I couldn’t help but to feel a little bothered by the fact that the only food provided and chosen to give a representation of the African American culture at the Folk Life Festival was chicken and waffles.
When you think about how many African/African American communities there are in the United States alone, what comes to mind? I think of crawfish and gumbo from New Orleans, soul food from the south (which usually consists of greens, “chitlins”, hot water corn bread, etc.) and its relation to the life of slaves. I also think of those Haitian and Jamaican communities who also have a vast range of food delicacies. The food that has become apart of the African American household has a history, has an origin, and has a reason that it is still being cooked and prepared by our families today. So, I ask why the Festival would resort to choosing something as stereotypical as chicken, waffles, and watermelon as the food selections for the African American heritage?
The belief that black people only favor certain foods simplifies our culture and reduces us to a deficient culture that lacks differentiation. Honestly, every time I walked by that large sign that read “CHICKEN & WAFFLES” an image of an African American in disintegrating clothing, barefoot with unkempt hair and a speech impediment came to mind. I would also imagine him hungrily holding a chicken leg in one hand and using the other to slop down a watermelon slice.
I mean, why not add kool aid packages and food stamps as souvenirs…