Hundreds of thousands of people all over the US are marching in name of civil rights following the death of George Floyd at the hands of police on May 25. Emotions run high as past injustice and trauma are brought to the surface in a much-needed call for America to examine its own systemic racism. Activists and citizens alike need support as they bear this heavy burden in the fight for change.
Rose McGee, a baker in Minneapolis, is fueling her embattled community with her famous Sweet Potato Comfort Pies.
The 69-year-old and a team of volunteers distribute the pies at Minneapolis’ makeshift memorial for Floyd. Each pie comes with a poem written by McGee’s daughter, Rose Harmon.
“This is the sacred dessert of Black culture,” McGee told HuffPost.
At a time when it would be easy to lose hope, the pies not only offer nourishment for the body, they feed the soul.
“They link us to our history, they soothe our souls and they renew us for the work ahead,” she said.
Harmon’s poem, included with each pie, reminds the recipient of this important function and the symbolism of the gesture.
It reads, “Remember to eat, pray and love as you partake in making a difference, for there is much to be proud of.”
Harmon believes, “The pies are who we are— a beautiful caramel color on the outside, filled with sweetness on the inside.”
McGee began distributing pies during times of crisis back in the summer of 2016 when police shot and killed Michael Brown.
She packed her car with 30 sweet potato pies and drove more than 500 miles to Ferguson, Missouri.
“I knew that I needed to do something,” she said. ”Right then, the Lord spoke to me: Get up and bake some pies and take them down there.'”
When distributing the pies, the gift elicits joy and emotional responses that connect McGee to the community and offer deep psychological support.
In Ferguson, she learned, “I realized that I needed to begin by asking permission to give this gift. And then I needed to be ready for the sometimes very deep emotions that were shared with me. Time after time, I would hear that this pie had arrived in someone’s life at exactly the right time, when it was most needed.”
Since McGee was called to offer support in Ferguson, her mission has grown. She continues to travel the country with pies when the Black community is targeted by unjust violence.
McGee has also founded an annual event in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Volunteers gather in Golden Valley, Minnesota each January to bake one pie that represents every year since MLK’s birth.
Even COVID-19 couldn’t stop her— McGee used Facebook Live to teach viewers the secret to baking the perfect sweet potato pie.
Last week, as the country mourns the loss of yet another innocent Black person murdered by police, the pies brought much joy.
“I have never handed a pie to someone without getting a smile back,” volunteer Andrena Seawood said. “I think we blessed some people there, so they can go forth and be a blessing.”
McGee’s story is proof that sharing whatever skills you have to offer really can make a difference.
“When you think about pie, it’s not essential, but when you think about how it makes you feel, maybe it is,” McGee said, emphasizing the healing power of food made and distributed with love.
“I’m sorry for the pain that our country is feeling right now— I wish there was a pie big enough to serve the whole human race,” McGee told NBC.