Calling all food enthusiasts, especially those who love learning about the impact Black and African food ways made on the cuisine in the United States. Netflix will soon release a new 4-part docuseries, High on the Hog, celebrating and highlighting the culinary contributions of Black and African people, and how we shaped American cuisine as a whole.
The series, set to release May 26, is hosted by popular Black food writer Stephan Satterfield who takes viewers on a multi-continent journey of how our food traditions actually reached the United States, and how some cities are still holding on to said traditions.
According to a press release, the series takes viewers on a culinary journey that ventures from Africa to the deep south. The immersive four-episode docu-series part culinary show, part travelogue follows food writer Stephen Satterfield as he meets the chefs, historians, and activists who are keeping centuries-old traditions alive. Over Western African stews, soul food, barbecue, and fine dining, the series, directed by Academy Award winner Roger Ross Williams, reveals an expansive, eclectic culinary history shaped by slavery, the Civil War, Juneteenth, and present day. It’s a story of Black America’s resilience, enduring creativity, and vital contribution to America’s kitchen.
“It’s the story of Black people in America. It all feels very much part of the racial reckoning going on in America and the world right now. Reclaiming our contribution to this country is also about reclaiming our culinary contribution. Because what is food? It brings people together,” Director Roger Ross Williams said.
An adaption of the book penned by food historian Dr. Jessica B. Harris, each episode of High On The Hog travels to destinations like Benin and Charleston, South Carolina, while unpacking the deep connection of enslavement and the way in which we as Black/African Americans eat— ultimately laying out the map of how certain culinary customs appeared in US culture.
“It’s bringing context to food history and the resilience, artistry, and impact that African Americans have had on the American kitchen. Food is a great connector, the more that people can come together and break bread, the more we can celebrate our commonalities as opposed to our differences’ Executive Producer Adrienne Tobak said in a statement.
On April 27, the island of Hawaii passed legislation to officially recognize Juneteenth as a day of acknowledgment and commemoration for the end of enslavement in the United States.
On June 19, 1865, Union Soldiers alerted enslaved Black Americans that the Civil War was over and that they can now be free. 156 years later and there are still two states in the United States that don’t recognise June 19 as an official state holiday.
The complicated history Hawaii has with its Black locals may prove to be why the island nation is still considering the Juneteenth legislation. Black people only make up 3.6% of the island’s population of over 1 million residents. In 1852, the kingdom of Hawaii signed their Constitution that outlawed slavery on the island.
Although, this is a major historical event that showcases progress towards racial equity, Black people still feel like outsiders on the island.
Earlier this year, South Dakota’s Senate passed a measure that would do just that, but the bill didn’t make it through the House. In North Dakota, the governor signed legislation on April 12 making Juneteenth a ceremonial holiday.
Dr. Akeimi Glenn is a Black expat on Oahu and has experienced the small but mighty force of the Black population that inhabits the most populated island. She explains how racism still exists in Hawaii, although it has been previously seen and debunked as a paradisaical escape from the prejudiced history of the United States.
Glenn founded the Popolo Project, a nonprofit based around building visibility for Black people in Hawaii. Through her community engagements, she can get a sense of how the culture is shifting and how it can be propelled forward.
Juneteenth has become a popular annual acknowledgment within recent years because of the countless acts of police brutality that has left the United States even more divided. The murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd have marked a pivotal moment in history where unlawful police officers are finally being charged for their misconduct. There will most likely be a push for Juneteenth to be recognized countrywide when Hawaii passes their bill entirely and the lasting pressure will be on South Dakota.
When it comes to Black History, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, Maya Angelou, James Baldwin, and Muhammad Ali are often mentioned and rightfully so. But what do you know about other Black history heroes across the diaspora like Yaksuke of Japan or Jamaica’s Queen Nanny and David Fagen from the Philippines? If their names don’t immediately ring a bell, you’re not alone. There are several global Black figures that made their mark in this world, and their stories are only now coming to light.
