August 08, 2019
By Lapacazo Sandoval
The Food Network was founded on April 19, 1993, as “TV Food Network” and for a very long time, most of the food hosts were White men. There were early attempts at diversity by the network which included Down Home with the Neelys and Big Daddy’s house with host Aaron McCargo, Jr. but for the most part, The Food Network is populated by White hosts.
There is a toxic myth that African Americans have not contributed to the culinary landscape of this country that they built. For example, red peas are from rich African soil. It’s documented that Slave owners sent back and got seeds for what the slaves were used to eating in Africa, because they weren't used to the food in America. In short, that meant what the slaves could plant for themselves. The existence of okra in America began in West Africa and is a popular ingredient in slowly stewed meat dishes, which are also from Africa. Our food—American food—is an important symbol and a historical roadmap for our journey from the African Motherland to what is now called the United States of America.
Even gumbo, which is the signature dish of New Orleans is an adaption of a Senegalese soupy stew that enslaved African cooks prepared in plantation kitchens for both themselves and their owners.
African Americans have shaped everything in this country, despite the White slave owners doing their best to make people believe otherwise. They wanted African Americans silent, forgotten, but our food still speaks.
In Kardea Brown’s new show “Delicious Miss Brown,” which debuted on the Food Network, Sunday, July 29th, she celebrates contemporary Gullah cuisine. Born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina, her passion for cooking began in her grandmother’s kitchen, where she learned to make traditional dishes from the Gullah/Geechee people of which she is a descended.
Gullah/Geechee is a term used to describe a distinct group of African Americans living in the coastal areas of South Carolina and Georgia who have managed to preserve much of their West African language, culture, and cuisine. Chef Brown never viewed her home cooking as nothing more than a hobby. Instead, she studied Psychology at Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, GA, and worked in social services for many years.
In 2013, Brown moved to New Jersey to continue her education in Psychology. A year later, she found herself taping a pilot and her television career took off. She has since appeared on Food Network’s “Farmhouse Rules,” “BBQ Blitz,” “Chopped Junior,” “Beach Bites,” “Beat Bobby Flay,” “Cooks vs Cons” and “Family Food Showdown.” Kardea also created The New Gullah Supper Club, where the menu pays homage to the dishes her grandmother and mother passed down to her. Now with her brand-new show “Delicious Ms. Brown,” she’s expanding her mission to spread love through food and tell a unique story one dish at a time.
Here is an edited phone conversation with Chef Kardea, host of “CupCake Championship” and her new show “Delicious Miss Brown”:
L.A. Watts Times: You are on two Food Network television shows: ‘Cupcake Championship’ as the host and now, with your very own new show ‘Delicious Miss Brown.’ How did that happen, chef? There was a time when it was hard to find a Black person with a show on the Food Network.
Kardea Brown: (laughing) That’s true. I fell into a pilot for the Food Network.
I’ve always loved cooking. I come from a family of cooks but I did it as a hobby. I went to school for psychology and I worked in social services for the majority of my career after I graduated from college. Although the pilot didn’t get picked up by the Food Network the producers and Food Network executives saw something in me and asked if I had thought about a career in food television; I had not. I never thought of cooking as a career thing. So, after being on set and cooking it felt right. It gave me that push to change my career and do what I love to do, which is cooking.
LAWT: That’s impressive. In the beginning, the network was filled with mostly white men—come on—I’m speaking the truth. I use to DVR all the shows because I love to cook but it bothered me that us, African, African American and Latinos were absent. If we can’t cook who can? Thoughts on the truth I just shared?
KB: You know I recently had someone reach out to me. A Black woman and her daughter and they told me how much they were looking forward to seeing someone that looked like them on the Food Network that represented our culture. The comment that they left under my picture [social media] said: It’s a feeling of joy to see someone that looks like me and for my daughter to see someone that looks like her. That means so much to me growing up. I was a fan of the Food Network and what I remember ‘Down Home with the Neelys.’ I think now the Food Network is moving in a more positive direction in diversifying their talent and I feel honored that I’m a part of that change, as well.
LAWT: So am I. Specifically what makes your show ‘Delicious Miss Brown’ different?
KB: In my show, I’m cooking from my Gullah/Geechee background. That’s different. In my show, I not only want to show people of color, but also to show a part of the world you don’t hear about which is the Gullah/Geechee people.
LAWT: What makes this type of cuisine special?
KB: The Gullah/Geechee retained so much of our language and our culture in our food and our storytelling. That makes our community unique. The show does encompass the Southern culture in general, of which the Gullah people are part. You will hear our accents from my mother and my grandmother and you will hear the stories as well. We will also highlight the type of ingredients that we cook with and that will be highlighted throughout the show.
