legs.

The upholstery above my head is hanging down and dirty grey.

It may break down again.

It may leave us on the side of the road, to stand on steaming asphalt

while plans are made, hood open to what I don't want to see.

I try to keep very still. I try to be weightless.

I try not to notice how loud, rough, and smokey it is.

I pretend I don't care.

I pretend I don't need it.

I am little,

my back is pressed against the seat's back

and my legs are straight out in front of me.

It's early in the morning, it's summer, and we are somewhere in the city.

There is no air-conditioning, the windows are down, and the smell of burning oil floats

between us.

My father is driving us to a bakery outside of our neighborhood.

He says, "They know what they're doing, it's a drive but...

They know what they are doing."

He nods his head up and down with each word. Convinced.

I relax a little. He doesn't think the car will stop working.

I try to see everything outside my window, but we are moving to fast

to get the details I want.

We walk in, into another world, the tiny brass bell on the door jingles.

The air is a heavy mix of fresh bread, sweets, and coffee.

I look down at my slip-on red sneakers.

I am standing on a narrow sea of shiny black and white tiles.

Red on black and white.

My father's shoes are brown leather, they turn to face left and stop.

I look up and see a long glass case; a spotless see-through shield

that divides two worlds.

On one side, there are absolute promises of sweetness

in all colors and shapes, waiting quietly to be chosen.

On the other side, there are strangers lining up, talking,

wanting things, the bell jingling, and me.

I stare through the glass shield.

My eyes are hungry.

Brown sugar clumps dusted with confectionary sugar

on top of buttery white cake.

I smell cinnamon.

Bombolini (doughnuts) with the cremes and jellies poking out

making different shapes, big sugar crystals coating them all.

I smell hot milk, raspberry, and sweet fried dough.

The biscotti with sliced almonds making unique patterns

on their smooth sides.

These must be dunked before biting.

I smell anise.

First, I stare at the things I know my father always gets.

Then... I let my eyes roam. It is overwhelming.

I see creams bursting out of pastries sprinkled with chocolate chips,

and pistachios.

I see coats of powdered sugar clinging,

fruits glistening in sugar glazes heaping,

shiny coats of dipped chocolate surfaces,

pink and green sprinkles leaving no space between them.

Dark chocolate, raspberry, and apricot centers.

I see the round, rectangular, square, crescent, and tubular shapes,

of cookies, cakes, pastries, and pies.

Some are light and puffed up high, some are dense and low, layered or filled, or both.

I want to kiss them all!

I want to be an opera singer, my arms raised up high, singing out my love for all I see

behind this clear glass shield.

I hear my father say, "pick one little treat, one little thing, for the car ride home,

our secret, one little thing."

But how can I choose?

My heart races, I have little time. My father does not like to wait.

I open my eyes as wide as I can, maybe that will help me see more?

No. I pretend I am a bird, an eagle. Yes, it is good to have "eagle eyes".

I am soaring alongside the glass shield with my "eagle eyes" and WHAM,

I see it!

The most beautiful, perfect, rectangular, chocolatey, colorful prize

in this universe of prizes: The Rainbow Cookie. My rainbow.

I grab my father's pant leg and bring him over so I can show him.

I point, there is a speck of air between my finger and the glass.

I am careful and steady, I know the rules.

I hear the woman behind the counter say "Certo! Certo!"

She is happy with my choice!

She grabs a small piece of wax paper and hovers over the tray,

she is hunting for the best one. I love her too!

She picks one and for a tiny second it disappears underneath her hand

as she lifts it up and away from the rest.

She doesn't give the rainbow to my father but instead waves me over

to the low counter. I follow her, excited. She reaches over and places it in

my open palm, and smiles at me.

I smile back at her even though I am very shy.

The bell jingles for us as we leave.

Back in the car I keep my palm open and stare at my treasure.

I wonder why it is called a rainbow cookie when it is so much more

like a mini color stacked rainbow cake.

I touch each layer with my left pointer finger,

there are three: bright green, yellowish-white, and pinky-red.

They are soft, moist, and dense.

