Visiting artist to University of Michigan to address race, equity through food

New Orleans-based Tunde Wey will host a series of pop-up events in Ann Arbor

By Meredith Bruckner - Community News Producer

Photos of Tunde Wey during his pop-up dinner series "Blackness in America." (Photos: Moyo Oyelola/Courtesy Tunde Wey)

ANN ARBOR - The University of Michigan Stamps School of Art and Design will host Roman J. Witt visiting artist Tunde Wey this month.

The Nigerian-born chef and author recently received national press for his lunch counter project in New Orleans called "Saartj," where white patrons were charged $30 per plate, while people of color were charged $12. Participants of color had the option to pay full price.

The experiment aimed to raise awareness for racial wealth disparity. Data collected showed the power of social pressure to rethink dialogue about race and equity.
"Food spaces embody the sort of structural inequalities that exist in the larger community and they also contribute to those inequities as well, so it's incumbent on folks, on all of us, to address the injustices that we see in all the spaces that they exist," Wey said in a recent interview with GQ Magazine.

Photos of Tunde Wey during his pop-up dinner series “Blackness in America.” (Photos: Moyo Oyelola/Courtesy Tunde Wey)

"My connection with Tunde came from a mutual interest in revealing how consumptive acts are complicit in larger systems of racism and gentrification," Rebekah Modrak, associate professor at the Stamps School and Wey's host to Ann Arbor, said in a press release. "I reached out to him after launching Rethink Shinola and reading his article in CityLab about food and gentrification. We started talking about doing something together. 
"But the community involvement of this project is new for me, as is the food. So while I'm a co-instigator who's doing the groundwork for all the Ann Arbor events, I understand my role as being in a position of learning."

Wey is no stranger to the area. He came to Detroit at the age of 16 to study, and later became a co-owner of Hamtramck's Revolver, a fixed pop-up space that rotates featured guest chefs.

Events (as pictured above):

April 20, 7-9 p.m.
Ann Arbor District Library, 343 S. Fifth Ave.
Public Talk + Conversation
Modrak will moderate a conversation with Tunde about his work as a chef, his decision to use food as provocation, the possibility of transforming consumptive acts through dinners and pop-up restaurants, discriminatory development, racial wealth disparity and the importance of self-determination in affecting the outcomes of your life and community.

April 24-25
Food Truck + Dinnertime
U-M Ginsberg Center at the corner of E. University and Hill streets
Public dinnertime food truck dining experience. 

April 26-27, 5-8 p.m.
Food Truck + Dinnertime
Argus Farm Stop, 325 W. Liberty St.
Public dinnertime food truck dining experience.

Wey will serve as chef and moderator at two additional private dinners as part of his research and engagement. One, organized by the Community Action Network, will engage staff and residents of Green-Baxter Court, Bryant Community and Hikone, three Ann Arbor housing communities.

The second dinner will be held at Jefferson Market, where planning members of Peace Neighborhood Center, Ann Arbor African American Downtown Festival, a city councilman and other community members, including university participants from Stamps School, the Black Student Union and the National Center for Institutional Diversity, will discuss issues of equity and inclusion on campus.

Wey will return to Hamtramck to close his U-M visit and to create a restaurant pop-up "Saartj Hamtramck" April 29 through May 5 inside the community space Bank Suey. The project will bring to light the work being done by Devita Davison, of FoodLab, and Malik Yakini, of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network in Detroit, nonprofit advocacy organizations that use food as a tool to develop the community and improve outcomes for the city's mainly African-American residents.
Wey said he's "looking to shift how we understand development so that it's not solely concerned with profit and scale, but with individuals and with the social integrity and social fabric of the community."

To learn more about his projects, visit Wey's website.

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