Sadè Meeks has a story to tell.
Thing is, she may not have to say a word to connect with you. Instead, Meeks’ message about food as resistance could tickle your nostrils and make your stomach growl. In the process, Meeks hopes you will develop a greater understanding of food history and sate your appetite at the same time.
“There’s something powerful about gaining this awareness,” said Meeks, a 2015 graduate of Mississippi University for Women’s Ina E. Gordy Honors College. “Black people were stripped away from their culture and history during the slave trade and in other ways as well. However, through food, so much of that history and culture is preserved.”
Meeks will return to The W for the Social Justice Speaker Series at 6 p.m. March 9, at Nissan Auditorium. The event is a part of The W’s celebration of Black History Month and the Gordy Honors College’s Forum Series and is co-sponsored by the Culinary Arts Institute, John Clayton Fant Memorial Library, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Council and Gordy Honors College. The event was rescheduled in February due to the threat of severe weather.
As part of the event, Meeks will present her documentary “Food as Resistance.” There will be a discussion about the 27-minute film, which examines the systematic realities that impact our food systems and how narrative change of cultural foods can be part of our resistance. The film focuses on reclaiming the African American food narrative and is the byproduct of Meeks’ travels from November 2021 to December 2022.
Meeks also will do a workshop with culinary arts students at The W prior to the presentation.
“My 100-year-old grandmother’s story of her garden is an example of what encouraged me to understand the power of storytelling, but also to try to encourage people by helping them understand the nuances of food as resistance,” Meeks said. “Just as there are many ways to eat healthily, there are many ways to use food as resistance. I expound more on that in the documentary and the ‘Food as Resistance’ presentations.”
Meeks, who is from Jackson, is the founder of Growing Resistance in the South (GRITS). She said her desire to pursue The W’s Bachelor of Science degree in Culinary Arts stemmed from watching her mother cook and later being “upgraded” to her pastry chef for Sunday dinners. Meeks’ love for food motivated her to bake and sell cakes to her mother’s friends and co-workers when she was in middle school and fueled her passion to become a pastry chef and then to learn more about nutritional science. She is pursuing a master’s degree in Nutritional Science from California State University at Los Angeles (CSULA).
“Sadé’s honors research at The W on organic vs. processed foods was a precursor to her pioneering work connecting culture and foodways to nutrition education,” said Dr. Kim Whitehead, a professor of English and Religion and the director of the Gordy Honors College. “It is very exciting to celebrate what she is doing and to have her back on campus so our students and campus community can benefit from her expertise, experience, and example.”
Meeks said her academic and lived experiences led her to found GRITS, which is based in Jackson but has a national reach. She said the goal of GRITS is to bridge the gap between nutrition and culture and promote narrative change regarding cultural foods. To accomplish those goals, GRITS has partnered with the Local Mississippi Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind and Healthworks Jackson and plans to build on those partnerships. It also plans to launch a capital campaign this year and to develop a GRITS campus in Jackson.
“The popular narrative is that African-America foods are ‘bad,’ but contrary to that false narrative, there are so many nutritious and beneficial parts of our foods,” Meeks said. “That’s the story GRITS tells.
“When black people gain a greater understanding of things like food history, it can give us the power to advocate for justice for black farmers, to dismantle stereotypes and change the narratives that perpetuate anti-black racism, or to use our voice to speak out against injustice whether that’s on a personal, community and/organizational level. This awareness gives us the power to promote and advocate for social justice and food justice.”
The Social Justice Speaker Series originated in 2022 after Fant Memorial Library received The W’s University Initiative Impact Award for its efforts to enhance diversity, promote cultural diversity and cultivate an inclusive campus community. Dr. Ebony Lumumba (Jan. 24) and Dr. Tim Lampkin (March 21) also will be a part of the series to speak about their social justice initiatives.
“We have been working on organizing a series of speakers that will highlight social justice initiatives in the state of Mississippi and beyond,” said Amanda Clay Powers, dean of library services. “We hope to inspire our students and the broader community by showing the variety of social justice work being done by these inspiring leaders.”
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Feb. 7, 2023
Contact: Adam Minichino