There is a red jam soaking into each color and a thinly spread chocolate icing

on the top and the bottom.

I bring it up to my nose and inhale.

It smells chocolatey, almondy, fruity.

I bring it close to my eyes and inspect every texture.

I see where the knife lifted up the chocolate icing at it's edges.

I move my open palm up and down to feel it's weight.

It weighs less than jacks and more than a softball.

The chocolate part is moist but it isn't melting in my hand.

What genius invented this?

My father says "eat, eat, finish it before we get home."

But I don't want to. I want this moment and this rainbow in my hand

to last forever.

My father says my name but I keep my eyes studied on this gift.

He switches on the radio. I hear violins, cellos, and a flute (or piccolo?).

The car stops longer than it would for a street light or a stop sign.

I look over at the driver's seat.

My father's car door swings open and he is getting out.

We are home.

I don't know what to do.

I can't open the heavy car door with one hand.

Will my father open the door for me?

I look down at my right palm and all it holds.

Then, my door swings open, "Come on, come on, let's go" he says as he grabs

the bakery bags and the fat New York Times from the back seat.

I am too little to be left in the car alone.

"Come on, come on, scoot out, scoot, scoot, scoot".

He has forgotten what is in my hand.

I scoot slowly and carefully, I keep my hand steady and out in front of me.

I walk close behind him, he becomes my shield, but he is opaque not glass.

He pauses at the kitchen door (kick, kick, kick)

"Open up my hands are full...for chrissake"

One second left, I bring my rainbow to my mouth and whisper

"I love you" and pop the whole thing in, bam, safe.

My mouth is completely full and I hold it still, no chewing.

The door swings open and it is loud and fast inside that kitchen.

I head straight to my bedroom, eyes forward, and I make it unnoticed.

I sit on the edge of my bed, on my purple bedcover with tiny yellow flowers.

My rainbow is still whole in my mouth.

I close my eyes and try to smush it between my tongue and the roof of my mouth.

I am trying to eat it without using my teeth.

I taste almond, chocolate, raspberry, lemon.

I realize I have to chew or I'll choke.

But, I chew slowly, slowly, slowly.

Almond, chocolate, raspberry, lemon...almond, chocolate, raspberry, lemon...

the flavors leave my tongue and bit by bit go down my throat.

My stomach will have it all soon but time is moving slowly and my mouth is not empty yet.

I think: don't ever forget this, don't ever ever forget this.

Don't ever ever ever forget this.

And I haven't.

me and my dad, the only picture I have of the two of us together.

me at 5 years.

I am a woman in my 50's now, from the east coast and living many miles and years away from the scene of this memory. My father and I went to many different bakeries, on Sunday mornings, throughout my childhood. He was always searching for the best one and I was always happy to join. The bakery I wrote about was the one I remember the most. Maybe it was the first one he took me to. We were a team on those bakery runs, each allowing the other their own experience, he liked new possibilities, and I loved the details. I don't have Italian bakeries where I live now, and I no longer have my father. But, I do have cherished memories, like this one, that I keep very near and alive in my heart.

my dad

by Katey Furgason

Thank you for reading my story.

This memory has never faded and I wanted to write it out and share it, to place it in the world.

I think the memories we keep are the narratives of our lives...they reveal to us who we were and what shaped us into who we are.

For many reasons I have always found comfort in latching onto chosen details; to be active in choosing what to focus on. Maybe that helped me feel in control of my environment, maybe it's just what my heart and mind do. I learned something in the process of writing and structuring this memory... in retrospect, it seems I was practicing how to move from discomfort and fear to calmness and joy, in a short time.

Updated: Jul 19

Throughout human history food has been used as a means to:

survive, thrive, connect, protest, punish, support, rebel, define, and fuel us.

Each time period, culture, region, family, and individual has their own story.

This week we take a look at how, for the past 500 years in the US, Black Communities and organizations have recognized and harnessed the power of food to their advantage.

