My relationship with African Heritage & Health, a program that develops resources and initiatives to promote the healthy foods and delicious eating traditions of the African diaspora, began in 2015 as part of an eﬀort to expand the service oﬀerings of my business, Full Circle Health Coaching LLC. Oldways’ A Taste of African Heritage (ATOAH) cooking program was exactly what I was looking for. Becoming an instructor of the cooking class series provided such a sense of fulﬁllment; I never got tired of hearing participants say that they learned so much about the African heritage foodways and that each dish was delicious.
My role as a facilitator was to help participants “claim their health by reclaiming their heritage.” During my time as a teacher, I had the pleasure of sharing my personal vignette, “Southern Girl Soup,” along with other female contributors in Oldways Africana Soup in Stories (OASIS). Then, in 2017, after two years of involvement with ATOAH, I was thrilled by Oldways’ invitation to become an Ambassador of the African Heritage & Health program. I have taken the position with pride and assume the commitment to represent the organization and promote the program to the community at large. As a nurse and certiﬁcation health coach, I feel that African Heritage & Health complements the services of my business, Full Circle Health Coaching LLC, in empowering and reconnecting people of color to their heritage as a guide to optimal health.
Throughout the years, I have seen a decrease of adherence to the foodways of our African ancestors—as compared to other ethnicities—and the result is many chronic diseases in our communities. Much like how Racheal Ray states that her Sicilian and Cajun ancestry has a strong inﬂuence on her cooking, and much like how Marcela Valladolid Rodriguez’s culinary style reﬂects traditional Mexican cooking, I feel that, as a certiﬁed personal ﬁtness chef, it is my duty to follow suit and represent the African diaspora in my cooking style. The African heritage foodways have gone under the radar long enough—it is time for them to be brought to the forefront.
So how do I do this? As an Ambassador of the African Heritage & Health program, I’ve engaged in the following activities over the past few months:
- Gave a cooking demonstration at a health fair in a faith-based community.
- Networked with a local restaurant, Green Love Kitchen (Caribbean-inspired dining), to add them to the directory of African diaspora restaurants, Dine-Around-Town.
- Introduced the program to Georgia Farmers Market Association; they have since become a partner and hosted an event to train local farmers, market managers, and health educators to become ATOAH teachers.
And how do you do this? I invite you to JOIN ME AND OLDWAYS on the quest to claim health by reclaiming heritage.
You can support the campaign for African Heritage & Health with one or all of the options below:
- Preparing authentic dishes at home by using the Oldways African heritage recipes.
- Dining at one of the restaurants listed in African Heritage Dine-Around-Town.
- Enrolling in A Taste of African Heritage cooking classes in your area.
- Becoming a teacher of A Taste of African Heritage.
Deitra Dennis, Oldways ATOAH Instructor, Registered Nurse, Certiﬁed Health Coach, Certiﬁed Personal Fitness Chef