Moses Sumney Dinner: Black in Appalachia

Senior Brand Manager, Jefferson Ellison, talks community and Sunday Dinners amidst the celebration of Moses Sumney's recent film, Blackalachia.

On Sunday, April 10, 2022 at 6:30 PM, East Fork hosted Moses Sumney and twenty Black and BIPOC guests for a three-course meal in celebration of Sumney’s recent film, Blackalachia. The guests gathered at Lake Eden (the land where Black Mountain College once stood) for a menu that featured cornbread drizzled with honey and served with cold butter, collard greens, macaroni and cheese, smoked chicken, mashed potatoes and a panna cotta dessert, prepared by rising North Carolina chef, Jasmine Michel and East Fork Senior Brand Manager, Jefferson Ellison.

In attendance: chef and current Top Chef star Ashleigh Shanti, model Collin Alexander, artists Ambrose Murray and Julianna Chioma, chef Silver Cousler, community activists Kasia Maatafale and Spike and more. Guests were treated to wine by Oregon’s only Black winemaker, André Mack and a variety of caviar all served with vintage crystal and plated on East Fork’s latest seasonal glaze, Fiddlehead.

menu on fiddlehead place setting

Sunday dinners have always been special to me and I’ve always thought them to be particularly ritualistic for Black people. Not only because there is an art and standard to Sunday dinner but because throughout the history of the African-American, few things have been constant. Freedom has changed. Language has changed. Beliefs have changed. But the one thing that has endured, nurtured, and thrived since the beginning was Sunday Dinner. A time to come together. To see each other. Give thanks to the God you pray to and feel connected to the world in which you stand.

A laying on of hands.

Jefferson at the table

I have always struggled to connect my multidimensional self in a way that felt authentic. Wanting to honor my heritage and my upbringing without feeling pedantic. Craving to put more of myself into my career without risking professionalism. And I’d never found a safe way to do that. To stand in me and show up in the world as a whole person—informed, broken, hopeful. Until now. Hosting a meal of foods from my ancestors, finding joy on stolen land, gathering in service of art that looks like me… what a gift.

It’s almost like a cosmic correction. The blood of the slaves running through our bodies being nourished by the luxuries that they were denied. To be in the presence of each other, surely God was there. For when two or more are gathered in his name, there he is with us. With every smile that creased brown skin, with the clink of every glass, with the serving of every dish, surely God was there. The god they gave us. The god that saved us. The one we pray to and the one we disavow. Surely the connective spirit that was, has always been and will ever be, watched over as we did the one thing his world fails to do, validate us.

laughter at the table

It’s my personal belief that nights like these aren’t just special but they are necessary. Each and every one of us deserves to feel seen, heard, and validated. To be surrounded by our own reflection and afforded the ability to be ensconced in ourselves. Daily, we get caught up in the world, stretching ourselves thin with work, fear and obligation that every once in a while it’s nice to stand firm in ourselves, have a seat, enjoy a moment of peace and come back home. At times, that power is within us but often we are in need of community to help us through the process. It’s the community who sees us, the ones who hear our screams, catch our fallen tears and hold us close. Community will put us back together if and when we break. What a gift.

laughing at the table

This dinner served many purposes. It celebrated art. It launched our new glaze. It fed a group of young artists.

I hope it encourages you to sit down for dinner. To feed your soul and nourish your spirit. To surround yourself with people who know you and others who you hope to know. Gather in honor of massive occasions or simply just because. Have big conversations and find meaning in small details. Hold space for yourself and pull out the chair for your neighbor. Feel the glow of candles and the warmth of the setting sun.

And when the night ends, may you feel the power of the moon on your skin and may you always feel full.

It’s my personal belief that nights like these aren’t just special but they are necessary.
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