“They began arriving hours in advance. Over 400 volunteers–farmers, cooks, drivers, mobile art kitchens, dance choreographers, spoken word poets, food servers, food runners, zero waste managers, and table hosts. And when the bell rang, nearly 2,000 guests followed the signs in Somali, Spanish, Hmong, and English and took their seats on Sunday, September 14–at a half-mile long dinner table along Victoria Street in St. Paul, Minnesota–to take part in the performance.
Welcome to CREATE: The Community Meal, the ambitious and jubilant public art event by nationally acclaimed artist Seitu Jones that has placed the urbanFrogtown neighborhood and Public Art St. Paul in the forefront of the nation’s growing conversation over food justice, and access to healthy food and farms.” –Jeff Biggers, Huffington Post.
Jeff Biggers was the reporter for the Huffington Post sent from Iowa to write about the CREATE community meal here in St. Paul. I was one of the table host volunteers at the event. Jeff sat at an empty seat at my table, there to interview and learn about the event.
He asked where all the people came from, some from Minneapolis, some from St. Paul, many from Frogtown, where the meal took place on Victoria Street. It was a community meal, so most everyone was from nearby, except for the reporter. I think he came to the event expecting to be an outsider, and removed himself from the meal and casual conversation. But everyone was there to meet and discover not just how this community meal would function, but the diversity of the people attending. The people at my table gladly answered his questions, but required him to also answer theirs. Everyone there was interested in getting to know one another. No matter who you were or where you came from, you had to tell your story. Jeff quickly discovered that the best way for him to understand this community meal was to take part in it and experience it first-hand.
The idea of this project was to promote talk and understanding about food justice and access to healthy food and farms. This topic was discussed, and if you’d like to learn more about it you can see it in Jeff Biggers’ post, but I most enjoyed hearing where all of these people came from. I really enjoy meeting new and interesting people—and these people were interesting. There were spoken word artists, radio hosts, and all sorts of community entertainers or leaders. And even better, people that are generally viewed as “normal”, but the best discovery in getting to know these people is to see that none are “normal”. Everyone there had an interesting story, a “cool” background, or just some way of living that was unique.
These are the types of events that bring a better understanding of what it means to be a part of a community, and to understand the benefits of diversity. I greatly enjoyed being a part of this 250 table long dinner, and am excited to look into more projects like this one.
Erin Smith~ Facilitator