What does it mean to center blackness in a city that’s 76 percent white? That’s a question for Bliss House's Salimatu Amabebe, the Portland chef and artist behind monthly pop-up series Black Feast. Scheduled to debut this Sunday, September 10, Black Feast aims to celebrate black writers and artists through multi-course vegan and gluten-free meals.
Amabebe first developed the idea for Black Feast while reading a book written by and for people of color. “It was the first time that I had felt like [an author] was saying ‘you’ and assuming that it was me,” explains Amabebe. “I started to think about, who is the assumed audience?”
At Black Feast, the assumed audience is most definitely black—a departure from Amabebe’s regular Nigerian brunch pop-ups and dessert nights, which tend to be majority white. This Sunday’s Black Feast dinner is a “culinary interpretation and exploration” of Audre Lorde’s Sister Outsider, with each of the meal’s courses based on a different essay. “The Uses of Anger,” for example, is represented by a black bean chocolate stew with roasted red pepper mousse and red palm chili oil, while “The Erotic As Power” is translated into lemon cream, fresh cherries, and almond coconut foam. The printed menu will double as a zine filled with personal stories and essays from Amabebe’s community.
Attendees should expect to share their own stories and discuss the themes found in Lorde’s revolutionary text. “It’s important to me that people engage in these conversations,” says Amabebe. “I like the juxtaposition between [discussing] something challenging while you’re also being fed really nice, nourishing food.”
Interested in joining the conversation? Sunday’s meal will take place at Feastly at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available online for $45, and a “low-key scholarship program” is available for low-income folks. “I’m definitely open to offering lower prices for people who can’t afford it,” Amabebe says. “Ideally, I would like to make ticket prices a little bit higher so that there can be more scholarships.”
One more thing, before you ask: “A lot of people have asked me if this is open to white people, and the answer is always yes,” Amabebe says. “It’s not created for you, but it is open to you.” Of course, many white Portlanders aren’t used to participating in events that aren’t for them, but Amabebe isn’t concerned. “That’s my feeling so often," says the chef, "and I think that white people can experience that, too."