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Byron Patrick Hurt
Place of Residence: New Jersey
Why He’s a Game Changer: Hurt’s documentary “Soul Food Junkies” takes a serious look at the fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, pigs’ feet and salty pork-seasoned collard greens that many of us grew up on and asks an important question: Is our culture killing us?
In a way, you can argue that that’s the theme of much of Hurt’s work. His previous film, “Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes,” examines misogyny, homophobia, and sexism in hip-hop.
“I’d say I’m trying to make the culture better and stronger and challenge people to think critically about their culture,” said Hurt.
The food that our forebearers ate and then passed down to us holds an important place in our hearts. It links us to the past. But what happens when it exacerbates already high rates of diabetes and heart disease?
“Slaves did what they needed to do to survive and make it through harsh times,” Hurt told KQED. “Then that way of cooking got passed down from generation to generation. And today there is a reluctance to let go of the vestiges of the way of life of our forefathers and foremothers, even though things have changed: foods are now processed and full of chemicals and we’re not as active as previous generations.”
Dick Gregory calls soul food “death food” in the documentary.
But does that mean letting go of those traditions entirely? Not necessarily.
Not every soul food dish has to be cooked in grease. Deep fried chicken can become oven fried chicken. Greens can be cooked with turkey as opposed to ham hocks. A variety of herbs can season food well and replace the need for a slathering of salt. Isn’t a side of collard greens better than the greasy Chinese fast food I see so many kids scoffing down? Or what about all the processed food I see loaded into the shopping carts of black and brown shoppers at the supermarket?