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Leah Chase: “We Changed The Course of the World over a Bowl of Gumbo”

NEW ORLEANS DATA NEWS WEEKLY — With the passing this week of New Orleans’ Queen of Creole cuisine, Leah Chase, a part of New Orleans has died. It was at her table where the Freedom Riders gathered to break bread after their dangerous journey into the segregated south. It was there where the NAACP planned strategy. She hosted musicians, artists, actors and Presidents. In typical fashion, she scolded President Obama for adding hot sauce to her already-perfectly-seasoned gumbo.

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By Marc H. Morial, President and CEO National Urban League

“I was taught that your job was to make this earth better. I hope my children will carry on. I hope I’ve taught them enough to keep trying to grow, keep trying to make people understand how to enjoy life. Look at all the beautiful things around you, look at the progress. You gotta enjoy that, you gotta appreciate that, and I do.” – Leah Chase

With the passing this week of New Orleans’ Queen of Creole cuisine, Leah Chase, a part of New Orleans has died. It was at her table where the Freedom Riders gathered to break bread after their dangerous journey into the segregated south. It was there where the NAACP planned strategy. She hosted musicians, artists, actors and Presidents. In typical fashion, she scolded President Obama for adding hot sauce to her already-perfectly-seasoned gumbo.

My earliest memories of Mrs. Chase were Friday night outings with my grandparents to her landmark restaurant, Dooky Chase. In the days of Jim Crow, most of the upscale restaurants refused to serve Black patrons, so Dooky Chase quickly became a cultural, social and political center for Black life in New Orleans. When the National Urban League held our conference in New Orleans in 2012, I was proud to hold our Board of Trustees meeting there.

No visit home to New Orleans has ever been complete without a meal at Dooky Chase and a visit to the kitchen to catch up with its tireless proprietress. The woman whose portrait is enshrined in the National Portrait Gallery, and whose life inspired a beloved Disney character was born in Madisonville, Louisiana, across Lake Ponchartrain from New Orleans. One of 11 children, she was 6 years old when the Great Depression struck, and she recalled wearing clothes made from grain sacks and subsisting on food from their own garden.

She arrived in New Orleans to attend Catholic high school, and went on to work at a French Quarter restaurant for $1 a day. Just after World War II ended, she married jazz musician Edgar “Dooky” Chase, whose parents owned a po’ boy stand in Treme. Over the years she would transform the business into one of the most significant and celebrated restaurants in the entire country.

A generation of children were introduced to Leah Chase in the character of Tiana, Disney’s first African-American princess, in 2009’s The Princess and the Frog. When he first visited Dooky Chase, the film’s co-director John Musker, he was surprised to see a photo of General George Patton on the wall among Mrs. Chase’s famed collection of African-American art.

“She goes, ‘That was a man that I admired,’” Musker recalled. “It was just a great thing to see this warm and nurturing thing, but she has this flinty side, too, where she can be both. That’s what we tried to get with Tiana, that she’s very warm and vulnerable but she has a passion, spine and a backbone and she’s really trying to get something done and doesn’t give in easily to things.”

Mrs. Chase always said, “In my dining room, we changed the course of America over a bowl of gumbo and some fried chicken.” It was an honor beyond words to count her among my friends, and to carry forth her legacy.

This article originally appeared in the New Orleans Data News Weekly

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Advice

A Sampling of Dining Out Options for Thanksgiving Soul Food Around California

While many people enjoy preparing and eating that turkey dinner at home, some people prefer to outsource their feast. For those folks, here’s a small sampling of some soul food restaurants around the state that will be open on or around Thanksgiving.

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Minnie Bell’s sign and a pan of their typical fare: Brussels sprouts and macaroni and cheese. Facebook image and photo.
Minnie Bell’s sign and a pan of their typical fare: Brussels sprouts and macaroni and cheese. Facebook image and photo.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles | California Black Media

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and with that comes greens, beans, candied yams, turkey (roasted and deep-fried), dressing, mac n’ cheese, sweet potato pie and all the other soul food “fixins” that make the holiday meal arguably the tastiest meal of the year for many African Americans. We can choose from a diverse menu of food options that we prepare at home, or we can try to enjoy those options dining out.

The city of Inglewood, for example, is hosting a drive-thru turkey giveaway on Nov. 23 with special guest Snoop Dogg.

The event will go from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. and is located at Hollywood Park. The goal is to serve 2,500 Inglewood residents with free turkeys provided by Don Lee Farms.

While many people enjoy preparing and eating that turkey dinner at home, some people prefer to outsource their feast.

For those folks, here’s a small sampling of some soul food restaurants around the state that will be open on or around Thanksgiving.

Minnie Bell’s (Emeryville)

Minnie Bell’s — a soul food truck in Emeryville up north — may not be open Thanksgiving Day, it will be open on the 23rd for those who want to celebrate a little early.

Founded by Fernay McPherson in 2013, “Minnie Bell’s Soul Movement” is born out of legacy.

