Southern Foodways Alliance selects Greg Asbed of the CIW

A whole hog is prepared for conference participants by conference participants for Saturday night’s feast as part of the SFA’s 2012 Symposium on southern barbecue.

Southern Foodways Alliance selects Greg Asbed of the CIW as winner of the 2012 John Egerton Prize for advancing civil rights in the South “through the lens of food”…

Award presented as part of SFA’s 2012 Symposium on the many splendors of — and cultural, social, and economic significance of — barbecue!

Some people just love barbecue. Then there are the people of the Southern Foodways Alliance (SFA).

The Atlantic Monthly’s Corby Kummer described the SFA as “this country’s most intellectually engaged (and probably most engaging) food society.” And nowhere is that engagement more profound than when it comes to the discussion and consumption of that premier icon of southern food culture, barbecue.

Except maybe when it comes to that other abiding theme of the southern story, civil rights. And so it was that when the theme of this year’s SFA symposium was to be barbecue, and the intersection of southern socio-political culture with barbecue, the symposium was sold out in 12 minutes.

This past weekend, 400 fortunate souls gathered in Oxford, Mississippi, for the 2012 Symposium, and the very first panel on the agenda, entitled “The Politics of Protein and Tomatoes,” featured CIW member Greg Asbed, together with Georgia cattleman Will Harris and restaurateur Nick Pihakis. They discussed the hidden costs of a food system that focuses on producing cheap food and various paths toward producing sustainable, and affordable, food that protects the people, animals, and environmental elements that go into its production.

Later that evening, Greg Asbed was presented the 2012 John Egerton Prize (above, Greg is shown speaking after receiving the award), a prize created in honor of John Egerton’s “work in chronicling and championing the cause of civil rights in America, and for his contribution to our understanding of the power of the common table.” The prize recognizes:

“artists, writers, scholars, and others–including artisans and farmers and cooks–whose work, in the American South, addresses issues of race, class, gender, and social and environmental justice, through the lens of food.”

By the end of the CIW’s stay in Oxford, one thing had made itself abundantly clear: The Coalition of Immokalee Workers and the Southern Foodways Alliance are not only neighbors, but nearly kin, with the same analysis and vision for a more just food system driving our work and the same joy of collaboration and spirit of community animating our actions. Against the otherwise barren backdrop of progressive food movement organizing in this country’s south, this new alliance, born this past weekend in a celebration of barbecue and food justice, will almost certainly stand tall in the years ahead as we continue our mutual work to build a better food system that respects human rights, not exploits human beings.

Many thanks to the SFA for this wonderful honor, and here’s to many more days of working — and playing — together to come.