For Black History Month, kweliTV wanted to highlight the importance of community. From the first steps Black people took in the United States, banding together is what has allowed the progress and achievements to flourish over centuries. Our Livestream and Q&A event featured one of our many documentaries UJAMAA: A CO-OP CULTURE STORY with the producer of the film, Andrea Talley.
The documentary illuminates the hard work of the Mandela Grocery Cooperative located in West Oakland. Worker owned and operated, the co-op provides affordable, fresh and healthy foods to its community while also sponsoring events to help promote a healthier lifestyle. It follows in the tradition of the Black Panthers, combining both social justice and community support.
West Oakland was a food desert greatly affected by the urban renewal projects of the 1960s. The disruption of this predominantly Black neighborhood left the once flourishing 7th street, a hub for Black businesses and families, without a grocery store up until Mandela Grocery Cooperative’s 2009 opening.
For co-producer Andrea Talley, who also works at the co-op, this was a mission she wanted to serve. During her time at Howard University, she noticed how limited her food options were in comparison to her home in Virginia. Pockets of D.C. are notorious for their lack of grocery stores in specific wards, which often fall along race lines. Around campus her food options were limited to cheap fast food. After graduating she started a health journey that led her down the path of food liberation.
“It’s been my whole career now, where I’ve been in the food industry,” Talley said, “but specifically thinking about ways that we can use food as medicine to heal Black people from all of these different preventable diseases that we deal with today.”
In this sense, food is power. The Mandela Grocery Co-op has been able to give back the power of choice to the nearly 25,000 people of West Oakland. The store, and the documentary, flip the script on how Black health is portrayed. Rather than focusing on purely the numbers of Black people that suffer from illnesses like diabetes, they focus on both prevention and management. Their story is about uplifting rather than shaming.
Andrea Talley and kweliTV CEO DeShuna Spencer delved into even more during the Q&A, which you can watch any time here.
As Black History Month closes, we at kweliTV want to continue telling Black stories every month. Just like the work of the co-op, it is an ongoing push to continue in the tradition of uplifting and providing for the community, making it stronger everyday.
Be sure to watch UJAMAA: A CO-OP CULTURE STORY on kweliTV.