I love this profile of Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garza on her cooking habit and the role food plays in her life and in her organizing. What organizer worth her salt hasn't spent hours and days at kitchen tables? There's a reason that the publisher of seminal works by radical women of color in the 1970s was called Kitchen Table Press. Fun fact: Kitchen Table Press published Home Girls: A Black Feminist Anthology and This Bridge Called My Back. Food is nourishing, and nourishment is bonding, therefore food is critical to organizing. I especially love that this story includes Alicia's family recipes.
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.