"Black Communities Have Always Used Food as Protest" For 500 years, Black communities in America have sustained and supported protests through food. By Amethyst Ganaway Updated June 14, 2020

Huey Newton (right), the founder of the Black Panther Party, sits with Bobby Seale (left) at party headquarters in San Francisco. Photo: TED STRESHINSKY / CORBIS / GETTY IMAGES Black people in America have used food as a means of resistance, rebellion, and revolution since being forcefully brought here in the late 1500s. Food has always been a part of the culture and identity of Black communities and has played a role as a source of both comfort and strength for a people constantly subject to abuse, discrimination, and misunderstanding. In African-derived religions, worshippers leave food offerings to orishas, the minor gods and goddesses in the pantheon of West African beliefs. Believers left Ogun, God of the Forge and War, offerings of nuts, berries, meat, and roots from his believers before they went into war. Yemaya, ruler of oceans and the embodiment of Black femininity and power, has her own favorite foods: watermelon, molasses, and maize, as well as fish, poultry, and nuts that she prefers in thanks of her blessings. So even when those same foods revered by the gods and goddesses of their ancestral homelands were turned into means of stereotyping and racial profiling, Black people were able to maintain a closeness with one another through the meals they ate. When the Transatlantic Slave Trade began, enslaved Africans would braid seeds and rice into their hair. This wasn’t just a reminder of home; it was a tangible act of rebellion and resistance and a necessary means of survival in a world unknown to them. Brought to the Americas’ coastal and subtropical lands for their abilities to grow specific crops like rice, people like the Gullah Geechee were able to survive in lands not their own, and were able to maintain a throughline to their traditions by growing plants and eating similar dishes that they had always known; a practice still carried on by communities in the Lowcountry today. As soon as the subjugated people could, they openly rebelled with their captors, through revolts, countering slavemaster violence, and acts of covert insurrection, often centered around food. By taking provisions from their “masters” and raiding the white plantation owners’ personal larders, they sustained their livelihoods and actively acted against their abductors. Often outwitting the subjugating white owners and overseers by claiming that if they were the property of these people, and they grew the food for them, it was just as much theirs as his, equating it to “taking the meat out of one tub and placing it another.” The same cooks—often women—who were revered for their culinary abilities in historical cookbooks and whose recipes are resurfacing today were spitting in and poisoning the food of their kidnappers and their children, and killing them. The pain and deaths the jailer masters faced from the poisoning and theft of food paled in comparison to the atrocities and horrors they inflicted on the forcibly imprisoned. Not all acts of rebellion based around food were necessarily violent. Farming as resistance isn’t a new concept, although there has been a resurgence of farming in communities that have been hit especially hard by gentrification and food apartheid. These communities, largely Black people and other people of color, are often in places that don’t have any source of fresh food for miles. Throughout and after slavery was abolished in the Americas, Black people farmed and gardened to find sustenance literally and figuratively in trying times. During enslavement, people would often have their own gardens to make up for the food the enslavers didn’t or wouldn’t provide. Growing the foods of their homeland like okra, peanuts, benne, watermelon, and more, not only were they able to eat and be connected to their culture (an act of rebellion in itself), they arguably made one of the most significant impacts on what is known as American cuisine. The debt that is owed by America to Black people is so much greater than the forty acres of land that was promised, but never received, and that has accrued interest for over 400 years. To those poor souls who don’t know Black history, the beliefs and desires of the Black Panther Party for Self Defense may seem unreasonable. To Black people, the ten points covered are absolutely essential to survival. We have listened to the riot producing words “these things take time” for 400 years. The Black Panther Party knows what Black people want and need. Black unity and self-defense will make these demands a reality.  - HUEY P. NEWTON, CO-FOUNDER OF THE BLACK PANTHER PARTY OF SELF DEFENSE MAY 16, 1967With enslavement also came enforced Christianity (and other religions) for many of the Africans, African-Americans, and their descendants. The church was often the only place they were “allowed” to meet, and service wasn’t complete without sharing food and meals with one another. These church services and gatherings around tables often became a way to speak and pass coded messages about rebelling against the institutions in place. Even now, organizations like the Black Church Food Security Network provide services that ensure their communities are represented and served local, fresh food from farmers. Churches, mosques, and places of worship often house and host food banks and food drives, and are often the first to respond when their communities are lacking in nourishment. That’s continued for the history of America as a country, up to today. In the 19th and 20th centuries,, Jim Crow laws systemically and purposefully discriminated against Black communities. During the civil rights movement, food was there in the middle of it. The famous Woolworth sit-ins sparked nationwide protests after four Black students from the Historically Black College and University, North Carolina A&T, sat at their local Woolworths counter to protest the segregation that still occurred although Brown vs Board was deemed unconstitutional. Many African-Americans took “shoebox lunches” on rides though the especially hostile Jim Crow South since restaurants would refuse to serve them. Also pivotal was the less-documented work of Black people who fed and sustained protesters throughout the civil rights movement. One food justice activist was Georgia Gilmore, a Black woman who fed civil rights activists and leaders in her Montgomery, Alabama, home. After losing her job as a cafeteria cook because she participated in the Montgomery Bus Boycotts, Gilmore opened her own doors at the suggestion of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other civil rights leaders. Georgia Gilmore not only fed the leaders, she helped start the Club from Nowhere, a covert baking club that would sell church cakes and use the money to fund protests. In Atlanta, the restaurant Paschal’s—which is still operational today—became a meeting place for famous African American entertainers and leaders. As one of the only white tablecloth restaurants in the South that allowed African Americans and Black people to peacefully enjoy a meal in their dining rooms, Paschal’s often became central to planning protests for the civil rights movement. Food was a central part of the mission of the Black Panther Party and their contributions to African American activism and resistance, as well as their contributions to the American educational system. Started in 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, the Black Panther Party initially began as a way to combat and prevent police brutality in Oakland. Deemed as “the greatest threat to the internal security of the country” by the U.S. government, the Black Panther Party implemented programs that held their government and society accountable for their actions (or lack thereof), and that provided compassionate aid to their communities. Food was an explicit part of the mission. When co-founders Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale co-wrote the Ten Points Program, a set of guidelines to the party they published in the second edition of the organization’s newspaper, they underlined their commitment to food justice: “We want land, bread, housing, education, clothing, justice and peace.” Noticing that most students didn’t eat or had never had breakfast before school, the Panthers began to provide free meals for all students in their communities. Despite attempts to thwart the Free Breakfast Program, including police conducting raids while children ate, the government followed suit years later and began a similar program of their own. Though mainstream media characterized the Black Panther Party as a violent group of militant thugs, the truth is they were a group of Black people who believed in radical liberation for their people and who were terrorized by every facet of their society, and who believed that something as simple as feeding a child breakfast could make their country a little better. With Black nationalism and radicalism also came the term “Soul Food.” By reclaiming Southern and African-inspired dishes and ingredients, Black Americans were able to once again reconnect with each other and their people across the diasporas. Authors, chefs, and many others involved in Black resistance found solace in participating in “self-conscious work of cultural construction” and creating a sort of new identity through home cooking, restaurants, cookbooks, and gatherinngs. Through “radical” organizations like the Black Panther Party, the Nation of Islam, and Organization Us, Black people continued to feed each other knowledge and the foods of their cultures. It’s impossible to put the thousands of years of Black history, revolution, and food into one story, but as we see another generation take to the streets to demand justice for Black lives that have been lost, and for retribution for injustices inflicted over hundreds of years, food finds its way into the resistance again. Many restaurants are still closed or in the process of reopening because of COVID-19, and some are seeing damage from rogue rioters. Food publications and companies are just now taking to social media to declare their newfound commitment to anti-racism while simultaneously forgetting to mention that an entire population of people have been and continued to be herded and hunted, slaughtered at the hands of people who live in a world of similar connivance. While food companies, upscale restaurant groups, and brands post their stances on protesting and social injustices on the internet, Black communities keep up the work of feeding their communities and supporting protests. Black lives lead the vanguard toward equality and revolution as they have done so many times before. We are demanding, not asking, for “Land, Bread, Housing, Education, Clothing, Justice And Peace.”


