Being black in America. What does it make you think of? Hardship? Police Brutality? Oppression? Or do you even think about it at all? Well one man is bringing these concerns to the table, with the dinner series: Blackness in America.
Culinary Artist (don’t you dare call him a chef) Tunde Wey, a native of Lagos, Nigeria, travels across the country to get people talking about a topic that is not only a reality – but for some – can be hard to stomach. And by incorporating city leaders and influencers in this ‘dine and dialog’ concept, along with African cuisine, Wey hopes to bring race and food together in a way that not only promotes thought – but creates action.
Starving on a Budget: Where did the idea of creating a dinner series come from?
Tunde Wey: I opened up a restaurant with a friend in Detroit in 2013 and my restaurant served contemporary American food. And I didn’t understand the food, it tasted kind of strange. I didn’t understand what people were doing with shaved fennel and thinly sliced rashises and I was like ‘this is too ridiculous for me.' I felt that I needed to go back to the food I grew up on, the food that I eat which is Nigerian food. And I want to share that food with other people, but as a way to teach them food can be different. So I started cooking from a very political place. But I was speaking about a limited subject to a limited group of people. I was speaking about the aesthetics and value and objectification of food to people who loved food, and who wanted to know about food - when there’s a larger societal context.
SOAB: When did it click to make it about ‘Blackness in America?'
TW: After the publicized killings of black folks like Mike Brown and the emergence of the Black Lives Matter movement. I was like, I can’t pretend that my politics around food are valuable or important when there’s a larger conversation happening.
SOAB: How does the food correlate with the dinner as a whole?
TW: I try to not have the food play a prominent part in the dinner. I try not to talk about the food. I don’t say too much about it, we just get into the conversation. But the food is there as a way to lubricate social mixing.
SOAB: What was the initial response to the series?
TW: I think it has gone well. It’s novel enough where people want to do it, and people want to come. But the real question isn’t how has the dinner series been received, but what is the impact of the dinner series because the work that I am trying to do is to hopefully address structural racism
Tunde is now shifting from Blackness in America, to a new dinner series — 1882 — discussing anti immigrant sentiment in the United States For more info, click here.