LAWT: I’ve never had crab mac & cheese? I’d like to, it sounds delicious.
KB: (laughing) It will change your life. In the show, I use freshly picked crab from my backyard. It’s so fun to see how I get the crab and shrimp used in my show are caught; fresh, it’s very much farm to table.
LAWT: Are you a producer on your new show?
KB: I believe that I’m written in as producer on the show. I have a lot of input. All the recipes are mine.
LAWT: Do you also plan a cookbook after season one?
KB: (laughing) There is a cookbook in the mix. I’m looking forward to writing my very first [cook] book. It will be based on the recipes used on the show. It will be low cooking and Gullah cuisine.
LAWT: I’m proud of you Kardea Brown. Chef, did you ever think of yourself as an author?
KB: No, but I always said that my life story was very interesting and if I had an opportunity I would love to write a book or a cookbook. So, an autobiography and a cookbook.
LAWT: What are three recipes from the show that any level cook can make?
KB: My aunties Lemon Soda bunt cake. It’s the first cake that I learned to bake. It has a lemon-lime glaze. The second one from the show would be fried shrimp and my mother’s homemade steak fries.
LAWT: What makes the homemade steak fries special?
KB: Because the same batter that we used [to fry] for the shrimp we used for the steak fries.
LAWT: Yummy. Nice.
KB: (laughing) Yes, it’s delicious Mrs. Brown. The third one that is home cook-friendly is Blackberry Hand pie.
LAWT: Did you say Blackberry Hand pie?
KB: It’s a portable pie, just big enough to fit your hand.
LAWT: So tiny, that can’t possibly be packed with calories, wink-wink. Let’s talk about health and the Black community for a second, please. Do you address that in your show?
KB: We don’t make direct references to that but a lot of my recipes are very simple. I don’t use a lot of salt or seasoning salt. They are very fresh. I find a way to balance. Weight has always been a struggle for myself and my family. Southern people, we like our food. I found a happy medium with my recipes.
LAWT: Last words about your new Food Network show — ‘Delicious Miss Brown.’
KB: Expect the unexpected.
Delicious Miss Brown debuted on The Food Network, Sunday, July 28, 2019. To learn more go to https://www.foodnetwork.com/shows/delicious-miss-brown
August 01, 2019
By Shannen Hill
Gunshot Medley: Part I is the latest play to hit the stage at the Electric Lodge on Abbot Kinney Boulevard near Venice Beach. Running until August 19, the play tells the story of American history through the eyes of three slaves.
The playwright, Dionna Michelle Daniel, was inspired to write this play in 2015 after the Charleston Church shooting. While in North Carolina, she visited a graveyard where she found the graves of Betty, Alvis, and George who would eventually become the characters for Gunshot Medley: Part I. All that was left on the graves were their names and the dates that they died, each before the Emancipation Proclamation. Daniel also found something unsettling in the graveyard — newly placed Confederate flags.
“At the time that I wrote Gunshot Medley, there was so much going on with killings and discourse over the Confederate flag,” said Daniel. “For me the play is an awakening. It is so vital for Black people to tell our stories because we have lived through these experiences and the pain is real.”
Set in a haunted graveyard in North Carolina, audiences see the connections of racism through past and present. Betty, Alvis, and George are not able to rest their souls. They want to believe that things are better, and cover up the pain, but what they see in the present takes them back to their own past hurt. They see happy moments in Black culture as well, referencing famous songs and dances, but they are reminded of pain with each gunshot that they hear.
Betty represents a mother figure, constantly cleaning to cover up her pain. Alvis takes on a more playful role, looking for the beauty in everything, and George represents revolutionaries fighting and dying for change. The fourth character is High Priestess Oya. When Daniel originally wrote the play, she made a lot of reference to the wind and the rustle of leaves and treetops. One of her friends told her about Orisha Oya, an African goddess who is the ruler of storms and winds, and the protector of cemeteries. From that comes the majestic character garbed in elegant reds and an expression of pain upon her face.
“The play was very powerful and moving,” said Tenille Jones, one of the audience members. “I think that it will open people’s eyes and make change for the better. I like how the main character, Betty, thought that she had to clean something up to solve the problems, but in the end, it showed that racism is more of a comprehensive problem. It’s not just a one-person problem, it’s a worldwide problem. I was very entertained. It’s a great way to spend an hour and support Black theatre.”
Gunshot Medley: Part I started as a project for a program at California Institute of the Arts, or CalArts, where Daniel graduated. She presented it in their 2016 New Works Festival and won the chance to go to New York to have a reading of the play and get it published. One of the readers from New York put Daniel in contact with Desean Terry of Collaborative Artists Bloc, a production team that produces performances that explore of cultural identity and promote social change. Terry became the director of Gunshot Medley: Part I, giving the play a Black cast, Black director, and Black playwright.