The purpose of this blog is to bring people together.

Food is a common human thread.

No one survives without it.

When we begin to wrap our stories around this thread we create an unbreakable rope

that weaves us together.

We create a way of connection, understanding, and compassion.

Let's keep wrapping those stories around that thread!

Join in, we need your voice too!

Thank You!

Updated: Jul 19


Food is a necessary part of all our lives.

We need it to survive. It passes on traditions. It creates economies.

But, what does food 'feel like' to your mind and heart?

Where does it 'place' you? How does it connect you? When does it inspire you?

Alicia Garza, one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, answers these questions in her interview posted below.

Washington Post story by Elazar Sontag, March 26, 2018

To this Black Lives Matter co-founder, activism begins in the kitchen

"There is an important story to tell around the way food helps us reconnect with ourselves" says Alicia Garza, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter movement. (Gus Aronson)

Years before co-founding Black Lives Matter, Alicia Garza sat in a cramped kitchen sipping a sweet gin drink from a red Solo cup, waiting for a pan of turkey legs to finish cooking.

The kitchen belonged to Betty Higgins, a retired bus driver in San Francisco’s Bayview neighborhood. Higgins — or Ms. Betty as everyone called her — was a fixture of the community, and as a neighborhood organizer at the time, Garza wanted to pick her brain. But when Garza would knock on her door, Higgins would brush her off. Something wasn’t clicking. Then Garza realized: If she wanted to have a real conversation with Higgins, she had to put down her clipboard, go inside and talk while Higgins cooked and took care of her kids.

“I had to learn it’s not about getting through your list of things,” she says. “If you’re going to visit Ms. Betty, you’re going to sit there for a couple hours. At the end, you’re going to eat good food, and she’s going to be, like, ‘This person cares about me.’ ”

The lesson was about more than that one connection: Garza was also starting to learn that food and cooking can be as crucial to her work as they had always been to her personal life.

Black Lives Matter was born in 2013, after George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Florida. Garza took to Facebook from her Oakland, Calif., home, and penned a now-famous letter. She concluded it by saying, “Black people. I love you. I love us. We matter. Our lives matter, Black lives matter.”

Over the next year, those last three words grew into a national movement. “I stopped being how I’m used to being,” Garza recalls, “which is relatively anonymous.” At her favorite restaurants, she would be approached by strangers, all of them weighing in on how the movement could change, be better, do more. The lack of privacy, the monumental expectations — they have made for a high-intensity life. So, to relax, Garza, 37, does what she has always done. She cooks.

When she was in New York recently for a week of meetings and events, Garza agreed to make dinner with me in my Brooklyn apartment, and to talk about her work. Although the kitchen wasn’t her own, Garza moved with relaxed ease, making sure her cutting board was always clean and her counter organized. She sliced strips of bacon in half and cooked them down for the collard greens before generously seasoning a pile of flour for dredging her fish fillets.

Even while chopping, stirring, peeling and tasting, Garza speaks slowly and thoughtfully.

As she empties a bowl of fresh corn kernels into a large cast-iron skillet, Garza is careful to turn the pan’s handle so it doesn’t jut out past the stove top. It’s something she learned from her mother, “so you don’t brush it and get scalded from what’s on the stove.” In the kitchen, Garza often draws on tips her grandmother gave her, and things she saw her mother do. This creamed corn, rich and comforting, was passed down from Garza’s grandmother to her mother, and then on to Garza. Tonight, the corn and collard greens are complements to the main dish, her fried fish. It’s a trifecta from her childhood. She cuts the onions her own way, and uses more of the collard stems than her grandmother would, but Garza doesn’t stray too far from the family recipes.

“My mom made this food for us because it was what she knew how to cook, but also because she had to figure out how to sustain a family on the cheap,” Garza says. “This is what we had access to, because we were locked out of the economy.”

During her childhood, Garza and her family lived in the North San Francisco Bay area. Her mother worked a number of jobs — for the U.S. Postal Service, in a Macy’s stockroom, and as a housekeeper. Her days were long, and by the time she got home from work, it was usually too late to cook. On the dinner table many nights were takeout containers and microwave meals. Garza woke early on the weekends and made breakfast while her mother slept: eggs, cinnamon toast, bacon.

