The events in Ferguson, MO were the beginning of Rose McGee’s special brand of “baketivism” — using food culture and other creative forms of connection-building to create change.
Since that fateful day, Sweet Potato Comfort Pie has continued to deliver much-needed connection, conversation and catalytic action. Our work includes:
Healing: Response to racial trauma/crisis with story circles and group bakes; uplifting and honoring marginalized community heroes with the sweet potato comfort pie; special healing retreats such as the Black Women’s Healing retreat; healing tea parties — facilitated conversations that celebrate the Black cultural tradition of tea houses and tea ceremonies.
Live community-building events: Our two largest annual events are the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday of Service in January and our summer Jubilee in Celebration of Juneteenth. These bring people of all backgrounds together to celebrate Black culture, deepen understanding and build relationships.
Speaker series that amplify Black voices and perspectives: We have produced numerous speaker series to deepen understanding of the Black experience and to build solidarity and racial justice commitment. These speaker series are produced by the organization or in partnership, such as our award-winning How Can We Breathe series produced with the Minnesota Humanities Center. We also produce story circles that center Black voice and other people of color, and engage policy makers, educators and others.
The arts: Our original photo exhibit, Character Values: Upholding Our Beloved Community, honors diverse community heroes who have been active in racial justice and healing. It amplifies their work and their lived experiences. This exhibit has been displayed at numerous schools, galleries, churches and other organizations. Contact us to inquire about displaying the exhibit, or for access to our digital version of the photo exhibit. Other arts activities include the production of an original play, Kumbayah, The Juneteenth Story. This educational and moving play dives into the often-hidden history behind the Juneteenth holiday. The play has been performed throughout the state of MN.
The Rose Service Scholar Cohort is a mutual-mentorship program that connects Black and youth and elders. Elders learn about technology and gain connection while youth focus on areas of cultural identity, healing and the arts. In addition, Rose has gathered youth for special pie bakes and cultural discussions at many schools and youth groups in MN and beyond.
SWEET POTATO COMFORT PIE JUBILEE IN CELEBRATION OF JUNETEENTH. This 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). Read more about the 2021 event here. In 2022 and 2023, the Jubilee featured the production and staging of an original play, Kumbayah, The Juneteenth Story, for performances all over the state of MN. Jubilee events also included the Sweet Potato Comfort Pie Showcase at the Mill City Farmer’s Market. Participants shared their recipes and the family and cultural stories behind each one.
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 and education, and to have conversations about the ongoing impact of racism and our struggle to create Beloved Community.
THE ROSE SERVICE SCHOLARS COHORT. This is a cross-generational, mutual mentorship program that connects Black youth and elders around topics of cultural identity, the arts, resiliency and community. Elders gain community and connection while the youth gain support, a sense of belonging and practical insight and resources for creating an empowered future.
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 voices. A few of our key events to date have been the four-part “How Can We Breathe” series with the Minnesota 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. This exhibit made its initial showing to the public at our first annual Sweet Potato Comfort Pie Jubilee in 2021. The work honors and amplifies community heroes who have worked for racial justice and healing, and who embody the characteristics of Beloved Community. Since its debut, the photo exhibit has gone on the road and been shown at churches, schools, galleries and a variety of events. A digital version of the photo exhibit is available by request for educational or other purposes. Please contact us to request it.
“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.
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 30 freshly-baked sweet potato pies in the trunk of my car. My pastor daughter, Rosalyn, 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.