In a packed Centennial Hall with 100 guests in attendance, Assistant Head of School for Community, Inclusion, and Equity Michael Molina introduced the speaker for Gilman’s first CIE Evening of the 2023-2024 school year on Thursday, October 19: chef, artist, food justice activist, and author Bryant Terry.
Terry began his talk by sharing a story about his grandmother’s cooking, noting that even when you couldn’t smell her cooking, he knew she was because of the singing that always accompanied it — specifically “Glory, Glory, Hallelujah,” which he then sang for the audience.
“I’ve been sharing my favorite childhood food memories since I started presenting around health, food, and hunger issues over two decades ago,” Terry said. “My work has always had the texture of autobiography, and it’s important that I ground all my practices in history and memory.”
He went on to share that although his fondest recollection of being in the kitchen involved spending time with his maternal grandmother, “most of the lessons I learned as a child about the ways in which my ancestors grew, cooked and ate food” came from his paternal grandfather in Memphis, Tennessee. He taught him about having a connection to the land, an emphasis on self-reliance, and a practice of generosity and community caring.
Terry’s talk included points about his work in the food justice space, noting that what some people refer to as “food deserts” he calls “food apartheid” to recognize the barriers that are in place preventing people from having access to healthy food. In 2001, when Terry started attending national gatherings geared towards fixing our broken food system, he noticed that these were mostly white spaces, and the people being most negatively impacted were not in the room. “They should have been leading the conversation,” he said.
Terry challenged the way most people conceive of “Black food,” saying it is a “reductive way of thinking about this cultural cuisine.” He said his book, “Vegan Soul Kitchen” pushes back against this narrative.
The second part of his presentation showcased a cooking demonstration — a recipe from his book “Afro-Vegan,” followed by a thoughtful Q&A and book signing.