In 2018, Rogue Machine Theatre joined in and brought the production to the stage at the MET Theatre in Santa Monica for a two-week run. Gun Shot Medley: Part I also did a two-week run at the Watts Village Theater Company, where tickets were based on a donation of any amount and audience members could register to vote. Rogue Machine Theatre has brought the play back this year to the Electric Lodge. Gunshot Medley: Part I runs through August 19. Student tickets are $25.99 and general admission is $39.99. For more information and reservations, call (855) 585-5185 or visit www.collaborativeartistsbloc.org.
August 01, 2019
By Lapacazo Sandoval
It might be premature to state this but I think OWN’s “Ambitions” will be a very successful and long-running series for the network. One of the reasons I offer this opinion, so boldly, is because the series deals with love, money, ambition, and betrayal, all being played-out by characters that we all know or dare I offer this, characters that we might ourselves become if faced with the same circumstances. Money and power are always alluring and when combined are intoxicating and addictive.
The definition of ambition in the Merriam-Webster dictionary is described as an ardent desire for rank, fame, or power. The Latin word for this effort was ambitio, which came from ambire, a verb meaning “to go around.”
I offer the definition of ambition to help paint the backdrop of the new series, “Ambitions,” produced for OWN by Will Packer Media in association with Lionsgate, along with producer-distributor Debmar-Mercury.
Created by writer Jamey Gidden, the series is a multigenerational family saga centered around one woman who, having recently relocated and intent on revitalizing her marriage, finds herself going head-to-head with some of the most powerful and deceitful players in the city of Atlanta.
Robin Givens stars as Stephanie Carlisle, the wife of Atlanta Mayor Evan Lancaster (Brian White), whose true loyalty is to her own family's prestigious law firm, where she is the latest in a long line of distinguished lawyers. Evan's political ambitions seem to cloud his judgment as he is willing to do anything to get to the next level in his career.
Essence Atkins plays the role of Amara, a lawyer in the U.S. Attorney’s Office who has newly arrived in Atlanta with her husband, Titus (Kendrick Cross). Originally from Texas, she is quickly gaining attention from the U.S. Attorney’s Office as a diligent prosecutor. Titus has been hired as in-house counsel for a big pharma company run by Hunter Purifoy, who is fighting a class-action suit brought by the powerful Carlisle family. Brely Evans plays the role of Rondell, Mayor Lancaster’s sister, who runs a not-quite-profitable restaurant called Thelma’s Place.
Essence Atkins is best known for her sense of comedy and girl-next-door charm, although her name may not be familiar, her face has been in people’s living rooms for more than twenty years. Some of her credits include “Marlon,” “Mr. Box Office,” “Are We There Yet?, “ “Half & Half,” “Malibu Shores,” and “Under One Roof” to name a few.
As Amara Hughes in “Ambitions,” Essence brings her sex appeal and classic comedy timing to a complicated and very juicy role.
Here is an edited phone conversation with actress Essence Atkins on OWN’s “Ambitions.”
L.A. Watts Times: Tell me about your character?
Essence Atkins: One of the things that most appealed to me by playing Amara was how flawed she is. People are used to seeing me playing these very comedic, girl-next-door, put together that has the world in the palm of her hand, type characters. What I love about Amara, although he’s smart and successful and put together to a certain extent, her life is falling apart. And, that’s where we find her at the beginning of the season and of the series. She and her husband, Titus [Kendrick Cross], have just moved to Atlanta in a hope that they recapture where they [first] fell in love.
The new environment gets them away from her affair, the indiscretion; she’s struggling to regain trust, to get a footing, and to convince the man she loves that she’s redeemed. She’s struggling not to lose what they have built in the last 20 years. There is also the ongoing investigation into her former best friend’s husband cabinet, (played by Robin Givens) who is also the ex-girlfriend of her husband. So, it’s sticky and complicated. I think she’s a bit naive thinking she can put Humpty dumpty back together again.
LAWT: Juicy. Love it. That’s ‘Ambitions.’ My first thoughts were, wait, why did she tell her husband, Titus, about Evan [Brian White]? He has very strong feelings about it. Dude is not over it.
EA: (laughing) Hilarious, that was your take? She’s again, complicated, and as the season progresses, you will find out more about her flaws. I hope that the audience sees that they have a real love for reach other, to save their marriage and the 20 years they have been married. But when you face every day with people who have their agendas and people who have their ambitions, you run into trains. I don’t want to say that you run into problems in the show [here], you run into trains.
LAWT: Was it a long affair?
EA: You have to keep watching. It will be revealed.
LAWT: Does her husband have any affairs in his past?