Here Are 6 Black History Figures Across the Diaspora that you should know.
Did you know Afro-Bolivians are still around today?
Afro-Bolivians are descendants of the enslaved West Africans brought by the Spanish between the 16th and 19th Centuries to work in the mines of Potosí, a city in south-western Bolivia that was more populated than London in the early 17th Century. According to Uruguayan journalist Eduardo Galeano, the mines are notorious for claiming the lives of roughly 8 million enslaved indigenous South Americans and Africans over a 300-year period – many of whom died as a result of being overworked, underfed and suffering in the region’s extreme cold.
It is believed that the natives thought that darker skin was more attractive, which is why they were impressed with the skin of the Africans when they first began arriving to Bolivia. For this reason, it is no surprise that many of the Afro-Bolivians would intermarry with the Aymara, adopt many of their cultural elements such as their style of dressing, and even become an Aymaran speaking subculture.
According to the latest Bolivian census in 2012, more than 23,000 people identify as Afro-Bolivians and most of their roots and even King Pinedo are in the Yungas.
The Afro-Bolivian Royal House is referred to as a ceremonial monarchy. It wasn’t until 2007 that the tribe was officially recognized by the Bolivian state as a kingdom and Piñedo was finally acknowledged as king— despite a history that spans more than 500 years.
Piñedo discovered that he was a descendant of Bonifaz, a tribal king from Senegal. Before Bonifaz was Prince Uchicho, who is regarded as the founder of the Afro-Bolivian monarchy.
The trajectory of Prince Uchicho’s life changed after he was enslaved by the Spanish. He was a prince of the ancient Kingdom of Kongo, a kingdom that has a history from the early 1300s and survived until 1914. When the kingdom came in contact with Portuguese traders, it became a source of African slaves.
Prince Uchicho became enslaved in Bolivia after a struggle for the throne with competing sons and chiefs. When he arrived, he was quickly recognized by other slaves because of his body decoration. The royalty of the Kongo Kingdom was known for their royal tribal markings on their torso to set them apart from others.
Uchicho was chosen as the leader among Enslaved Africans and recognized as a king in their new home of Bolivia in 1823, which ultimately, began the lineage of the Afro-Bolivian monarchy. He was succeeded by his son, Bonifaz Pinedo: a name he took from the plantation owner. It’s the name still used by the Afro-Bolivian royalty today.
Julio Piñedo is a different kind of king. He isn’t dressed in a silk robe giving out orders. In fact, he’s a farmer and like so many others in Mururata, you will find him tending to his crops.
King Piñedo and Queen Larrea have a son, Prince Rolando— a law student at the Universidad de Los Andes in La Paz. His major is reportedly influenced by his father’s impact and potential role as the future king.
“I would like to keep pushing forward to make the Afro-Bolivian community more recognized and visible, the way my father has done until now,” he said in a statement.
From a Yoruba family in Lagos State, Nigeria, Babatunde Olatunji, while living in the U.S. after winning a scholarship to study at Morehouse College in Atlanta, wanted to become a diplomat. Thus, after graduating from Morehouse in 1954, he enrolled in the Graduate School of Public Administration and International Relations at New York University.
But two things later moved him towards a career in music. The first was his visit to Ghana as a delegate to the All African People’s Conference organized by Ghanaian president Kwame Nkrumah, who told him he thinks he should be a cultural ambassador. The second was his meeting with Columbia Records producer John Hammond after a concert at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. Hammond would help Olatunji produce his 1959 debut Drums of Passion album which some say may have been the first African music release recorded in a modern U.S. studio.
That album became a major hit, selling millions of copies globally and helping introduce Americans to world music. Olatunji would go on to promote African music, earning a Grammy nomination, being behind compositions for Broadway and Hollywood, as well as appearing on programs including the Tonight Show, the Mike Douglas Show and the Bell Telephone Hour.
