HISTORY OF GRANDMA'S HANDS
Grandma’s Hands is a platform for Black grandmothers to share family recipes and food traditions with future generations. The program provides a bag of fresh produce grown by Black farmers and brings everyone together virtually to learn how to prepare the featured recipe together.
Grandma’s Hands have always been there to pick us up, lift us up, and guide us to the right path.
Our Grandma’s Hands story begins with Vanessa and Willie Chambers, and how Vanessa was sharing cooking traditions and experiences with their grandchildren at home. That picture was captured in Willie’s mind in 2018 when he was meeting with Katrina Ratzlaff and Lisa Cline from Wallace Medical, Lynn Ketch from the Rockwood CDC, Maureen Quinn from OSU, and others working for the health of the people of Rockwood. The conversation got around to food systems how and to promote good nutrition and health. From there, the picture of grandmothers actively passing on their cultural and family food traditions to younger generations came into focus. Willie had already seen it at home; He already knew the words penned by Gil Scott Heron and sung by Bill Withers — “Grandma’s Hands”
Willie reached out to Chuck Smith and the Black Food Sovereignty Coalition to help work on developing this concept. Throughout 2019 we reflected on the transformative power of Grandma’s Hands and worked on how to activate Grandma’s Hands in improving our health, guiding our eating habits, strengthening our connections, and building our community.
The first Grandma’s Hands project was funded in 2020 through a grant submitted by the Rockwood CDC to the Oregon Department of Agriculture to serve the Rockwood community. BFSC, in partnership with the Rockwood CDC did the natural and right thing- turn to the Black Grandmas in our community to have their Hands bring this project to life. Vanessa Chambers was one of those first Grandmas to guide this program.
The Grandmas who participated in launching the first project are: Vanessa Chambers, Rhonda Combs, Mildred Braxton, Martha Lewis, Laurie Palmer, Marchane Lawson, Joyce Smith-McGee, Latasha Carter, Lisa Mathis, Mary Frison, and Shantae Johnson. We also had a few men/grandfathers contribute to the effort: Arthur Shavers, Jerry Hunter, and Robert Braxton.
BFSC has respectfully accepted the honor of being caretakers of Grandma’s Hands, recognizing that Grandma’s Hands have always been there holding us, sustaining us, and encouraging us.
The Grandma’s Hands program today is the collective gift that Black Grandmas from our community have given us.
“Grandma's hands, they keep on calling to me.” - Gil Scott Heron