EA: You have to keep watching, As you know, the man she had an affair with, Evan, comes to Atlanta and she’s very suspicious and on edge. At the same time, trying to assure her husband that he’s not a threat. In one episode Titus suggested that she quit her job to stay away from him.
LAWT: Did you just saw that you watch the episodes in real-time?
EA: Yes, we are watching as the audience is watching and we engage in social media.
LAWT: What’s it like working on OWN
EA: Just being under the umbrella of Oprah Winfrey, she had a hand in deciding on who was playing how, and that she’s a fan of my work. And thought that I was the person she wanted to play the character and the fact that Lady O has entrusted me with a very complicated, complex woman. And not just because she’s Oprah, the indemnity, but also her as an actress. I think her work is quite fordable; it’s very good. She’s very talented in her own right, as a producer, and as an actress. I was incredibly flattered that she saw me as this character and wanted me to play the character. Also being on a network [OWN] where you feel supported. Where you don’t feel like you’re on an island by yourself. They are accustomed to supporting and telling Black stories and stories of people of color and doing caliber work where we can shine and tell a myriad of different kinds of stories. We’re not relegated to [playing] the strong partner or the sassy friend. We get to be the sexy leading ladies, and the villains and the heroes and that’s a great place to be for an actress such as myself.
LAWT: I love that you said the ‘sassy, best friend.’
EA: (laughing) I’ve played my share and I am grateful. I’m grateful to have been able to sustain my career in a bunch of different ways, in a bunch of different roles and all of that. No shade, but it’s not to be relegated [In “Ambitions”] to the sidelines and not feel like the baby is in the corner anymore.
“Ambitions” airs on Tuesdays on OWN.
August 01, 2019
By Brian W. Carter
On Thursday, July 25, the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture announced that it’s received up to $5.5 million in funding for the arts in 2019. The grants will be distributed in two ways, one being a two -year funding of $4,518,000 for 213 nonprofit arts organizations through the county-funded Organizational Grant Program (OGP) and $922,300 will go towards 47 Los Angeles County school districts, which is funded by the Arts Education Collective Advancement Grant Program.
“Arts, culture, and creativity are central to a thriving Los Angeles County,” said Supervisor Mark Ridley-Thomas. “Besides inspiring individuals and invigorating communities, the county's creative economy generated $207 billion in economic output last year.”
It has been stated that these grants are a record for the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture along with the Community Impact Arts Grant Program garnered $750,000 and Arts Internship Program receiving $1,160,850. Altogether, the department has received $7,351,150 in grants.
The announcement was presented to L.A. county officials, nonprofit partners and other grantees at Inner-City Arts, located in Downtown L.A., by Kristin Sakoda, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture. She shared what this announcement means for youth throughout the county.
“We’re providing $4.5 million in grants to arts non-profits that provide a whole array of cultural programs and services,” said Sakoda. “Many of them are for youth and for families.”
She continued, “Everything from performances, to exhibits, workshops, etc. We’re also providing nearly a million dollars in grants through a public/private initiative with the arts ed collective—that’s to ensure that there is arts education in all of the school districts.
“And that’s really important because the arts are not only something that’s enjoyable to do but students who have arts in their schools have higher educational attainment, they stay in school longer, they have great social and emotional learning and all kinds of other outcomes that are really important for all of our communities.”
Founded in 1947, Los Angeles County Department of Arts and Culture, formerly the Arts Commission, has funded arts and culture programming throughout the county. The OGP supports local, small and mid-size arts organizations providing cultural services to L.A. County. Grantees range from larger organizations like KCETLink and the Museum of Contemporary Art, to longstanding nonprofits such as Lula Washington Dance Company and Social Public Art Resource Center.
This year’s grantees also include the Young Musicians Foundation, which supports free music classes, performances, workshops, and festivals to foster community engagement at its new Cypress Park facility and with communities across Los Angeles. Another grantee, About Productions, will develop and premiere Adobe Punk, a theater work of historical fiction set in the early 1980s in working-class Bell Gardens.
“These grants are making art more accessible across the county,” said County Board of Supervisors Chair, Janice Hahn. “The Organizational Grant Program helps make possible concerts, theater, exhibitions, and school education programs every day in communities that wouldn’t have them otherwise.
“The Advancement Grants are building pathways to careers in the arts by preparing youth for jobs in the creative economy and helping give our kids a well-rounded education. We want every person in this county to have access to the breadth, depth, and diversity of the arts, now and into the future.”
“I look forward to the new Department of Arts and Culture increasing access to the arts, building inclusive career pathways, and reinforcing the County as a creative hub for the world,” said Ridley-Thomas.
All 213 grantees—located in 44 of the county’s 88 municipalities—nearly 8 percent, are receiving this funding for the first time and a complete list of OGP grantees can be found at www.lacountyarts.org