Inglewood restaurant offers meat-free meals in a sea of fast food options

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imageLatisha Jordan stands in front of the grill at Stuff I Eat heating up some tortillas.

“I’m making mixed tacos,” she explains. “There’s wild rice and tofu mixed together, with S.I.E. [Stuff I Eat] sauce and with medium, mild, or spicy salsa, and then kale with carrot mango dressing.”

Jordan works for her aunt and uncle at Stuff I Eat, the only vegan restaurant in Inglewood with her cousin Danielle Horton. Both cousins are vegan for health reasons.

Horton went from a size 18/22 to size 8 after giving up meat, she says. “It was seeing my family members, my mom, my dad, some of my cousins, all overweight, having diabetes, high blood pressure at an early age, I was headed in that direction.”

The Center for Disease and Control reports that the African American community has an obesity rate of 36 percent, which is higher than either Hispanics or whites.

Horton saw an alternative in her aunt and uncle, Ron and Babette Davis, who opened Stuff I Eat in 2008. They see themselves as missionaries of a vegan diet in a neighborhood full of fast food restaurants, she says.

“People were always saying why did you guys open up in Inglewood? You guys would make a killing in Santa Monica or Venice, but we live here, so we thought this would be a good place to have a healthy alternative for our community,” Horton says.

Not everyone in the community is convinced.

“We’ve had people walk in and walk right out,” Horton says. “But a lot of it is still it’s the breaking through the habits and traditions that have been passed down. That’s the big main challenge. People think they can’t live without meat.”

Customer Makeda Cowan is trying to learn to be a strict vegetarian for health reasons, but she says the food also just tastes good.

“My favorite when I come is the something-something, which is a variety of almost everything, and I like it spicy,” Cowan says. “The community needs it. There’s too many people sick and obese, and it’s because of fast food, not knowing what to eat. It’s old school to me, it’s how I grew up. I didn’t have my first burger until I was 22 and I didn’t like it.”

Vegans still may be rare in the African American community, but Stuff I Eat has found its niche. It is opening an event space next door to the restaurant in 2012.

USC African American beauty art exhibit nears its last week

imageThe definition of beauty varies from person to person and an art exhibit at USC’s Fisher Museum of Art explores this discrepancy throughout many forms of media.

“Posing Beauty in African American Culture” opened in September 2011 and will end its run on Saturday, December 3.

This exhibit focuses on how African and African-American beauty has been represented throughout history until today.

Using a wide range of media from photography, to film, to video, to fashion, to advertising and more, “Posing Beauty” poses the question of what makes an African-American woman beautiful. From the plentiful pieces of art available for museum visitors, there is no definite answer. image

Deborah Willis, the curator of “Posing Beauty” says “the images in this exhibition challenge idealized forms of beauty in art by examining their portrayal and exploring a variety of attitudes about race, class, gender, popular culture and politics as seen through the aesthetics of representation.”

“Posing Beauty in African American Culture” is divided into three distinct sections that emphasize disparities in the way African American women are represented in the media. The sections are “Constructing a Pose,” “Body and Image,” and “Modeling Beauty & Beauty Contests.”image

The exhibit “explores contemporary understandings of beauty by framing the notion of aesthetics, race, class, and gender within art, popular culture, and political context,” says Willis.

Even though the “Posing Beauty” will finish its run at the Fisher Museum on December 3, there is still time to join the conversation of what is the true definition of beauty.

Black church studies a changed South LA

Second Baptist in South Los Angeles, one of the oldest black churches in Southern California, commissioned a neighborhood report to figure out how it can expand its mission of social justice to a community that looks very different than its congregation.

“This church [has] become a transitional Hispanic community,” said Pastor William Epps.

In the last few decades, South Los Angeles has shifted from a predominately black community to a majority Latino community. Latinos make up 88 percent of a community where streets are named after civil rights icons like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. Most people in the area are immigrant Latino, with African-Americans making up only 11 percent of the neighborhood.


The stories of black and brown conflict, surfacing over cultural differences or perceived job competition, have often defined what this community has become.

Even the church has felt the challenges. It was once home to the civil rights movement on the West Coast. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke from the pulpit and the church helped fund legal briefs for the Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of education, which paved the way for desegregation in schools.

“People used to walk to church,” said Epps. Now, most congregants commute to the church, often keeping it out-of-touch with the needs of the neighborhood.

Pastor Epps realized the difficulty continuing a social justice mission in a changed community when he took his job in 1987.

“I dubbed my years the ‘challenging years’ because it would be hard to maintain a viable congregation in a changing neighborhood,” said Epps, “and at the same time keep congregants excited about doing ministry that may not always benefit them personally.”

But as Second Baptist marks its 125th year in the community, the church is wondering how a congregation of commuters can spread its social justice ministry to a transformed neighborhood.

The church received a grant and commissioned USC’s Center for Immigrant Integration and Esperanza Community Housing to study the neighborhood, its needs and figure out ways the church might help.

“This is one of those neighborhoods where immigration is an issue, the environment is an issue and it all comes together, and it’s right there,” said Vanessa Carter, a researcher on the project.

The researchers looked at census data, environmental data, and surveyed more than 500 residents about living conditions in the area. The report, which was published earlier this fall, shows grim conditions in South Los Angeles.

The community is very poor, with families often living in overcrowded homes. The median household income in the Second Baptist neighborhood is $29,164, compared to the LA Metro figure at $54,993.

Heavy traffic from nearby freeways makes the area environmentally toxic. Residents are also mostly newcomers, often isolated from the rest of Los Angeles.

On average, residents are younger in this community compared to the rest of LA. They are also more mobile, only 7 percent of the people surveyed had lived in the community for more than 20 years. Most lived there ten years or less.

There are challenges to creating relationships with this community. Many don’t speak English and families often leave before reaching five years in the neighborhood. But the researchers on the project note similar experiences between the Black and Latino communities, where the church could build common ground.

“The way that incarceration affects the Black community and makes it hard to have a good paying job and pulls apart families, is the same way that deportation can affect a Latino family,” sais Carter. “They are different issues, but they have similar effects.”

While Pastor Epps finds the detailed statistics about the community revealing, the battles the neighborhood faces now, with poverty, poor housing and education, are not new to the church.

“The plight of Hispanics seeking full citizenship is similar to the plight of African Americans in the 60s. You can see a lot of the parallels,” said Epps.


The report recommended ways the church could serve the community. The church owns property in the area and the report suggested the church could work with other community groups and find ways to utilize the property for childcare or affordable housing.

“Anybody who cares about making the society right, making the society a place where everyone can progress, regardless of their ethnicity or immigration status, has to worry about the unity of Blacks and Latinos as we move forward,” said Manuel Pastor, director of Center for Immigrant Integration.

Second Baptist hasn’t made any concrete plans on how they will use the data to expand their mission of social justice. But, those on the project say, understanding the new neighborhood is good place to start.

“I think that the church has the political will and the moral will to work with other groups of like mind and like mission so that we can we advance the cause and make this community better than what it is,” said Pastor Epps.

Timeline of the Second Baptist Church:

Graphs courtesy of University of Southern California’s Center for Immigrant Integration

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo and harmony between Latinos and African Americans