About Soul Food Junkies, 2012

Food traditions are hard to change,‭ ‬especially when they're passed on from generation to generation.‭ ‬In this PBS documentary,‭ ‬award-winning filmmaker‭ ‬Byron Hurt shares his journey to learn more about the African American cuisine known as soul food.‭

Baffled by his dad's reluctance to change his traditional soul food diet in the face of a health crisis,‭ ‬Hurt sets out to learn more about this rich culinary tradition and its relevance to black cultural identity.‭ ‬He discovers that the love affair that his dad and his community have with soul food is deep-rooted,‭ ‬complex,‭ ‬and in some tragic cases,‭ ‬deadly.

Through candid interviews with soul food cooks,‭ ‬historians,‭ ‬and scholars,‭ ‬as well as doctors,‭ ‬family members,‭ ‬and everyday people,‭ ‬Soul Food Junkies blends history,‭ ‬humor,‭ ‬and heartwarming stories to place this culinary tradition under the microscope.‭ ‬Both the consequences and the benefits of soul food are carefully addressed.‭ ‬So too is the issue of low access to quality food in black communities,‭ ‬which makes it difficult for some black people to eat healthy.‭ ‬In the end,‭ ‬Hurt determines whether or not black people are addicted‭ ‬to this food tradition that has its origins in West Africa and the black south,‭ ‬yet is loved all over the world.

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  • Director's Statement

    In 2007, my father passed away from pancreatic cancer. One of the many factors leading to pancreatic cancer is a high fat, meat-based diet. My father's diet consisted of both. While I am not certain that my father's diet alone contributed to his disease, his illness capped off what had been my lifelong concern for him: his health.

    From the earliest time that I can remember, my father was overweight. He loved to eat and he particularly loved soul food. He also loved fast food and sugary desserts, like many people do. Growing up, I wanted to be just like my father so I ate what he ate: grits and eggs covered with cheese and topped with bits of salt pork and bacon for breakfast; overcooked collard greens seasoned with ham hocks, fried pork chops, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, or other delicious but fatty foods right out of the black southern tradition.

    In college, though, I began to slowly change my eating habits after learning more about how to eat healthy. I stopped eating red meat and pork and did my best to avoid greasy fried foods. On weekends, when I came home from college, I began to confront my father about his eating habits, often to no avail. I'd challenge him about his food choices. He'd ridicule me for no longer eating beef or pork. We had several tense conversations about his weight. My family and I were concerned he would one day suffer a heart attack or a stroke. We wanted my dad to live a long, healthy life so he could be here to one day meet his grandchildren. Eventually he would make small changes to his diet and began to exercise more, but unfortunately the changes came too late in his life. Doctors diagnosed him with terminal pancreatic cancer and he died at the young age of 63. He never got a chance to meet his first grandchild.

    This is a common story in the lives of many families in this country. As an African American community, we, like most people in this country, consume far too many processed foods that are filled with saturated fats, salt, and sugar. We don't eat enough vegetables, nor do we get enough exercise. Many of us pay more attention to the grade of fuel we put into our cars than we do the quality of food we put into our bodies. As a category, African Americans lead the nation in obesity, heart disease, hypertension, and diabetes. We are killing ourselves slowly with food.

    Soul Food Junkies is my attempt to address this urgent health crisis in communities of color. I endeavor to make a film that takes a nuanced look at the complex history of soul food, how it has shaped our cultural identity, black folks' current eating habits, and how our food choices are making us a sick and unhealthy people.

    Soul food is a quintessential American culinary tradition that enslaved Africans created out of necessity. My film will not condemn this popular cuisine loved worldwide. Instead, it will examine the health advantages and disadvantages of soul food, and look at how it has helped black people through very difficult times in America. I'll also examine the lack of access that far too many black people have to quality fruits and vegetables as well as the emerging 'food justice' movement that is mobilizing all across the country, including in poor and working class communities.

    About Byron Hurt

    Byron Hurt is an award-winning documentary filmmaker, a published writer, and a widely respected anti-sexist activist. His most popular documentary, Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes premiered at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival and was later broadcast on the Emmy award-winning PBS series Independent Lens (drawing an audience of more than 1.3 million viewers).

