Stories

Katie Sample Series

Sweet Potato Comfort Pie partnered with the University of MN for a special series geared toward helping educators prepare and best help black students. See The Katie Sample Series: Accelerating Teacher Preparation for Black Students Kindergarten through Higher Ed.

 

“How Can We Breathe” Series

Sweet Potato Comfort Pie worked with MN Humanities Center to produce this critical series of events in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. The series featured 4 conversations/workshops: The Mamas, the Elders and Youth, the Artists and Meaning-makers, and the Policy-makers and Community leaders. More information here.

George Floyd

After the murder of Mr. George Floyd, Rose’s call to action was for people to bake pies virtually in their homes with her. Some went to the memorial site, some went to Lake St. businesses, some went to community leaders, and some went to Semilla Center for Healing and the Arts in South Minneapolis. Semilla has taught over 2,300 people how to create artwork and murals to heal their community. The artist who created the now-famous mural for George Floyd was one of the first artists mentored at Semilla. Coverage here.

Voices for Racial Justice

This organization works with communities to build racial equity into conversations about education, economic opportunity, health, safe neighborhoods, affordable housing, public transportation, criminal justice, and more. Their work leads the way toward more inclusive and equitable Minnesota. The organization participated in several events with Sweet Potato Comfort Pie.

Tree of Life Synagogue

Sweet Potato Comfort Pie teamed with Heilicher Minneapolis Jewish Day School to bake kosher sweet potato comfort pies. The pies were delivered to the people impacted by the deadly Pittsburgh synagogue attack, and included gathering, story sharing and discussion. Coverage of the story here.

Martin Luther King Jr. Events

Many churches and schools have adopted the Sweet Potato Comfort Pie Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday of Service model to create their own community-building event for the holiday. This includes “pie-dentity workshops”, discussions, and baking the number of pies that correspond to the age Martin Luther King would currently be had he lived.

Mogadishu: St. Louis Park

After the terrorist attack in Mogadishu, St. Louis Park police officers wanted to do something to show they cared and reach out to the local Somali community. It was “an opportunity to bring community members and police department and the city to talk and get to know one another,” said Lieutenant Mikael Garland with the St. Louis Park police. Coverage here.

Charleston, SC: AME Church

56 sweet potato pies were brought to the church that was a victim of a white supremacist terrorist attack that killed 9. Roughly 150 people were in attendance to receive the pies and experience solidarity and offers of comfort and support. That group included the Rev. Norvell Goff, who has stepped in to lead the church after pastor Clementa Pinckney was killed. Coverage here.

The 810 Project

Founder Tim Daniels was presented with a pie from Farrell Terry of Eagan, Minnesota, in appreciation of Tim’s vision with the “810 Project” in North Minneapolis. Tim, with his own time and resources is building a safe space for people to come in off the streets for prayer and healing.

YouthCARE (Youth for Cultural Appreciation & Racial Equality)

This group received honorary pies in appreciation of their work inspiring intercultural leadership of city youth, ages 7-18.

WE WIN Institute

WE WIN is a community-based organization dedicated to the academic and social success of all children. The organization fosters a “can do” attitude and a positive belief for the children in themselves, their communities, and their world. Jameica Norman, Reba Kissell, Rakia Norman, Selena Lerma, Titi Bediako and Tyona Spencer participated in a team-building “group bake” and helped in every aspect of pie baking.

 

Congressman Keith Ellison

Representative Ellison was the first African American elected from Minnesota to the U.S. House and the first Muslim elected to Federal office. He now serves as the Attorney General of Minnesota, and received a pie when he spoke at Sweet Potato Comfort Pie’s 2016 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. event.

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Community stories

“During the table discussions, we were asked to discuss a time we had felt injustice. Like a down coat allows you to face the cold, I feel as though these pies give us warmth. They allow us to face the discomfort. Receiving a Sweet Potato Comfort Pie is wonderful, but there’s also a deeply healing aspect of baking the pies in an environment of cooperation and respect.”

Martin Spies, Pie Baker

“I was truly skeptical as to the power that pie had to bring people together. I’ve never been a sentimental person, nor do I think I will ever be. But I decided that there was no group more deserving than the amazing young people I work with, so I shared the pie with them. It helped me really understand the entire purpose of the pie sharing in a way that I wasn’t able to. Sharing the pie was less about the pie and more about the people I was sharing the space with. There was a certain shift in the mood following the passage I read after offering them the pie. It became a more emotionally-connected room. I was much more aware and in tune with the people in the room and how absolutely excited they were to eat some pie. It wasn’t until much later that I reflected on what exactly the pie sharing experience had helped me realize. The pie itself did not have as much meaning as the gesture of giving the pie did. It took me a while, but I now understand how important it is to reach out and what better way than to build community through pie.”

– Sara Osman, Pie to Youth Undoing Institutional Racism

“We met many of the survivors of the Tree of Life tragedy, listened to their stories, shared tears with them, some in shul, and some in their homes. We sang Adon Olam to the tune of the Minnesota Rouser, taught them John Orenstein’s Mi Chamocha, toured the Squirrel Hill neighborhood. We shared the story of how we baked the kosher pies, and they LOVED the pies. Laminated Jewish stars hang from trees around the neighborhood. The Starbucks is decorated with illustrations of hearts and words of our Middot, our values. Kindness, Hope, Love. חסד תקווה אהבה.ץ.

What stuck out to me most was the security guards and the custodians, most of them African American, which is relevant only in the sense that they greeted us with great anticipation, saying, “I haven’t had sweet potato pie since my mom passed.” And then they proceeded to tell us about the impact of the shootings on what they referred to as, “Our congregants.” They have been the witnesses to how the people are moving through the grief. Keith said he works seven days a week, because he knows his congregants need the consistency. He also spoke about being a martial arts expert, and knows that his hands and quick action would be more crucial than his gun if he had to defend anyone. He shared that he’s willing to put his life on the line for these people. He also said he wears a bright neon green security vest, and a baseball hat that says “Security” in big yellow letters because he knows that out on the street, he’s a target due to the color of his skin.

