Son of Musical Icon, Food Justice Activist Headline BCALA Author Luncheon

August 11, 2010

"Visions of Hope: Lunch with Two Extraordinary Men" was the title of the author luncheon featuring Ray Charles Robinson Jr. and Bryant Terry August 7 during during the Black Caucus of the American Library Association's seventh National Conference of African American Librarians in Birmingham, Alabama.

"The work of librarians is vital for our youth," Robinson, co-author of You Don't Know Me: Reflections of My Father, Ray Charles (Harmony Books, 2010) told the audience.

He paid homage not only to his father, who "shared a special relationship with every one of his offspring," but also to Birmingham's civil rights history. "During the ’60s, my father used his persona and voice," Robinson explained. "Because he was blind, he couldn't march, but was very vocal in the movement."

Robinson said his book is "everything that you did not experience in the movie Ray and not included in my father's memoir. He never wanted to be famous, but he did want to be great. Heaven and earth battled in my father's music."

After acknowledging his ancestors with libations, Terry told those assembled that "the work you do is important." He said the conference theme, ""Culture Keepers VII: Bridging the Divide with Information Access, Activism, and Advocacy," is "the crux of my work." He latest book is Vegan Soul Kitchen: Fresh, Healthy, and Creative African-American Cuisine (Da Capo Press, 2009).

"We live in an apartheid food system where so many people are going hungry every day; where the wealthy have access to all kinds of foods—farmers' markets, food co-ops, grocery stores, and community gardens—and others, who have very little access to good food, suffer from cancer, diabetes, and heart disease," Terry noted.

He said a librarian who had been a vegetarian for 30 years was instrumental in his journey to becoming a food justice activist.

Terry suggested that librarians and libraries can be more engaged in the healthy food movement by: having a regular series with farmers and others interested in healthy food, as well as book displays that promote healthy eating; keeping a resource list of local farmers, farmers' markets, and grocery-store sales on fresh produce using; planting a small vegetable or herb garden on unused land around the library; serving as a Community Supported Agriculture site; and forming partnerships with local farmers’ markets and grocery stores sharing information on the best buys of the week.

He concluded his presentation by preparing a dish of collard green and raisins, seasoned with extra virgin olive oil and citrus from fresh oranges.