In 1964, after performing at the New York World Fair’s African Pavilion, he used the proceeds to open his own Olatunji Center for African Culture in New York’s Harlem neighborhood, where he offered classes in African dance, music, language, folklore, and history. Soon, Olatunji became highly recognized as a pioneer in the fusion of African music and jazz. “…We were playing ‘Afro-jazz’ before anybody called it that,” the recording artiste, who grew up in a fishing village in Nigeria where drumming accompanied every celebration, recalled in an interview.
But while his contribution to music is well known, his commitment to social activism is rarely talked about. “He really deserves to be remembered more for his role as a political activist in the US civil rights movement – before it was even a movement,” Robert Atkinson, who collaborated with Olatunji on his autobiography The Beat of My Drum, was quoted by the BBC in a report.
Indeed, Olatunji’s social activism work started right from his days at Morehouse, where he debunked common myths about Africa.
“They [classmates] had no concept of Africa,” he recalled. “They asked all kinds of questions: ‘Do lions really roam the streets? Do people sleep in trees?’ They even asked me if Africans had tails! They thought Africa was like the Tarzan movies. Ignorance is bliss, but it is a dangerous bliss.
“Africa had given so much to world culture, but they didn’t know it.”
Thus, Olatunji started educating his colleagues about Africa, including its cultural traditions and music. He then went ahead to play African music at university social gatherings while organizing and performing at concerts featuring African and African-American students. These activities were during the height of Jim Crow, and soon, Olatunji was organizing students to challenge the status quo in the south.
Even before Rosa Parks would spark the Montgomery bus boycott, Olatunji was already staging protests on public buses with some of his fellow students.
As president of the Morehouse student body in the 1950s, he was able to meet scores of civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr and Malcolm X. As a matter of fact, when King delivered his historic I Have a Dream speech in August 1963 during the March on Washington, Olatunji was among the over 200,000 people at the event. The percussionist, social activist and educator performed many times for the NAACP and King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.
And at many civil rights rallies, Malcolm X would request him to drum. The man, who is to date described as “the father of African drumming in the U.S.”, was also on the civil rights jazz album We Insist! with playwright Oscar Brown Jr and Max Roach. Back home in Africa, Olatunji was also a part of the anti-colonial resistance movements that had risen across the continent, attending the All African People’s Conference organized by Nkrumah.
The conference, attended by delegates from African countries, prominent African Americans and liberation movements, held discussions on how to achieve continental freedom. Nkrumah had argued that Ghana’s independence would be meaningless if other African states are still colonized by the European powers, and Olatunji couldn’t agree more.
As stated in a report, his involvement in the civil rights movement in the U.S. was largely inspired by the several forms of resistance to colonialism that was occurring in Africa. “He saw himself as a pan-Africanist who always reached out to unify Africans and African Americans,” his wife, Iyafin Ammiebelle Olatunji, told BBC in an interview.
Olatunji in his last years continued to perform while teaching others about African culture and drumming. Before he passed away in 2003 aged 76, he had become known for recordings such as “Celebrate Freedom, Justice and Peace”, “Healing Rhythms, Songs and Chants”, as well as the 1998 Grammy-nominated release, on Chesky Records of “Love Drum Talk”.
Tobago-born actor Winston Duke is set to play celebrated Jamaican nationalist Marcus Garvey in an upcoming movie for Amazon Studios that will also see Nigerian filmmaker Andrew Dosunmu on the director’s chair, Deadline reported.
Marcus Garvey, Jamaica’s first national hero, advocated for Black nationalism in his native country as well as the United States. While alive, he spearheaded a Pan-African philosophy which galvanized a global mass movement known as Garveyism .
Garvey died at the age of 52 in London in 1940 from complications brought on by two strokes.