“Fernay learned to cook from her great aunt Minnie and late grandmother Lillie Bell,” the website reads. “Fernay’s family arrived in San Francisco during the Great Migration as part of the relocation of more than 6 million African Americans from the rural South to cities in the North and West.”

Minnie Bell’s is located in the Emeryville Public Market at 5959 Shellmound St.

StreetCar (San Diego)

On Nov. 24, they will be hosting a Thanksgiving feast event.

“Bring your friends and family on Thanksgiving Day for a celebratory feast,” their flyer reads.

The event is located at 4002 30th St. and will go from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Founded by Ron Suel and RaVae Smith in 2014, StreetCar specializes in southern cuisine and features an all-day brunch menu.

“You will find classic southern dishes and Louisiana favorites,” their website reads.

ComfortLA (Los Angeles)

In Downtown Los Angeles, ComfortLA is an option for those who want to eat out this holiday as it’s open on Thanksgiving Day.

Located on 1110 E. 7th St., ComfortLA was once a pop-up restaurant founded by Jeremy McBryde and Mark E. Walker.

ComfortLA focuses on taking a clean approach to their menu, sporting a variety of all-natural soul food options.

“We use locally sourced, fresh and organic ingredients and healthier cooking methods to create top-notch, Southern cuisine including ‘Cousin Kina’s Mac ‘n’ Cheese,’ ‘Clean Mean Greens’ and our signature ‘Organic Not Your Average Fried Chicken’ with ‘That Sauce,’” it reads on their website.

They also have an Inglewood location, though that restaurant is not open on Thanksgiving.

Hotville Chicken (Los Angeles)

The last establishment on this list is Hotville Chicken in Los Angeles.

This restaurant is not open the day of Thanksgiving, but patrons can order ahead of time and pick their food up on the 24th.

Hotville, then known as the BBQ Hot Chicken Shack, was founded by Thornton Prince in 1936 in a segregated part of town.

Thornton’s great-great niece Kim Prince now runs the family business.

Their website boasts about how spicy their chicken is, as Thornton’s original recipe focused heavily on a fiery flavor.

“If you’ve never heard about Nashville-style hot chicken, it’s certainly time to get familiar,” it reads.

Prince’s focus is on community, as Thornton’s original chicken recipe “brought people together” even in a divided town.

Hotville is located at 4070 Marlton Ave.

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Activism

Oakland’s Two Star Market to Host 20th Annual Thanksgiving Community Celebration Nov. 24

Farouq Alawdi, manager of Two Star, the former historic site of the Tepper Hotel and Beer Garden, said his staff and volunteers are ready to feed an anticipated 1,000+ guests during the afternoon celebration feast. “We are prepared to cook 100 turkeys, 500 pounds of grilled chicken, side dishes, and plenty of pies for dessert,” said Alawdi.

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Clifford L. Williams
Clifford L. Williams

By Clifford L. Williams

Autumn is in the air, which means the holiday season is getting ready to set it off, and one of the biggest holidays is celebrating Thanksgiving.

Oakland’s Two Star Market, a family-owned, community-oriented convenience store, located at 2020 MacArthur Blvd. (off Fruitvale Avenue in the Dimond District), is gearing up once again to recognize the special holiday with its 20th Annual Thanksgiving Community Celebration Thursday, November 24, between 1:00 p.m and 4:00 p.m.

To make this a successful event, Two Star is seeking at least 100 volunteers to help with serving the throngs of people expected to attend. Volunteers should bring their own aprons and oven mittens.”

Volunteers interesting in helping to feed residents should text Aleja Rambonga at 510-847-9398 or alejarambonga@gmail.com.  Donations are welcomed by visiting www.2starmarket.com. For more information, call 510-531-3576.

Similar to last year, the annual Thanksgiving meal will be modified because of the lingering pandemic which has determined how large groups of people can gather and celebrate during festive times.  Attendees are encouraged to wear a mask as well as social distancing. Masks will be provided upon request.

Already, the Market’s staff is stocking up for the big meal and making arrangements to reconfigure its parking lot to handle the nearly 800 guests who attended last year, and the many more who are expected to attend the free event this year.

Food will be served buffet-style to guests, and there will be limited seating outside throughout the day. Families with more than two members will be able to take additional dinners with them.

Farouq Alawdi, manager of Two Star, the former historic site of the Tepper Hotel and Beer Garden, said his staff and volunteers are ready to feed an anticipated 1,000+ guests during the afternoon celebration feast. “We are prepared to cook 100 turkeys, 500 pounds of grilled chicken, side dishes, and plenty of pies for dessert,” said Alawdi.

“All of the turkey dinners are provided by Two Star Market,” said Alawdi. “We’ve been serving these hot dinners for the past 19 years, feeding local residents, as well as people from other cities. It is our way of paying back to the community because without them, we wouldn’t be here. The community has helped to sustain our business since we first opened in 1983.”

