Soul Summit 2015
A Conversation About Race, Identity, Power and Food
June 19 – 21, 2015
On Juneteenth weekend 2015, scholars, researchers, students, journalists, authors, restaurateurs, farmers, chefs, activists and anyone interested in exploring issues of race, cultural identity and power imbalance through the lens of food gathered in Austin, Texas, to eat, drink, and ponder food [in]justice.
The meeting was inspired by an MSNBC segment with Melissa Harris-Perry, which turned attention from outrage and protests over events in Ferguson, Mo., to a discussion about food, race and identity. With Jim Crow era stereotypes and ignored culinary history as the backdrop, Harris-Perry’s panel presented an academic dialogue to viewers, raising the question: What we can learn about who we are when we shake off the shame about how or what we eat?
It was a momentous event!
The symposium began on Emancipation Day (June 19) with a reception in the elegant foyer of the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, featuring nibbles by Leslie Moore’s Word of Mouth Catering and wines by Truvee and Dotson-Cervantes Winery. We spent the next day and a half eating and drinking together on the campus of Austin’s historically black college, Huston-Tillotson University, while discussing the complex intersection of African American foodways traditions and how they have been used to define culture. We hoped that this first-ever gathering of industry role models would motivate the next generation toward careers in food. We had no idea the weekend would spur so many mentoring relationships, uplifting friendships and career opportunities.
Celebrity chef Carla Hall got the whole thing started with an inspiring video welcome. Well-known and respected African American food scholars, including Jessica B. Harris, Adrian Miller and Michael Twitty challenged our thinking about the foods that comprise the traditional African American core diet, the ways those foods (and the people who prepared them) have been characterized by society, and the impact of those representations on our communities. Powerful, sometimes emotional, talks by food writers, authors, performance artists, and entrepreneurs, such as 10-year-old Mikaila Ulmer, who earned $60,000 on ABC’s Shark Tank, showed us the ways food can shape economic opportunities and wellness for African Americans in the future.
We took a walking culinary tour of Austin’s gentrified African American Cultural Heritage District and celebrated the lifetime achievements of a Texas culinary icon whose legacy lives on in her great grandson’s restaurant, Lucille’s Houston. In between, industry greats from around the country, including Bryant Terry, Todd Richards, Kevin Mitchell, BJ Dennis and Tiffanie Barriere showed us a few things about authentic African American cuisine as we feasted on dishes with vegan, coastal, French and global soul.
Information about Soul Summit 2017 will be posted here soon.
Myron Beasely, Associate Professor, African American Studies, Bates College
Lisa Byrd, Executive Director, African American Cultural Heritage District, Austin
Jennifer Cumberbatch, founder and president, J.R. Cumberbatch Productions
Lolis Eric Elie, writer, filmmaker, and story editor at AMC’s Hell on Wheels and HBO’s Treme. He also is author of two cookbooks, Treme: Stories and Recipes from the Heart of New Orleans and Smokestack Lightning: Adventures in the Heart of Barbecue Country
Carla Hall, co-host of ABC’s The Chew
Dr. Jessica B. Harris, award-winning scholar, radio host, and author of twelve critically acclaimed cookbooks documenting the foods and foodways of the African Diaspora, including her most recent, High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey from Africa to America, which was the International Association for Culinary Professionals 2012 prize winner for culinary history
Adrian Miller, The Soul Food Scholar, author of Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate at a Time
Therese Nelson, founder Black Culinary History
Carla Nickerson, actress and director of the City of Austin’s Office of Cultural Affairs
Donna Pierce, Syndicated Columnist “Black America Cooks” and a 2015 Visiting Harvard Nieman Fellow
Anne Pope, audio engineer, sound editor, music producer and media educator involved with award-winning motion pictures such as Born Into Brothels, Valley of Saints, and Junebug. She is an urban environmentalist and founder of Sustainable Flatbush
Tambra Raye Stevenson, founder and consultant, NativSol Kitchen
Helen Roberts, sales and marketing, Kikkoman USA
Elle Simone, founder SheChef and freelancer at Food Network
Ellen Sweets, James Beard Award winner and two-time nominee for food writing. Author of Stirring it Up with Molly Ivins: A Memoir with Recipes
Nicole Taylor, Heritage Radio host, Hot Grease
Toni Tipton-Martin, award-winning food journalist and author of two forthcoming books, The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbooks (2015) and The Joy of African American Cooking (2016)
Michael Twitty, independent scholar, culinary historian, historical interpreter, author of the forthcoming book, The Cooking Gene
Mikaila Ulmer, founder and owner of BeeSweet Lemonade and winner on ABC’s Shark Tank
Michele Y. Washington, design writer and educator
Caroline Randall Williams, poet and author of Soul Food Love: Healthy Recipes Inspired by One Hundred Years of Cooking in a Black Family
Tiffanie Barriere, mixologist, Atlanta’s One Flew South
Benjamin Dennis, private chef
Alphonse Dotson, Certenberg Vineyards and Wines of Dotson-Cervantes
Fete Events, Austin Community College of Continuing Education Hospitality and Event Planning
Adrian Lipscombe, Knottynice Bakery, Austin
Kevin Mitchell, chef instructor at Culinary Institute of Charleston
Leslie Moore, Word of Mouth Catering, Austin
Ahri Burton and Angie Smith, Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts
Todd Richards, executive chef, The Shed at Glenwood
Bryant Terry, chef, educator, activist, and author of four books including Afro-Vegan, named one of the best books of 2014 by Amazon.com
Brandon Tipton, graphic and web design, local bartender -The Market
Chris Williams, graduate of Le Cordon Bleu Austin and chef/owner Lucille’s, Houston