Friday, February 01, 2008
Soul Food Killed Big Mama
An undergraduate student, Ms. Bryant, at the University of Michigan is embarking on some interesting research. She wants to know if some of the more positive media representations of Black family and tradition are, in fact, the most deadly. Ms. Bryant is interested in how movies such as Soul Food or This Christmas depict the ritual of Sunday dinner with family. These soul food dinners are comprised of hefty portions fried chicken, fried catfish, ham, collard greens seasoned with pork, mac and cheese, sweet cornbread, yams, and peach cobbler (Yum! I’m getting hungry).
The problem: the very meal that brings Black families together is also what may be tearing them apart. Ms. Bryant, a pre-med major, hopes to reveal how popular media glorifies "unhealthy nutritional regiments" that work to increase Blacks´ health risks such as high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes, and stroke.
We should be reminded that in the film Soul Food, it is 40 years of that very bad diet that causes the diabetes that ultimately kills "Big Mama." As a result of her (premature) death, Big Mama’s remaining family is left in shambles. In depicting Big Mama’s family reuniting around a special weekly meal of soul food, one can only imagine what future health tragedy is in the works for her kinfolk.
The potential for tragedy is real. According to the Center for Disease Control, 66% of African American men are overweight and 37% suffer from hypertension. 79% of African American women are overweight and 41% suffer from hypertension. In 2004 (the latest data compiled), 74, 225 African Americans died from heart disease and 18,118 died from a stroke.
The lesson here is that there are other, healthier ways to foster family unity and keep within tradition: healthier meals, a family walk around the park or through the neighborhood, a bit of dancing... Simply, lets begin to be mindful of how our traditions may reinforce bad health habits, and how we can make a change.