Separated by 1,000 miles and a few years, tells stories of Cleo Silvers and Aylene Quin using food as a weapon for political and social change. Their stories intersect by the end of the book in surprising ways.
Tells the history of local activists in early 1960s voting rights and civil rights efforts in, arguably, the most racist state of the country - Mississippi - and links this work to SNCC activists in Freedom Summer of 1964 and to the survival programs run, primarily, by the women of the Black Panther Party - and their lasting legacy.
Discusses the history and power of community organizing and mutual aid (and its difference from “charity”) - terms brought to public attention during the pandemic, and long practiced by women, and critical sources of support in communities of color.
Highlights the vast community support programs, called “survival programs”, offered by the Black Panther Party, including food and clothing drives, support for tenant take over of buildings with delinquent landlords, public health initiatives, progressive nursing and anti-addiction treatment, among many others.
Cleo Silvers helped write the Patient Bill of Rights now seen, in a watered-down version, in nearly every health care setting.
Aylene Quin was instrumental in putting pressure on President Johnson to sign the Voting Rights Act, the legacy of which is in peril today.
Integrates dozens of interviews to recreate scenes to present a readable history of the Black Freedom Movement, with a focus on these female leaders and others who have long been footnotes to history.
Uses archival sources to also tell the story of how the government - both the Mississippi State Sovereignty Commission and the FBI - used illegal tactics to undermine, attack, imprison and even kill activists to uphold their grip on power.
Illustrates the power of food: to connect people, demonstrate political and social values, support communities to enact broader change - and even to oppress vulnerable groups when used by governments and those in power.
Integrates into the narrative ideas by Black women scholars on leadership, “activist mothering”, interpreting how acts of feeding and nurturing were integral to change, and how their power has been underrecognized during the Black Freedom Movement.
Connects these stories to efforts today - providing a model for present activists and historic context for issues that persist.