“The dinners have become a tradition that began with my grandfather back home in Yemen. It was during the Holy Month of Ramadan where dinner is served for those in need.  So, 19 years ago, my brother Adob, and our dad, decided to continue that tradition here in the United States. It was the best way to give back to the community.”

“When we first started here in Oakland, it was just for local residents, and over the years we’ve reached out to provide dinners to anyone who wanted a Thanksgiving meal. Past celebrations had guests coming from Richmond, Hayward and Fremont.”

Alawdi said “the only thing the public needs to bring is a good appetite and have fun while listening to live entertainment including DJ-provided Latin jazz, old-school and rap music.” Children attending the event will also enjoy playing in a jump house and other activities at the venue. An assortment of donated clothing and shoes will be available for attendees.

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Activism

Stop Hate. Spread Love: California Black Media Campaign Unveiled at L.A.’s Taste of Soul Fest

A report released by California Attorney General Rob Bonta in June revealed hate crimes inspired by racism and homophobia showed a 33% uptick in reported incidents in the state in 2021. Hate crimes against Blacks were the most prevalent, according to the report. There were 513 crimes committed against Blacks in 2021, 13% more than the 456 in 2020.

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By McKenzie Jackson | California Black Media

The “Stop the Hate. Spread the Love,” initiative spearheaded by California Black Media (CBM) and others, was introduced to the Los Angeles community at the 17th annual Taste of Soul Family Festival on October 15.

Representatives of the campaign maintained a booth at the daylong, multicultural event that drew over 300,000 people to a two-mile stretch of Crenshaw Boulevard in South Los Angeles to celebrate the Black cultural experience – as well as the traditions of other ethnic groups — through food, music, and art.

Brandon Brooks, CBM’s campaign project manager, said attending the festival was a good way to familiarize people with Stop the Hate and organizations that are geared toward combatting hate incidents and hate crimes in the Golden State.

“We brought together a lot of partners to give information on how to combat and address hate — outside of law enforcement,” Brooks said.

Representatives from local and state government departments including the City of Los Angeles’ Civil + Human Relations & Equity Department, the California Secretary of State, the California Department of Social Services, and the California Civil Rights Department were at the three-table booth with Brooks and CBM Executive Director Regina Wilson.

“Having those representatives on hand was a must,” Brooks said. “If you or I experience hate we might not be comfortable with calling the LAPD or sheriff’s department, so who can we actually really call,” Brooks asked rhetorically, speaking to this CBM reporter. “You can actually call the civil rights department; you can call social services. A lot of people don’t know that. These organizations are there to be a resource or an olive branch to start that dialogue. You may need some help. That’s these organizations’ job.”

A report released by California Attorney General Rob Bonta in June revealed hate crimes inspired by racism and homophobia showed a 33% uptick in reported incidents in the state in 2021. Hate crimes against Blacks were the most prevalent, according to the report. There were 513 crimes committed against Blacks in 2021, 13% more than the 456 in 2020.

Becky L. Monroe, the California Civil Rights Department’s deputy director for strategic initiative and external affairs, said working to eliminate hate crimes and the attitudes and circumstances that contribute to them is about saving lives.

“It is critical that people know what their options are if they are targeted for hate and know that we can take action and that we can stop hate and spread love,” Monroe said.

CBM is in the early stages of its Stop the Hate public information campaign. The media and advocacy organization’s goal is to publish a series of stories that educate Black Californians and state residents from other backgrounds about each other’s lives, cultures and traditions as it promotes an appreciation for diversity and fosters deeper inter-ethnic understanding.

CBM has four events or festivals planned within the next year that promote the message of the Stop the Hate campaign.

“Regina’s goal is to really break bread and bring people together,” said Brooks, referring to CBM’s executive editor.

The initiative is funded by a joint venture of the California State Library and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs. The Ethnic Media Grant Project has awarded nearly $6 million in grants to 50 ethnic media outlets and organizations serving communities that are historically vulnerable to hate crimes and hate incidents.

The program’s aim is to enhance public awareness of the Stop the Hate Program being run by the state’s social services department.

Festival attendees who visited the Stop the Hate booth were able to meet representatives from media publications Al Enteshar, Carib Press, Ethnic Media Services, Impulso News, and Indian Voices.

The booth was sponsored by CBM, Ethnic Media Services, the Civil + Human Relations & Equity, the NAACP, and the California Civil Rights Department.

Brooks said CBM’s Taste of Soul booth was successful because it introduced people to the Stop the Hate initiative and individuals gained more information about fighting hate crimes and reporting hate incidents.

“When you say hate crimes or hate incidents, we, as a collective, really need to figure out how to address this topic,” he said. “We really wanted to bring resources and information to the community.”

Los Angeles Sentinel Executive Editor Danny J. Bakewell Jr., whose newspaper organizes Taste the Soul and is a CBM partner, said the festival aligns with “Stop the Hate. Spread the Love.”

“That is what Taste of Soul is all about,” Bakewell said to CBM’s videographer. “Spreading the love, right here in our own community on Crenshaw Boulevard.”

“California Black Media was supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library.”

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