  • Film Credits

    • Produced, Directed and Written byByron Hurt
    • Executive ProducerStanley Nelson
    • Associate ProducerLisa Durden
    • EditorSonia Gonzalez-Martinez
    • Associate EditorJohnalynn Holland
    • Consulting EditorSam Pollard
    • Original Music ByKathryn Bostic
    • Additional music stic.man of dead prez
    • IntervieweesQueen Afua
      Will Allen
      Christopher Barnes
      Miguel Brito
      Norma Jean Darden
      Michaela Angela Davis
      Lolis Eric Elie
      Dr. Rodney Ellis, MD
      Roderick Ephram
      Cassandra Gaines
      Dick Gregory
      Dr. Jessica B. Harris
      Dr. Marc Lamont Hill
      Frances Hurt
      Jackie Hurt
      Taundra Hurt
      Mary Hurt
      Tony Hurt
      Steven Jackson
      Portia Jones
      Attorney Chokwe Lumumba
      Donnie Northern
      Vonda McPherson
      Dr. Leslie Burl McLemore
      Frank Mentesana
      Minister Abdul Hafeez Muhammad
      Jenga Mwendo
      Dr. Frederick Douglass Opie
      Ms. Peaches
      Sonia Sanchez
      Dr. Leni Sorenson
      Bryant Terry
      Marcia Weaver
      Dr. Rani Whitfield, MD
      Sherry Whitfield
      Baye Wilson
      Kolu Zigby
    • CinematographyKevin Chung
      Arthur (AJ) Jafa
      Alessandro Rafanelli
      Bill Winters
    • Additional cinematographyMichael Campbell
      Joe Cordasco
      Camille Holder-Brown
      Johnalynn Holland
      Byron Hurt
      Rebecca McDonald
      Sekou McGlothin
      Malik Wright
      Nassar Salle
      Parrish Smith
    • SoundRyan Carol
      Nikola Chapelle
      Mike Correa
      James Payne
      Paul Reed
      John Scott
      J.T. Takagi
      Sam Watson
    • Assistant CameraTodd DosSantos
      Rebecca McDonald
      Sekou McGlothin
      Paul Reed
      Erica Scott
      Zachary Vaughn
      Jordan West
    • Production Still PhotographersLaylah Amatullah Barrayn
      Lisa Durden
      Shawn Escoffery
      Johnalynn Holland
      Rebecca McDonald
    • AdvisorsOla Akinmowo
      Monifa Akinwole-Bandele
      Beatriz Beckford
      Cheryl Browne
      Tami Gold
      Judith Helfand
      Camile Holder-Brown
      Drake Holiday
      Emir Lewis
      Beni Matias
      Sonia Malfa
      Dr. Karen Aletha Maybank
      mani Perry
      Jalal Sabur
      Mark Scott
      April R. Silver
      Akanke Washington
    • Special ThanksTomiko Anderson
      Sharrieff Christmas
      Dave Phillips
      Crumel Family
      Hogan Family
      Hurt Family
      Helen Ufner Vintage Clothing
      Evelyn Wande
    • Motion Graphic DesignAarmada Entertainment
    • Score engineering and mixing Bryan Zee
    • Additional engineering and mixing Charlton "Chip" Williams
    • Production AccountantAlan L. Noel, CPA
    • Business ManagerCallie S. Crowder, CPA
    • Online FacilityPrime Focus
    • Audio Post Production FacilityDog Bark Sound
    • Narration Recording StudioEngine Room Audio
    • Archival ResearchNicole London
    • Special ThanksTomiko Anderson
      Sharrieff Christmas
      Dave Phillips
      Crumel Family
      Hogan Family
      Hurt Family
      Helen Ufner Vintage Clothing
      Evelyn Wande
    • Motion Graphic DesignAarmada Entertainment
    • Score engineering and mixing Bryan Zee
    • Additional engineering and mixing Charlton "Chip" Williams
    • Production AccountantAlan L. Noel, CPA
    • Business ManagerCallie S. Crowder, CPA
    • Online FacilityPrime Focus
    • Audio Post Production FacilityDog Bark Sound
    • Narration Recording StudioEngine Room Audio
    • Archival ResearchNicole Londo
    • Additional Archival ResearchAnn Bennett
      Kenya Crumel
      Sonia Gonzalez-Martinez
      Johnalynn Holland
    • Production AssistantsBrenda Anim
      Eric Bloyed
      Will Bourne
      Camille Holder-Brown
      William Colwell
      Michael Fritz
      Farrquan "Q" Graham
      Zachary Hadden
      Rachael Horning
      Clinton Johnson
      Rebecca McDonald
      Brandon Neal
      Tesfaye Negussie
      Paulette Payne
      Erica Scott
      Noah Scott
      Yvetta "Kai" Williams
      Malik Wright
      Daniel Wilson
    • InternsJoe CordascoKiara Francisco
      Nomi Hernandez
      Nassar Sally
      Adam P. Segal
    • TranscribersMarci Juett
      Erica Scott
    • Tape DuplicationsRP Video Enterprises, Inc.
    • In Memory of Jackie Hurt1943 - 2007
    • Executive Producer for ITVSSally Jo Fifer
    • Executive Producer for NBPCJacquie Jones
    • Funding for this program
      was provided by
      The Ford Foundation
      Aepoch Foundation
    • Kickstarter ContributorsMichael Dyson
      Novel Entertainment Inc
      Marc Lamont Hill
      Carletta S. Hurt
      Rev. Tony Lee
      Ukali Mwendo
      Randal Pinkett

    Soul Food Junkies Kickstarter Contributors

    Soul Food Junkies is a co-production of God Bless the Child Productions and the Independent Television Service (ITVS), and the National Black Programming Consortium, with funding provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB).

    This program was produced by God Bless the Child Productions, LLC which is solely responsible for its content.

    © 2012 God Bless the Child Productions, LLC.  All rights reserved.

  • Press Coverage

    Huffington Post, February 20, 2013

    EUR Web, November 27, 2012

    The Griot.com, November 28, 2012

    Monsters and Critics, Nov 27, 2012

    Seattle Weekly, Tue., Dec 11 2012

    Huffington Post, December 12, 2012

    BET.com, December 28, 2012

    Cuisinenoirmag.com, December, 28, 2012

    AJC.com, Friday, Aug. 30, 2013

    Oxfordamerican.org, January 7, 2013

    nbcnewyork.com, Jan 7, 2013

    Orlandoweekly.com, January 9, 2013

    SFexaminer.com, January 9, 2013

    Newark Star Ledger, January 9, 2013

    New Orleans Times Picayune, January 11, 2013

    LA Times, January 11, 2013

    Austin Chronicle, January 13, 2013

    NPR.org, January 14, 2013

    Smithsonianmag.com, January 14, 2013