The Privilege of Rage
In 2015, I started Rage Baking because, quite frankly, I didn’t know what else to do. I’d done all the things and I didn’t know what more I could do with my grief, disappointment and rage. Being black in America means you’re solid in the knowledge that folks don’t give a true flying f**k about you or anyone who looks like you. That you’re never truly seen or valued. That you’re never afforded your humanity in the face of unspeakable things. Still, it’s one thing to know that and another thing to have that knowledge reaffirmed, broadcast from all sides and to watch folks choose apathy and their own comfort when presented with the unassailable truth. I can’t quite put into words what that does to one’s spirit. What it does to the tiny ember of hope held that one day there will be actual progress, justice or change. I was worn out and feeling defeated and I know I wasn’t alone. It all felt Sisyphean. It didn’t seem that there was any way to reach through folks’ apathy or fatigue and into their hearts and minds.
I turned to my kitchen because, personally, it’s one of the places I commune with my ancestors. I’m a Black woman born and partly raised in the South. Kitchens are sacred, powerful spaces to me. They are places of history and healing, of community and connection, of resistance and revolution, of transformation and truth. I’ve been taught that they hold the heart of a home and, collectively, the pulse of a community. For me, kitchens are a place for alchemy and renewal. My kitchen was a safe space to cry, punch and set things on fire so I could go out and continue to face the f**kery outside. When you feel as if you’re about to explode, that energy has to go somewhere. I didn’t want to lose myself to the fury. I definitely didn’t want to swallow it or have it eat me from the inside or destroy my capacity to demonstrate love and openness. I’ve seen too many folks implode from the pain and exhaustion. Black folks are never allowed to admit when we’re tired and why and we’re certainly not afforded our legitimate and justified rage. I didn’t just want to take out my anger, hurt , and frustration. I wanted to channel it and move through it. I wanted to get my heart right, renew my hope and find a way forward.
One truth about baking is that you can start with a good recipe and the best of intentions, but the outcome isn’t always promised. So many things are out of your control. You basically put everything together the best way you know how and wait to see how it’s all going to turn out. Sometimes you succeed and everything is as intended. Sometimes it doesn’t and you’re pleasantly surprised with the results. Other times it’s a disaster and you take the L, glean what you can from the mistakes and start again. The lesson you learn in the end is how to adapt and move with change, but most importantly, to keep trying. In my kitchen, I was reminded that I wasn’t powerless in the face of f**kery. That fury is fuel, sorrow can be turned into joy and that there is power, strength and resilience in coming together in even the smallest of ways.
My online and real life community is international and consists of activists/community organizers, performers , creators, writers and regular folks in feminist, POC and queer circles of all shades, sizes, abilities, cultures and gender expressions. In the fall of 2015, I started posting publicly on my profile on Facebook about my Rage baking under the #ragebaking hashtag and encouraged others to join me in rage baking as a way to cope, connect and channel their fury into meaningful connection and community. I’ve been living Rage Baking as a personal practice by opening my kitchen for folks in my community to bake with me to destress or by distributing baked goods. My kitchen became a place for those in my circle to come on a particularly trying day to shut out the F**kery and the noise.
By mid 2016, I was encouraged to do a Go Fund Me which enabled me to bake more and send out rage baked care packages to folks who asked. I wrote the Fundamentals of Rage Baking and posted them at Ragebaking.com. I extended a practice of generosity that started out with my friends and neighbors to carrying Rage baked treats with me during my commutes to hand out to strangers. I used the @Ragebaking Instagram to post when I had baked goods available. I spent all of 2018 baking once a week for the staff of a social justice non-profit. Rage Baking is supported by folks either donating ingredients or from my very limited pockets. Everyone who picks up the ragebaked treats is told to pay it forward by sharing the treats with others or by holding space to rage bake. My focus has been on the groundwork of making connection. This was intentional and I’m aware of the ways in which my efforts have had traction and influenced folks on and offline. I have used the time I’ve spent rage baking in my kitchen and with other people in their kitchens to make space for either having the difficult conversations folks weren’t comfortable having online or performing the alchemy of turning sorrow into joy. It’s no secret that a little love and kindness goes a long, long way.
In 2018, I was contacted by a reporter from an online food publication who sought to interview me about the practice of Rage Baking, but stopped contact when I asserted that it was a political and artistic act and that I was the person who established Rage Baking in this context. I’ve never met the editor of the publication, but they’re the spouse of someone I went to high school with who is connected to me on Facebook.
I was also contacted by another reporter who sought to interview me and an freelance audio producer who wanted to speak to me in connection with pitching Rage Baking as a story to NPR.
Most recently, a book called Rage Baking was released by Simon and Schuster’s Tiller Press. The book contains essays and recipes compiled by two white women and is marketed as a cookbook that “encourages women to use sugar and sass as a way to defend, resist, and protest.” While there is some diversity among the book’s contributors, the marketing material on the publisher’s website ties the need, or desire, for rage baking to the 2016 election and does not mention racial justice at all. It is also common knowledge that “sass” is not the measured defense mechanism of white women and that black women historically have used kitchens as a mode of resistance.
It’s been really hard to see Rage Baking whitewashed with a tinge of diversity, co-opted, monetized and my impact erased and minimized under the veneer of feminism and uplifting women’s voices. It has been especially hard to have that happen during Black History Month and to be accidentally tagged in Instagram stories by people who have purchased the book. While I have never met the authors of the book, I share a mutual friend with Kathy Gunst on Facebook and she follows me (@tangerinejones) on Instagram where I first started posting about Rage Baking. Over MLK weekend, there was a social media push to promote the book which some of my Instagram followers organically came across because of the authors’ use of the #ragebaking hashtag and responded to with outrage.
This is the unsolicited response to their outrage that I received in the DMs of my @ragebaking Instagram account from the authors,Katherine Alford and Kathy Gunst the following Monday.
I find this incredibly disingenuous considering one author is a former VP at Food Network and the the other is a journalist at NPR. If all of this research around Rage Baking had been done prior to the book’s publication and the intention was to be a celebration of feminist women’s voices, why wasn’t I acknowledged for my efforts or contacted? Why wasn’t there a wider call for submissions? Why were other journalists and people in publishing familiar with my work? Why did they choose Rage Baking as the title of the book when it was clear Rage Baking was taken on all social media and I’d been the top hit for Rage Baking for years? How was this not brought up in a marketing meeting? I’m hesitant to be open to a conversation with privileged white women who approach me feigning ignorance, being dismissive of my contribution and impact while framing their work as a “celebration of woman’s voices”. I certainly don’t feel as if my voice is celebrated or valued. It should also be noted that one of the people they cite for Rage Baking as a “movement” came well after I’d begun my efforts and is also connected to me through a mutual friend on Facebook. If these other instances were found, I most certainly would have come up in a cursory search.
If Rage Baking is a movement, it’s one that was initially catalyzed by my physical and emotional labor in a major city and in an influential group of people. It is one that was started with the simple act of being kind and encouraging in the darkest of times. I am not at all surprised that my kindness has been overshadowed by the actions of well-intended white women. That my rage and pain has been claimed as their own and their voices centered, uplifted and prioritized. It just demonstrates whose rage is most valued and who is allowed to express it freely.
If Simon & Schuster and the authors want to make this right, I would like to be credited for my work and see sizeable donations made to the Ali Forney Center, The Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, and The Campaign against Hunger.