“She started to trust me in the kitchen, that I wasn’t going to burn it down,” Garza says, laughing. When her mother did have time off, she cooked all day, piling the table high with creamed corn, collard greens and Garza’s favorite: fried chicken. Each of those meals was a special occasion.

On quiet nights, when Garza is craving the flavors of her family, she makes these dishes or others from her mother’s table. Often, she cooks for Malachi, her husband and fellow activist. She says Malachi is a good cook, but when he stirs a pot that’s meant to be left alone, dips his finger in her sauce or turns a pan’s handle the wrong way, Garza sends him to wait in the dining room while she finishes the meal. Then, the kitchen is all hers. “It’s just me by myself, which I really like,” she says.

Since Black Lives Matter grew into a national movement, Garza has rarely been home for a stretch of more than three days. But when she is home, she cooks all the time. Sitting at her dinner table might be a handful of old friends, and one or two new ones, but they must be “folks who I trust immensely.” Although Garza is so often surrounded by crowds, her work sometimes feels shockingly lonely. “Some people only interact with you because they think you’re close to something that they want. Do you want to have a security system in your house? Do you want to get death threats by email?” It’s this side of Garza’s life that even her close friends rarely see.

When Garza is cooking, she has an “open-door policy.” Friends and colleagues whom she loves and trusts are welcome to come and share their ideas and hopes for the movement. But they’ll have to do so in her kitchen, while she tends to a pot of beans or makes her grandmother’s smothered pork chops. “There is something about being nourished that I think must change your biochemistry in a kind of way,” she says. “If I need to have a hard conversation with someone, I’d way rather do it over food.”

In her work before Black Lives Matter, Garza craved the kind of relationship she had formed in Higgins’s kitchen. Conversation had been relaxed and, over a shared meal, she had become familiar with Higgins’s hopes and dreams. “All good organizing is based on a foundation of relationships,” she says, as she dips a tilapia fillet into seasoned flour. She found that sometimes her fellow organizers, too wrapped up in the business of their daily lives, were not making time to enjoy the long meals and conversation that had informed so much of her work. “I needed thought partners. People that I could talk to, that I could trust.” In her work now, Garza is creating space and time for that trust to build.

Last year, she hatched the idea for a new organization. “This new project is all about transforming black communities into constituencies,” she says, reaching into the fridge for a bottle of hot sauce. Her goal for this work, part of what she calls the Black Futures Lab, is to build progressive political movements in small towns, major cities and, ultimately, nationwide. To better understand what communities need across the country, Garza and her team have launched a massive survey. To reach people who are often overlooked by online surveys — namely LGBTQ, immigrant and incarcerated communities — Garza has sent out organizers to collect responses in person. “It will be the largest survey of black people done since Reconstruction,” she says, matter-of-factly.

Her work has already helped elevate Black Lives Matter to a national platform. But even to Garza, creating another organization, with such large goals, seems overwhelming at times. How is she coping? Over lunch, of course. Before she and her team start their work, there is always a meal. “We don’t sit in a room and talk at each other. We break bread together. It’s a time for us to get present.” When the fish she’s been watching turns a golden brown, Garza removes it from the pot and brings her dishes to the table. Years ago, she stood at Higgins’s front door with a clipboard, trying to talk politics and hash out logistics. Now, she’s taking her time, letting conversations unfurl, enjoying the process.

“There’s an important story to tell around the way food helps us reconnect with ourselves,” she muses, as she helps herself to a crisp piece of fish, a portion of greens and a big spoonful of corn. At Garza’s table, a home-cooked meal is always the first order of business.

Elazar Sontag

Thank you Elazar Sontag for writing this story, and the Washington Post for printing it, it deserves many re-publications.

And Thank You, Alicia Garza, for your strength, courage, brilliance, and a deep-rooted sense of justice, and humanity. You give the voiceless voice. You serve the underserved. You make food with love, and you have shown us how 'breaking bread' sustains us, makes us present, willing, and able to do the hard work that needs to be done.

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