When we opened Heirloom, we made the decision to be apolitical as a restaurant. This was partially because at the time Travis and I differed relatively vastly in our political beliefs and felt that it would be difficult to take stances that would meet in a neutral middle. Further, we didn’t want to alienate potential customers by taking a stance that would be opposite of theirs. In a capitalistic sense, it didn’t feel like it would be in our best interest to risk upsetting anyone.
As we have grown as a company and as people in these past few years, we have come to realize that many of the stances that we thought were political are in fact moral, and in this we are in alignment. We cannot stand by silently amidst this environment of oppression, violence, and aggression toward BIPOC in our community and in our country. By being silent we have been complicit. By being apolitical, we have been a part of the problem.
Travis and I are white, as WASPy as they come, and while we both take pride in a strong work ethic, there is no doubt that our white privilege has played a huge part in getting us to where we are today, especially for me. If you’d like to hear more of my individual feelings of being complicit, feel free to take a look at my personal page instagram, @soundingsandfathoms.
Part of Heirloom’s mission is to tell a story through food, and as so many of our dishes are based in traditional “Southern” cuisine, we have often failed to give their full history, the history of a cuisine brought to this country by enslaved Africans growing and preparing the crops in the only ways they knew, learning to make the most of the scraps they were given or allowed to keep, being forced to cook for their enslavers and once emancipated, having to continue to live off of the cheapest cuts of meat and the food they grew and harvested themselves after their work day was done. I feel like even here, I am glossing over this, and that I have no right to tell these stories as if I have any authority of knowledge regarding them. We do pledge to learn more about the history of the food and the dishes that we are providing and to pass that knowledge on as we can. In the meantime, I would encourage you to read and follow the work of Michael W Twitty, Edna Lewis (the godmother of Southern food, pictured here), Toni Tipton-Martin, Jessica B Harris, Vertamae Smart-Grosvener, Kevin Young, Bryant Terry, Leah Chase, Todd Richards, Klancy Miller, Kwame Onwuachi, Omar Tate, and countless other black voices in food, and support the black owned restaurants in our community with your dollars: Kelly’s Jamaican Foods, Dawg Gone Good BBQ, Food for the Soul, Weaver D’s Delicious Fine Foods, Rashe’s Cuisine, Lil’ Ice Cream Dude’s Cool World, Mannaweenta, to name a few.
We pledge to do better moving forward, to listen and learn from the black voices in our community, to give credit where credit is due, to seek out more diversity in our staffing, to make sure that everyone feels truly welcome in our space, to use our privilege to provide a voice to BIPOC in our community, and to support organizations that fight against systemic oppression and racism locally and nationwide.