To honor Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I’d like to tell you about my mom’s friend Rose McGee, and her Sweet Potato Comfort Pie project. Rose’s pie activism, or “baketivism” started in 2014, after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and the protests that followed. Feeling heartbroken, she asked herself what she could do to help, and the answer came to her: “Go into your kitchen, make some sweet potato pies, pack your car, and deliver them down to Ferguson.”
That initial act was the beginning of a movement of activism, using a traditional Black comfort food as a means of healing and forging community. Rose then founded an annual event to celebrate Martin Luther King’s birthday, centered around the pies. Each year, she organizes a celebration that pulls together a diverse community of people to educate and discuss the impacts of racism. Participants create the pies and choose members of the community to gift them to as a way of healing and deepening the human connection. This year, they baked 94 pies in honor of what would have been Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 94th birthday.
There is so much I love about Rose’s organization. I love their mission: “to advance racial justice and equity, heal damage caused by race-based trauma and elevate marginalized voices and experiences”. I love her focus on inclusion and diversity within her community, emphasizing that this is work we all must shoulder and a cause we all share. And I love the elevation of a simple act of creativity to a gesture of kindness, compassion and healing. There is power in that spark of human creativity, and in honoring the foods and culture of our histories.
I happened to notice that I have all the ingredients for the recipe. I think tonight I will bake a Sweet Potato Comfort Pie in honor of Martin Luther King’s 94th birthday, and also in honor of Rose and her community.