Explaining: Looking for My Families’ Slaveowners

This project is sacred to me and the people who have elected to spend time working on it with me.

Making that video was not easy.  Although I treated it as though it were a matter of routine, I began to feel emotionally wound up and hurt as I stammered out the names.  I realized that these were not just names.  They were labels that had replaced labels of clan names and lineages that my blood had borne for centuries if not millenia.  It came through that these names had come to define my families and that as I began reading them I realized for the first time–HOW MANY DIFFERENT PATHS AND NAMES AND PEOPLE WERE INVOLVED IN THE ENSLAVEMENT OF MY FAMILY.

And there are more…plenty more.  In my minds eye the generations started lining up and what was a few people soon filled the room.  There were before me several hundred people who lived and died in American slavery.  I thought it would be 50 or 60–and it was much larger.  For the first time my family tree became real–and alive..the dead could talk.  At the same time, I could feel myself talking to those people who owned and traded my blood–who sold them and sometimes left their genetic mark without thought to consequence and legacy.  It makes sense why so many of us avoid this history–but it gives one peace to finally say–ENOUGH–I am going to deal with this and respond with peace and focus.

We are orphans–orphans of history and culture, orphans of circumstance, orphans of memory.  We have this treasure in our food and food culture with its lost arts and skills that we have taken for granted, sometimes forgotten, and often left to amnesia on purpose.  The food we have shared and passed down is an intimate sense memory that recalls these generations.  It’s the heirlooms we plant like the yam
(white) potato, Cowhorn okra, stubby okra, Carolina gold rice and animals like the guinea fowl or the Spanish black turkey or the Guinea hog.  It is our saying grace, our traditions of libation, our praying a seed into the ground.  There is something beautiful, unique and heartbreaking about us that is only visible in our food.  It is our edible jazz, our eaten scripture, our connection to the past, the voice of our dead.

We hope that you are considering making a small donation to our Indiegogo Campaign.   http://www.indiegogo.com/The-Cooking-Gene-Project-The-Southern-Discomfort-Tour We are hoping to help out a lot of people through this project, but not the least of which, we want to bring people together.  This is already a politically divisive year.  The comments of Rush Limbaugh and others show that we are in for a long hard slog…that will do us as a country more harm than good.  This project is born in love–of humanity, of history and of food.  By bringing the voice of the Ancestors to the table, we are hoping that we repairing the wounds of the past–doing Tikkun Olam–repairing the world.

235 years ago who would have imagined that food would bring together Black and White people in complete equality in Williamsburg, Virginia?

As always I ask that you share our blog and our indiegogo page with friends.   http://www.indiegogo.com/The-Cooking-Gene-Project-The-Southern-Discomfort-Tour Social media is crucial to our fundraising but also to making this trip worth it for us and for the communities we will visit.  We need all of our supporters and all of our readers to rally around so we can finalize what will happen on the Tour and how we can best serve the communities we pass through.  Please remember–somebody else will NOT do your good deed for you–so please don’t pass the buck…be a part of this project and remember to send in your family stories!  Love and peace, Michael!


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