Academic journal article Southern Quarterly

"I Would Have Fed Him Gumbo z'Herbes"

Academic journal article Southern Quarterly

"I Would Have Fed Him Gumbo z'Herbes"

Article excerpt

Thank you so much. I am so pleased to be here and as I look around at all these people with all the wisdom in the world, I really don't know what I'm doing here. I'm out of my league. This is quite interesting, I've learned so much, you know, I never had the opportunity of meeting Mr. Wright, you look at the books Native Son, Pagan Spain, Black Boy and that is printed big on the cover, and the author's name is little on the bottom. Quite interesting. And I am supposed to be here to creolize Richard Wright. Well I don't know if Richard wanted to be creolized anyway. All I can do is I can take his greens, and I'm sure he came up eating those collard greens with ham hocks, and then turn 'em into what we call gumbo z'herbes, in New Orleans. So, gumbos are gumbos and we do gumbos with everything in New Orleans and maybe Richard - I'm sorry I wasn't there to feed him, I got the opportunity to feed so many people, James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, even Sterling Brown. All of these people, A. Philip Randolph, just the whole list. Oh my God, the opportunity to feed Mr. Wright! Mr. Wright is inspiring me now - how he got his determination I don't know. I always told people when they moved, you know, the first big migration for Blacks, out of the South, was to Chicago. Everybody went to Chicago. Or they went other places, and worked on those WPA programs, and got grants to study and do what- ever. Then when they moved in the '60s, they migrated to Los Angeles. So I looked at that migration, then everybody's going away, but I'm still staying put in New Orleans. I loved everyone, and then they all began to come back home. And I told them, well, you didn't find heaven in Chicago, you didn't find heaven in New York, you didn't find heaven in Los Angeles. I hope that taught you one thing. Heaven on Earth is where you make it. You have to make your own Heaven. So, it's good to move around, learn what's happening, like Mr. Wright did. Learn everywhere you go. Even to Spain, you see the situation he saw over there, it was no different than what he was in here. It was no different, but he worked, and he tried, and he was just searching, and I read that whole program about him - that's so interesting and that, really, at this young age gives me a drive to keep going, because in a way, we are all still searching. I'm still searching, I don't know where to go anymore, or what to do. You feed everybody, and in New Orleans, we believe that if you give 'em food they will work harder. In the '60s, when people were going out all to protest, before they went out, they would come to the restaurant and have a bowl of gumbo or some fried chicken and I thought they were crazy. I said, you're crazy as everything, but I'm going to feed you. You know, you gotta go out there, you're going to go to jail, some of you are going to get killed, but I'll feed you. So that I thought was my part, to feed them and keep them going. And I'm still doing that.

It's really kind of interesting to see what food can do. But I look at Mr. Wright, I think he was so hard searching that he didn't stop long enough to eat. Yet he must have eaten in Paris, and I guess that's where he really stayed on. And I can see why. Paris is strange. I've been to Paris twice, and you're all on your own there. You have nobody there that's over your shoulders. You're just on your own. So that gives you a chance to find yourself, and I think that's what Paris must have done for him. It gave him a chance to really find himself. To see what he's searching for and how he's searching. I just hope he would have time to eat a little bit more. Eat some good food, because food is important. It is important to everything and everybody. And, food to me is, you do your own food. People question my doing like we stayed on that corner. I saw integration come and go. And then they said, "well Leah." And the '60s came and people were able to go all over Eden. They said that you should move. You should move because you are not going to have any customers here anymore. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.