Writing, speaking, thinking ... always
As a scholar of Black life, especially food and foodways, Dr. Williams-Forson discusses everything from African American foodways to the importance of food in workplaces and the meanings of Juneteenth beyond food.
“Black Women, Food, and Power”
Proudly Representing Food Cultures of the African Diaspora
Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson is a speaker, teacher, scholar, and author of several books on African American food cultures and history. These include, Eating While Black: Food Shaming and Race in America; the award-winning, Building Houses Out of Chicken Legs: Black Women, Food, and Power; and Taking Food Public: Redefining Foodways in a Changing Food World (w/ Carole Counihan).
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As a scholar of African American life and culture, Dr. Williams-Forson is an often sought-after speaker who discusses everything from African American foodways to the importance of food in workplaces and the meanings of Juneteenth beyond food. She coined the phrase “Black Women, Food, and Power” and has spoken extensively on topics such as food and literature; food and sustainability; race, food, and design thinking; eating and workplace cultures; as well as the ways that Black people’s race and gender have been continuously misrepresented in visual and textual media. Williams-Forson also has written extensively about African American history and life in reviews, articles, and magazines.
She frequently keynotes and speaks at universities, colleges, communities, corporations, and museums throughout the United States and abroad. Dr. Williams-Forson has also curated two exhibits –Fire and Freedom (for the National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine) – and Still Cookin by the Fireside: African-Americans in Food Service, an online exhibition, that examined African-American history from the colonial era to the present.
Dr. Williams-Forson serves on the editorial board for many journals including the Journal of Food and Foodways; International Journal of Food Design; the Journal of American Studies; and The Journal of Women, Gender, and Families, among many others. She also serves on the board of the Southern Food and Beverage and is a founding member of the Southern Foodways Alliance. Dr. Psyche is also the recipient of numerous fellowships including a Smithsonian Museum Senior Fellowship, a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Diversity Fellowship, and a Winterthur Museum and Library Fellowship.
A cultural historian who studies objects and the material work, Dr. Psyche is at work on a new research project that explores class, consumption, and citizenship by looking at African American domestic interiors from the late nineteenth century to the early twentieth century.
Dr. Psyche is a professor and department chair in the Department of American Studies at the University of Maryland College Park. She is also an affiliate faculty member of the Theatre, Dance, and Performing Studies, the Departments of African American Studies, Anthropology, The Harriet Tubman Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, and the Consortium on Race, Gender, and Ethnicity. She holds a BA from the University of Virginia, and an MA and Ph.D. in American Studies from the University of Maryland College Park.
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published books by dr. williams-forson
written by dr. psyche williams-forson
In Eating While Black, Dr. Psyche Williams-Forson offers her knowledge and experience to illuminate how anti-Black racism operates in the practice and culture of eating.
edited by dr. psyche williams-forson
Taking Food public
This anthology capitalizes on this particular cultural moment to bring to the fore recent scholarship that focuses on innovative ways people are recasting food in public spaces to challenge hegemonic practices and meanings.
written by dr. psyche williams-forson
building houses out of chicken legs
"I write about Black people and I study Black lives and the things we use and consume. That’s what I do but when you ask who I am–that’s a different story. Kinda, sorta… I believe in the liberation of all people and especially Black people."
in her own words
who is dr. psyche williams-forson?
As Jewish American writer and activist, Emma Lazarus is quoted as saying, “Until we are all free, none of us are free.”
I believe in women and our empowerment. I am also a mommyPhD and because of Toni Morrison I realize that I have always written “under duress, and in a state of siege and with a lot of compulsion” because I have a child and my child comes first. As Mother Morrison says, “You have to be interrupted. There was never a place I worked, or a time I worked, that my [child] did not interrupt me, [no] matter how trivial–because it was never trivial to them. The writing could never take precedence over them…
So, I had to “write the way a woman with children writes.” My child could never not have me be bothered. She did not and does not “need and cannot use a writer.” She needs and needed her mother and I need and needed her so she is part of who I am. And I don’t apologize for this any more than I apologize for being a Black woman scholar/activist/writer/cultural historian. Is this more of what I do or is it who I am?
Food justice is a form of social justice. Advocating and believing that everyone deserves good, affordable food in whatever way they define that for themselves should be a goal for all of us. Most of us have so few pleasures in this life that having a good meal that evokes good memories, is tasty and satisfying, and is well-cooked, can make all the difference in the world. Food is intensely personal for all of us. It’s about more than what’s on our plates because food is tied to our heritage and our sense of belonging.
When people insist that Black people must change their diets because it is killing us, then we should all pause and ask–is this what is really killing us, or are we dying from constant mistreatment, incarceration, generational poverty, mental health trauma, physical abuse, incessant police violence, horrible healthcare, redlining, loansharking, and on and on? I’m not saying that some of the regional and generational ways some of us cook our foods (always or often with heavy oil, fats, white sugar, and white flour) is not contributing to our inherited dis-ease. But, I hardly doubt that a different way of eating will wholly resolve all or even most of what ails Black people in America.
Stop it! It is that ideology that undergirds anti-Black racism and puts full blame on a race of people rather than the systems that work hard to keep us mired in oppression.