Gumbo Jubilee: We are Better Together (Part I of III)
Gumbo Jubilee was much more than a whole cow bbq, it was clearly about doing something extremely challenging, historical, and culturally important. In addition to striving to bring the black culinary community together locally and nationally to see something out of the ordinary, I wanted to highlight that we can do magical things if we work together. I also wanted to highlight the contributions of enslaved West Africans on New Orleans cuisine and arts, in bringing to life a one of a kind experience in Gumbo Jubilee to the public for ALL people. When I looked out across New Orleans in celebrating the tricentennial, I saw a void in representation as a lot that make New Orleans special is rooted in black culture. Instead of complaining about the lack of recognition, I created an experience in Gumbo Jubilee, to do this important work.
Why the name Gumbo Jubilee? When one looks across the African Diaspora, Gumbo is a dish that is widely seen in West Africa, West Indies, South America, Central America, and various parts of North America all of which have people of West African descent. Gumbo is much bigger than Louisiana, and if one looks at the word, it means Okra and it speaks to one pot cooking. I chose Jubilee, because as New Orleans is honoring it 300 years, it is something to celebrate. Furthermore, I named the event after DJ Jubilee, as I wanted him to be the DJ for his pioneering contributions to NOLA Bounce culture and further more for his community service work in the Central City neighborhood of New Orleans.
The significance of the cow, will be discussed in another post but I want to thank all of the chefs who contributed to making delectable dishes that represented Gullah Geechee, Haitian, and Creole which have West African origins, and of course indigenous cultures in highlighting the food of Louisiana and the American South. The delectable food was prepared with so much flavor and love, that every bite was delectable with Chefs BJ Dennis’s Okra Soup, Angel Lombrage’s Soup Jomou, Linda Green’s Yaka-Mein, Chris Hayes’s Chargrille Oysters, Todd Richards’ Corn Maque Choux, Syrena Johnson’s Jambalaya, Creole Sausage Vance Vaucresson, Roasted Sweet Potatoes Harrison Conyers and Marcus Middleton’s Chicken Perlou. The desserts spread was prepared by talented Chefs, Adrian Lipscombe, Enrika Williams, Leigh-Ann Martin, Anna Kong, Samantha Westlund, and Therese Nelson. The whole cow bbq team consisted of Dr. Howard Conyers, Harrison Conyers, BJ Dennis, Marcus Middleton, Chris Hayes, and Modou Jaitah. Special help was provided by Serigne Mbaye.
The arts component of Gumbo Jubilee featured DJ Jubilee, SunPie and the Louisiana Sunspots, King of Brass Band, and Creole Osceolas Mardi Gras Indians. Most of the food was purchased from Indian Springs Coop with Mississippi Farmer Ben Burkett whom introduced me to farmer Terry Price who secured the cow. Both Ben Burkett and Terry Price went over and beyond in helping me to secure this cow.
Three special inaugural Gumbo Jubilee awards were given to remarkable individuals Therese Nelson, BJ Dennis, and Vance Vaucresson for the work they do in the culinary industry. In addition, the awards will be given annually to honor people doing amazing work, to inspire them and others.
I would be remis-
sed if I overlooked my father for building the device that I designed and engineered so beautifully over a four month window for developing this prototype. A lot of effort went into device and for that reason I am patenting the design.
I want to thank all that traveled from near and far to witness an event that I have been working on for over 6 months. I hope that Gumbo Jubilee lives on in each of you and what you brought to the table to show the collective power of “Us Helping Us” as every detail of the event was selected for a reason much bigger than Howard Conyers or Conyers Family BBQ. The venue where he held the event was called “Us Helping Us” and I know the event would not have been an overwhelming success if this mantra was not executed. “Us Helping Us” is also a non profit in New Orleans that helps in the community organized by Al Smith.
In regards to the workshop, a special thanks to Zella Palmer Chair of the DU Ray Charles Program for hosting and the Soul Food Scholar Adrian Miller for facilitating. In regards to the luncheon, a special thanks to Mrs. Leah Chase and the Dooky’s Chase Restaurant. I would like to thank Dr. Ibrahima Seck for taking participants of Gumbo Jubilee on a VIP tour of the Whitney Plantation.
I would like to thank Paul Grant of Ascendent Communications for documenting Gumbo Jubilee to share one great story. Last but not least, I would like to thank PBS Digital Studios and Louisiana Public Broadcasting for sharing an aspect of the event, through Nourish.