A Blade of Grass Films


Black Self-Determination: Our Mothers’ Kitchens

Working collectively as Our Mothers’ Kitchens, Philadelphia-based A Blade of Grass Fellows Khaliah Pitts and Shivon Love produce a youth cooking and literary camp and intimate dinner parties to honor the literary and culinary history of Black women writers. The gatherings provided a space to read and eat together, inviting the community to celebrate the liberating potential of food and language

AIRED: August 10, 2020 | 0:06:26

[ Indistinct conversations ]

Today, we're going to be making collards, kale.

We're going to sauté some veggies first.

We don't want this woody stem.

Pull it away.

Then you have all this lovely, curly kale.

Pitts: My first memory is of being in the kitchen.

And that's where, in my head, me starts.


When you're stirring, stir from the bottom.

Cooking methods have been passed on for generations.

Our mothers and grandmothers and aunties,

they were massively creative in the kitchen,

but they didn't get to live their life as artists

because of their circumstances.

And a lot of their artistry got overlooked.

We wanted to share some of their history and culture and heritage

and food with the young girls that we work with.

Recipes get passed down through oral tradition.

So food does tell us about what it is to be a Black woman.

Thank you for being here with us.

Our Mother's Kitchens started off

as a culinary and literature project for Black girls

using the writing of Black women authors.

And looking at the ways that they use food and language

to express the Black experience.

These dinners are an opportunity for us

to share the work that we've been doing with grown ups.

Each dinner is dedicated to one of the central writers

that we work with.

This dinner is in service and in memory of Zora Neale Hurston.

Please consult your menu. These are quotes directly

from Zora's stories or her letters.

And we tried to bring her alive through the food.

This is from "Their Eyes Were Watching God."

"The white man throw down a loo

and told a nigga man to pick it up.

He pick it up because he have to

but he don't hold it. He hand it to his womanfolks.

The nigger woman is the mule of the world,

as far as I can see."

[ Crowd murmuring ]

So Zora Neale Hurston doesn't polish the language

to make it sound like something proper.

Her characters speak the way that folks spoke.

Right? They used Black vernacular.

She got a lot of criticism for that.

I want you to know that how you speak

is beautiful and it's perfect.

And it doesn't need to be changed in any way.

I don't know that those writers are necessarily

being taught in schools.

We think it's important that Black girls do get exposed

to Black women writers.

We want the girls to see themselves as creators.

It doesn't matter if they're 17 years old or 12 years old.

What they have to say

is a valuable part of -- of a conversation.

"I am what I am and my am is specifically designed

and formed for me, myself and I. People can say what I am,

but only I truly know of my am."

We feel like we can trust one another, right?

We wanted to provide something that one --

we didn't necessarily get as young Black girls.

Like, you see plants growing. So this is rainbow chard.

Anybody might know what this?

-Kale. -Kale, yes.

An opportunity to have a supportive environment

of sisterhood where Black girls could just be free,

happy Black girls.

I don't know that we're intentionally trying

to be role models as much as people

that young people are able to connect to.

[ Laughter ]

The community dinner is more so for an adult audience.

However, we found a way to still include

the little sisters that have attended our camp.

Having the girls that were in the camp come to the dinner

and be a part of that helps with that cross generational

connecting or bridging that gap.

They serve as volunteers, so they get to put into practice

some of the things that they've learned.



Cooking is an art.

It is a ritual. It's more than just sustenance.

Black folk, Black women have used food to take care

of one another, sustain their families,

sustain their community.

[ Indistinct conversations ]

Anybody else want to share a little bit about

what they're talking about? -We're talking about

the idea of trauma and how,

like, if you don't have support to be able to open up,

then it's like a lot of missing pieces in the story of,

you know, who we are.

Particularly around stories surrounding women like fathers

and grandfathers are more willing to tell stories

but the matrilineal stories

are not necessarily told.

Those traditions like making sure you know

that your collard greens and your black eyed peas,

like those are things that I remember my grandmother

growing up, my mother growing up.

So just those foods just bought up a lot for me,

just thinking about family members that have passed on

and just kinda not grieving them in a sad way,

but celebrating them.

Pitts: Just like we're doing here.

It's important to never forget

how these women contributed to our culture

and how their work is relevant today just as much as it was

when they were writing.

Pitts: Something that I really hope that people

walk away from the dinners with is that they feel free.

I don't ever get to be in a space

where everything around me,

everything I touch is intentionally for me.

You get this opportunity to learn about people

in a way that you wouldn't have before.

That's what dinner is supposed to feel like.

Come to the table, break bread,

and share your stories.

[ Indistinct conversations ]

[ Conversations continues ]

Woman: I wanna watch people dance. That's all I do.

[ Indistinct conversations ]


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