Responding to the Call – Keeping Our Eyes on the Pies!
AUGUST 9, 2014 … another bloody hot day. There I sat in the comfort of my air-conditioned home watching media coverage of another Black mother’s son lying lifeless on a scorching asphalt street—this time in Ferguson, Missouri. Like others prior, the news of Michael Brown’s death tore at my heart as I thought, that could have been my son. I ached for the unknown mother who would never again hear a response to her call, “Come on inside baby, it’s time to eat!”
And so I wept.
Escalating hotter than the weather was the tremendous tension of the protests. As I viewed eyes filled with anger and fear flash across my television screen, I asked myself, what can I do? There came a soft yet clear response (I believe from God): “Go into your kitchen, make some sweet potato pies, pack your car, and deliver them down to Ferguson.” And so I did.
On Friday, August 29, 2014, at the crack of dawn, my son Adam and I hit the road with thirty freshly baked sweet potato pies in the trunk of my car. My pastor daughter, Roslyn, created a poem to accompany each pie (see The Pie) Upon arrival, first I asked permission of each person as I offered them a gift of a pie and soon discovered that each one had something to share about how the pie had come at just the right time. And so I listened.
The events in Ferguson were the beginning of Rose McGee’s special brand of “baketivism,” using food culture and other creative forms of relationship-building to create change in our world.
Since that fateful day, Sweet Potato Comfort Pie has continued to deliver much-needed connection, conversation and catalytic action among educators, leaders in positions of governance, communities experiencing recent trauma, youth and elders in cross-generational mentorship programs, and many others. See more about our activities.
SWEET POTATO COMFORT PIE JUBILEE IN CELEBRATION OF JUNETEENTH. The Jubilee is our keynote Summer event. In 2021, Sweet Potato Comfort Pie partnered with the 25th Annual Peace Celebration for a Jubilee celebration and festival. Held in St. Paul’s Western Sculpture Park, the event drew an amazing crowd, and featured SPCP’s photo exhibit, Character Values: Upholding Our Beloved Community (see below). More about the 2021 event here. In 2022, the Jubilee featured the production and staging of an original play, Kumbayah, The Juneteenth Story, which drew over 400 people to performances at the Breck School’s Cargill Theater (more details here). For both 2021 and 2002 events, the Jubilee included a Sweet Potato Comfort Pie Bake-off with celebrity judges.
ANNUAL DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. SERVICE HOLIDAY. What began as an idea and partnership in our resident city (Golden Valley) has grown into a huge annual event, as well as a model adopted by other organizations for meaningful celebration of this day. The event brings together people of all races and generations for celebration, education, and to have conversations about the ongoing impact of racism, and our fight for Beloved Community.
THE “ROSE SERVICE SCHOLARS” COHORT. This is a cross-generational, mutual mentorship program that connects youths and elders around topics of cultural identity, career, technology and community.
Shown at left: Rose Service Scholars Kai Miller (on left) and Ayres Warren (right) with Rose McGee (center). They’re attending the 88th birthday of elder civil rights icon Dr. James Meredith, who integrated the University of Mississippi in 1962
SPEAKERS & OTHER SERIES. We create speaker series, story circle events, and healing spaces that amplify Black and BIPOC voices. A few of our key events to date have been the 4-part “How Can We Breathe” series with the MN Humanities Center; the Katie Sample Series of conversations; and a week of healing events during the anniversary week of the murder of Mr. George Floyd. By popular demand, this series of Virtual Healing Tea Circles was held again in 2022.
PHOTO EXHIBIT: “CHARACTER VALUES. UPHOLDING BELOVED COMMUNITY.” The “Character Values: Upholding Our Beloved Community” exhibit made its initial showing to the public at our first Annual Sweet Potato Comfort Pie Jubilee in 2021. This exhibit uplifts and amplifies community heroes who embody characteristics that build Beloved Community. Since its debut, the photo exhibit has been requested at several venues, and also was shown during 2022 Jubilee events.
“Character Values: Upholding Our Beloved Community” is an original product of and produced by Sweet Potato Comfort Pie®. Please avoid copying or distributing this content without permission from Sweet Potato Comfort Pie. Produced June 2021. This exhibit was made possible by the Bush Foundation’s Bush Connect Program. Expansion of this exhibit was made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
“Who knew baking a pie could be so transformative. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, helplessness, fear and rage boiled in my heart. Over the course of baking with others that night (in our own homes), sharing texts of our pies, and filling my home with sweet smells, I was profoundly soothed. The tears fell. And I slept for the first time that week.”
~Barb, Pie Baker