The Culinary Artist Putting Liberation on the Menu

“Social justice and food and art can intersect in a way that is so powerful and compelling,” Jocelyn Jackson says. “It really invites people to step into their power.”

The founder of JUSTUS Kitchen and co-founder of People’s Kitchen Collective regularly gathers people together for community meals. By bringing together artists and chefs, they memorialize historic moments such as the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, the Great Migration of African Americans from the South in the early twentieth century, and Donald Trump’s so-called Muslim ban of 2017.

“We are gathering our people together to not only acknowledge the horror of this real specific place, but to also reclaim it as a purposeful celebration of our survival and how our ancestors sacrificed so much to get us here,” Jackson explains. “We are empowered by their sacrifice to go to the streets and to create that call to action of continuing a legacy that is about liberation, that is about collective care, that is about unapologetically being audacious in our personal and community expressions for that freedom.”

In our latest Tiny Spark podcast, Jackson details her artistic process to create beautiful tablescapes which mark difficult events, like her work “Fixed Price Menu,” which was created in honor of cafeteria worker Philando Castile, who was killed by a police officer in 2016. As a recent recipient of a $100,000 unrestricted funds fellowship from the Kenneth Rainin Foundation, Jackson discusses how artists can be better supported by organizations and says there’s a need to move beyond transactional relationships. She also shares how her time in Mali with the Peace Corps “surrounded by Black people” changed her life.

“Being in a place where your own identity is centralized, celebrated, uplifted, amplified, simply by its existence,” she explains. “I wish it for everyone to be able to have this kind of experience of returning home, to really get to the heart of why we do what we do in the world.”

Cover Image: Jocelyn Jackson. Photo Credit: Molly DeCoudreaux


Jocelyn Jackson, “The People’s Kitchen Collective Is Feeding a Movement by Putting People First,” Eater, June 5, 2020.
Jocelyn Jackson, “If You Want to Experience Liberation, Black Women Must Be at the Table,” Eater, July 10, 2020.
Keyaira Boone, “Jocelyn Jackson Explores How Community Could Have Saved Philando Castile In Partnership With Ava Duvernay’s Leap Initiative,” Essence, April 7, 2021.
Deana Haggag & Shelley Trott, “Artists Are Facing Unprecedented Hardship. To Help Them, Philanthropists Must Change the Way They Work—by Working Together,” Artnet, March 29, 2021.
Abigail Bereola, “The People’s Kitchen Collective Is Bringing Activism to the Table,” Bon Appetit, June 19, 2018.
On Twitter: Jocelyn Jackson and People’s Kitchen Collective


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