People had been anticipating our visit and were waiting for these pies. Each had a story.”

– Wendy Goldberg, Pies to Tree of Life Synagogue

“The gift of a Sweet Potato Comfort Pie shaped my DNA – it was about love and the potential of the community.”

Dr. Carlton Jenkins
Former Superintendent, Robbinsdale Public Schools
Pie from Andrea Bejarao-Robinson

“We live in a world that has universal adversity. The Creator has many gifts to send through other people. The Creator sends angels out with gifts. This is how I received my gift one day. My angel came to me delivering a pie. My angel’s name is Freesia Towle. Her Native-given name is White Owl Woman. Adversity is one of the tools Creator uses to strengthen us. Rose McGee’s Sweet Potato Comfort Pies come to us sent by angels so we are never alone in our adversity.”

– Linda Lucero
Traditional Healer and 7th-generation Circle Keeper of White Earth Nation
Pie from Freesia Towle

“One morning as I was getting ready for work, I was hit with the devastating news that I needed to submit $300 to my landlord that I didn’t have…[at a] Sweet Potato Comfort Pie planning session, we were asked to go around the circle to share our own story about what brought us there. I shared how I knew that I represented youth who are being racially profiled and being denied access to a host of opportunities. Overwhelmed, I burst into tears. The people in the room were amazingly open and kind. Everyone cried with me. They cared about me and my story. Then, Rose McGee came over with the sweet potato pie that she was planning to give to a dignitary in the room, saying, ‘I’ve decided that you’re the one who needs this pie.’ And I really did. For those who say sweet potato pie can’t change people’s lives, they need to hear my story.”

– Cleveland Darnell Miller, Pie from Rose McGee

“In August 2017, I participated in a pie baking following the bombing at the Dar Al-Farooq Islamic Center and also the explosion at Minnehaha Academy. Leslie Redmond, who would go on to serve as President of the NAACP, was one of our bakers and she brought several pies for her Take Back the Community event at Shiloh Church in North Minneapolis. She gave one of those pies to me, and I shared it with Latriste Graham, the Executive Director of Coming Out of Bondage, a nonprofit organization that is liberating young women from sex trafficking and helping them rebuild their lives. Latriste ended up becoming a dear friend. An inspirational speaker who pulled herself from a life of drugs and sex trafficking, was then the keynote speaker for our 6th Annual MLK Holiday of Service. The connections forged at SPCP are powerful alliances for advancement and change.”

– Kate Towle, Pie from Leslie Redmond, Pie to Latriste Graham

“As for many, the murder of George Floyd threw me into a dark place of grief and rage. Although I have worked for a long time in the space of electoral politics and specifically on anti-racism policy, I found this event required something more than my usual approach. I found that ‘something more’ in a group bake called by Rose McGee. Through the process of baking, delivering pies to the memorial site, and gathering for reflection, I found myself both deeply fortified and deeply informed for the work ahead. Sweet Potato Comfort Pie events remain a go-to when I need to listen to BIPOC voices, activists and leadership to inform my work, and it remains a go-to when I need healing, comeraderie, and strength. It is hard to put the magic of SPCP into words – I only know it is essential for both my life, and my life’s work.”

– Barbara Prindle, Pies to George Floyd Memorial Site Volunteers

“I gave mine to a veteran friend who had a stroke. He has no refrigerator, so we brought it along with lunch, and shared with an older mom (living there) and her daughter (visiting her) who sat at our table. I told the story of why and how the pies were baked, and about Ferguson, Charleston, and the rest. They were deeply moved, and thankful that people were making this kind of an effort. With the large portion that was left, I got my friend’s permission to bring it to the program I run at Plymouth church for adults struggling with mental illness. They are generally people hassled out in the world, not because of skin color, but because of their condition. They also, as a group, tend to be kinder and more caring of one another than just about any group I’ve ever been in. I read Roz’s poem, told again the story of why and how the pies were baked, and then we ate pie. They loved everything about it.”

– Larry Johnson, Pie Baker for Annual Martin Luther King Holiday of Service Event

“I gave one of your delicious pies to Debbie Wells. Debbie works with children and families in St. Louis Park, and her big heart and deep caring touched me. I first met Debbie while volunteering to try to preserve and increase affordable housing here in St. Louis Park. Debbie was working at Meadowbrook, a huge complex of affordable apartments and townhouses. Debbie’s job through the Meadowbrook Collaborative (a collaborative of the St. Louis Park schools, Park Nicollet Foundation and others), was to work with children after school at Meadowbrook to help them with school work and learning enhancement. When the Meadowbrook complex was sold to a new owner and rents were raised, many families were forced to move and seek other affordable housing, which is very scarce. Families came to Debbie for emotional support and help finding resources. Debbie went far above and beyond the call of duty to try to help these families and children. She was deeply honored by the gift of the pie.”

– Janice Goldberg, Pie Baker for Annual Martin Luther King Holiday of Service Event

“We delivered a Sweet Potato Comfort Pie to Leslie Redmond [president of Minneapolis NAACP]. She mentioned usually being on the other side of giving a pie! It was a special moment to express gratitude to Leslie for her endless fight, and for being a main source of news through her Facebook posts. We’ve been listening and learning how to activate as witness to her real time documentation of what’s happening across our city and world. Thank you Ms. Rose, thank you Leslie. Truly at this time, I’m listening, and stand by you in support as we activate change together.”

– Andrea Hartman, Pie to Leslie Redmond