Titled Marked Man, the upcoming project – which is reportedly set in the 1920s – will focus on a young Black man who joins the then J. Edgar Hoover-led FBI and then goes ahead to infiltrate Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA). The character’s loyalty to his race and country is tested during his assignment as he “grows weary of both men’s actions,” according to Deadline
The upcoming project was inspired by a 2008 biography titled Negro with a Hat: The Rise and Fall of Marcus Garvey. The book is written by Colin Grant. The script for Marked Man is also written by seasoned British playwright Kwame Kwei-Armah.
In an Instagram post on Friday, Duke shared his excitement about the project and how he is honored to portray an icon whose ideology was very instrumental in shaping his development.
“As a Caribbean immigrant, activist, and global citizen, one of the most seminal stories in my development has been the words and works of Marcus Garvey,” the 34-year-old posted. “Today I am blessed to announce that I have the opportunity to bring his story to life, along with a kick ass crew of collaborators.”
Duke added: “It’s not lost on me how important and meaningful this is, not only for the generations that already know his contributions to the Black liberation landscape but for those who have yet to know and embrace him and what he stood for. Can’t wait to step into this one and bring you all along for the amazing journey.
In 1816 when the American Colonization Society (ACS) was founded by a group of Quakers and slaveholders, its mission was to help relocate freed Black people. And between 1821 and 1838 after the ACS had helped 86 freed Enslaved Americans leave New York for the British colony of Sierra Leone, the ACS developed the first settlement, which would be known as Liberia.
The ACS had chosen relocating freed Black people over having an increasing number of freed Black Americans demanding rights, jobs, and resources at home. Some leaders in the Black community and abolitionists opposed the relocation of freed Blacks outside of the U.S., questioning why they should have to emigrate from the country where they and their generation were born.
Yet, the colonization idea received notable support from many, including Lott Cary (otherwise spelled Carey), who would become one of the first African-American Baptist missionaries to preach and work in Africa after helping found Liberia.
Lott Was Born into slavery in Charles City County, Virginia, Lott Carey (sometimes spelled “Cary”) was one of the first African American Baptist missionaries to preach and work in Africa.
At the age of 24, Cary was sent by his owner to work as hired slave labor in a tobacco warehouse, where he later got promoted to a supervisory position, enabling him to earn more than other enslaved people. Cary started to save as his main objective at the time was to buy his freedom and that of his wife as well as two children. Along the way, Cary got baptized at the First Baptist Church in 1807 after hearing a sermon based on the Bible’s third chapter of John that changed his life. He couldn’t read and write but he wanted to read the chapter on his own so much so that he eventually learned to read and write.
In 1819, Carey received approval from the Baptist Board of Foreign Missions as well as the American Colonization Society to set up a mission in West Africa. Two years later, Carey, his wife and two children, and 28 adult members of his church and several children set sail for Liberia. Despite material hardships, Carey and his group established a mission in Liberia. Carey’s missionary work among the Africans in the region resulted in the expansion of the congregation by 60 or 70 new members by 1825, despite frequent armed resistance from other Africans who objected to the colonists’ presence. In 1826, the congregation constructed a new meeting house. Cary established schools, a joint-stock company and also became Liberia’s health officer before being elected vice agent of the colony in 1826. Two years later, Cary became governor of Liberia after the previous governor died.
Cary’s dream of spreading the gospel throughout Africa while helping to extend the settlement’s territory was cut short when he was killed in an accidental explosion of gunpowder in November 1828. Nevertheless, he left behind a legacy of leadership, commitment, and perseverance that continues to guide many, including Christians of all races.
Forty-eight year-old Carey was killed in an accidental explosion in 1828. Pan-Africanist John Brown Russwurm emphasized Carey’s importance to the Liberia mission project when he mourned Carey’s death with these words: “In the death of Mr. Carey, the colonists have to deplore one whose loss will not easily be supplied.”
Victoria Santa Cruz was born October 27th, 1922 in Lima, Peru and a Afro-Peruvian choreographer, composers, and activist. She is called the “the mother of Afro-Peruvian dance and theater”. She grew up in a bilingual household, her mother only spoke Spanish but her father spoke both English and Spanish
Victoria was 7 years old when she had her first personal taste of racism. The Afro-Peruvian was the only Black person among her circle of friends growing up. “One day there was a little girl among them with blond hair who stated to her friends, ‘if this little black girl wants to play with us, I’ll leave!’”
