When I met Ms. Naya Jones at her Food For Black Thought symposium at the George Washington Carver Museum 2 weeks ago, I was taken with how charged up and full of energy she was. This gal was raring to go and her enthusiasm was infectious. In part 1 of our interview, Ms. Jones explained her background and how she came to spearhead the project. You can read that portion of the interview here http://www.scrumptiouschef.com/food/2012/10/4/Interview-Ms-Naya-Jones-Of-Food-For-Black-Thought-And-The-East-Austin-Food-Project

Naya Jones had a lot more on her mind so it’s with great pleasure that I now bring you the second portion of our discussion. How did you select the student directors for the project? {the project being East Side Food Stories, a riveting documentary featuring 3 young Austinites discussing the state of East Austin foodways}

I recruited youth co-researchers and directors for this first film project in two ways. I have long worked with Urban Roots as an intern; this summer, I facilitated workshops on the farm. I recruited youth who self-identify as Black/African American for the project at the farm. One of them further recruited his friend. To be involved the youth completed an application that included these questions”

What are your thoughts regarding the future of African American foodways in East Austin?

What an interesting question. “African American foodways” is an unstable description, since food changes between households, between states to the south/east/west of the country. There have always been variations among African-Americans regarding how we eat food, grow food, and even share food. How can I answer this question, as thick debates about drawing racial/ethnic lines around foodways continue? Is “soul food” just “southern food”?

I can speak about what I have witnessed the past 7 years here in Austin. Fewer and fewer Black-owned restaurants exist. Hoover’s Cooking, owned by Hoover Alexander here in town, speaks to a different past. The Victory Grill continues to grow and transform, as seen by The Purple Bean Cafe. I can’t speak to the Black-owned restaurants beyond the immediate Austin area, but with the outflow of African-Americans to the Greater Austin Area – the rim may be “where it’s at” in terms of menus that feature African-American foodways.

This is not to say that Black-owned establishments are always serving what people may call “soul food”. Hoover’s work with his restaurant and new trailer (the Soular Food Trailer on 12th) speaks to folks creating new dishes that may become part of what are called “African American foodways” in the future. The Purple Bean Cafe demonstrates the same.

And an aspect often forgotten in African-American foodways discussion is gardening and agriculture. What Black folks have grown has been connected to what we eat – and still is for Black gardeners who still exist here in Austin. Part of my research is talking with Black farmers and gardeners, both the elders and those who are “returning to the land”. Some active community workers, like Hoover Alexander, are creating gardens and farms in Austin and beyond. The Black gardening and agriculture movements are national. I’m talking not only the well-known (and inspiring!) Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, but also the Southeastern African-American Farmers Organic Network, the Black Farmers and Urban Gardener’s Conference, among others. Exciting to see: how/if Black gardening efforts around Austin impact foodways locally.

Part 3 coming soon and as is the custom at Scrumptious Chef; we’ve saved the juiciest part of the interview for last.

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