Over the past few weeks, we’ve witnessed a shift in the atmosphere, a reckoning if you will. The recent wave of protests against police brutality across the world makes it impossible to ignore the continued mistreatment that Black Americans face on a daily basis. We understand that things can’t return to the way they once were, and we shouldn’t want them to. These outcries have also exposed cracks embedded within many industries, most notably the hospitality scene, where discriminatory practices, deep-seated racism and a lack of inclusivity and diversity have always existed.
I’ve seen these flaws for years—they’re part of the reason I founded Seasoned and Blessed, a food blog that chronicles the Black and Brown food experience in Chicago and beyond. While my journey in food writing has been rewarding, it has also been rife with exhaustion—from going to events where I was the only Black person in attendance to reading “best of” lists from publications that rarely included Black-owned restaurants to being reimbursed for my creative work with bottles of ketchup. It was this blatant lack of diversity that fueled Seasoned and Blessed for the past four years. For me, this is a passion project that ties together my love of food and my dedication to Black culture.
Fast-forward to the beginning of June, in the midst of a global pandemic and worldwide protests: I suddenly found myself thrust into the spotlight, with a wave of new followers and support. My platform was finally being celebrated and acknowledged. I wasn’t complaining, but I couldn’t ignore the questions in my mind: Why now? Why did it take a tragedy to finally become visible?
For weeks, people have been asking me, "How can I become a better ally to the Black community?" Since there aren’t enough hours in a day, and I can’t unpack 400 years of struggle in one place, I wanted to share three points that will hopefully open the door to larger conversations and transformation.
Aaron Oliver is the founder of Seasoned and Blessed, a food blog that chronicles Black and Brown culinary experiences in Chicago. Follow him on Instagram at @seasonedandblessed and read more of his work at seasonedandblessed.com.