To the shock of Santa Cruz, the rest of her friends agreed and asked her to leave. That was a painful experience she never forgot, but it did change her view of life. She took her story and found pride in it, realizing how ideal it is to appreciate one’s heritage, roots, and culture. And through her work and art, the woman, now considered the “mother of Afro-Peruvian dance and theatre”, demonstrates how beautiful and strong her fellow Afro-Peruvians are despite the discrimination they endured.
Afro-Peruvians were transported to Peru during the Transatlantic Slave Trade. Spanish conquerors or conquistadors brought them over in 1521 followed by a larger number transported in 1537. The second group was transported after permits were issued to Francisco Pizarro González – a Spanish fighter who led a mission that obliterated the Inca Empire.
Santa Cruz was born in Lima, Peru, on October 27, 1922, to a Peruvian family of 10 children that included musicians, artists, and intellectuals. Santa Cruz’s mother, Victoria Gamma Ramirez, was an accomplished singer and dancer of traditional Peruvian styles. Her father, Nicomedes Santa Cruz Aparicio, was a playwright who, during his adolescent years in the U.S., read many Shakespearean plays and learned European classical music.
All these deeply influenced Santa Cruz. Along the way, she would teach various styles of theater, dance, and other art forms. One of her major achievements to date is co-founding and directing the first Black-owned theatre in Peru with her brother, even without prior formal education. She then went on to produce three plays, all of which highlighted the struggles of Afro-Latinas. In fact, her first play, Malato (1961), which she wrote, choreographed, and staged, infuriated authorities as it looked at the relationship between enslaved men and women and their oppressors that had been erased from Peruvian history.
While at the Université du Théâtre des Nations and École Supérieur des Études Chorégraphiques in Paris in late 1961 to study theater and choreography, she was widely received for her plays but also for her “unique, Afro-Peruvian styled costumes.” In no time, she was being sought after for her costumes. But by 1965, she had to leave Paris after graduating. She headed to Africa [exact country not stated] that same year, where she staged the ballet La muñeca Negra which looked at the cultural memories that had been lost due to slavery.
The performance was well-received but what was even bigger was a performance in Mexico City during the 1968 Olympics by a group she founded, Teatro y Danzas Negras del Perú. That performance, which earned the group an award after only two years of the group being formed, brought back to life Afro-Peruvian dance forms such as the zamacueca (an ancient dance with roots in African, Spanish, and Andean) and landu, essentially making visible the historic contributions and culture of Afro-Peruvians.
Santa Cruz went on to refine her talents in the arts, releasing her first song, Cumanana in 1970 and then her well-celebrated poem a decade later — Me Gritaron Negra – where she started by cursing her dark skin, kinky hair and thick lips before ending it with the fact that being Black is a blessing. After 53 years in the arts, the Afro-Peruvian activist, choreographer, and composer passed away on August 30, 2014, but is well remembered today for reviving Afro Peruvian culture in Peru.
Thanks to her activism and others, Peru celebrates Black History Month every June to highlight Afro-Peruvian Culture, with scores of cultural activities and conferences. In 2009, Peru became the first Latin American country to apologize to its people of African descent for the discrimination they previously endured. But after many years, experts say the country must step up its efforts to fully embrace its Afro-Peruvian heritage and end discrimination.
Ganga Zumba is remembered by historians as the warrior, Black hero and freedom fighter who was central to the history and modern-day struggle of the Brazilian Black Movement, having led an alliance of “independent settlements”– Quilombo dos Palmares. Located between the states of Alagoas and Pernambuco, in northeastern Brazil, Quilombo dos Palmares was founded by early Brazilian Africans in the late 16th century as resistance to European colonizers and enslavers.