KJ Kearney is teaching people on TikTok about Black food.
The historian shares facts about Black-owned businesses and traditionally Black recipes.
He told Insider he's trying to make Black Food Friday the next Taco Tuesday.
Taco Tuesday is a movement. With over four million posts using the hashtag on Instagram and even more on Twitter, it's apparent that KJ Kearney, the man behind Black Food Fridays, isn't the only one who instinctually gets tacos on Tuesdays.
"I've woken up or been walking around on a Tuesday not knowing what to eat," Kearney told Insider. "And then something in my subconscious rings a bell and says, 'It's Tuesday, you know what day it is.' And it's just like, 'Oh snap!' It's almost an instinctual thing."
In an effort to get people to have the same instinct but for Black food at the start of each weekend, the educator and South Carolina native has been sharing facts about Black food and American history since April 2020. Kearney posts short videos on social media explaining a nugget of information around specific people and foods that are important to the history of the American palate.
He's used his platform called Black Food Fridays to teach followers about the cross-section of Black culture and food, such as diving into the history of certain dishes, like red rice.
At first, Kearney just wanted to counter Confederate Memorial Day with a holiday all South Carolinians wanted to celebrate
The idea to create a platform for celebrating and highlighting Black food came from Kearney's long-time push to circumvent Confederate Memorial Day, which is an official state holiday in some states. According to Kearney, South Carolinians who celebrate typically do so by flying their Confederate flags.
"Initially, I wanted to try to get [an additional] state-wide holiday where we recognize the South Carolina state flag," he said. But a friend in politics told him it was "a little too on-the-nose" and South Carolinians wouldn't go for it.
Then, Kearney floated his idea for Red Rice Day - a holiday meant to celebrate historic Gullah Geechee culture and rice cultivation along the southeastern coast of the US - and drew up a proposal in just 40 minutes. September 29, 2018, became the first official celebration of Kearney's holiday.
Out of Red Rice Day came the Black Food Fridays initiative
Seeing the piece of legislation recognizing Red Rice Day was the catalyst for Kearney's social initiative. Though it was nearly a two-year journey, the ex-aspiring politician says it was the process that taught him how deeply politics are involved with everyday life.
"Everything is political," Kearney said. "Everything. We take [holidays like] Thanksgiving for granted, but someone had to write legislation saying, 'We're gonna recognize this day in America.'"
Once COVID-19 hit in early 2020 and patron-based businesses started to shutter, Kearney wanted to help Black-owned businesses, in particular, have a chance at staying open.
"Eat Black food on Fridays - very simple, right?" he said. "Sounds very altruistic, which it is, in a sense. But it's also very political in the sense that the only way these Black restaurants are gonna survive is if people who normally do not eat there start patronizing."
He then started sharing facts about historically Black food and African-Americans' ties to certain foods in an effort to combat the stereotypes and misconceptions - mainly, that "Black food" is synonymous with "unhealthy food."
The movement evolved past what Kearney saw for it
"I have been unashamed by telling people I want Black Food Fridays to be the Taco Tuesdays of Black people food," he said.
Kearney told Insider that he hadn't considered the role his platform could play in fighting racism until a white follower pointed it out.
"I'm like, 'alright,'" he said. "I want the compliment because it sounds dope, but how? How can what I do fight racism?" Then the follower told him his Black Food Facts videos gave her information she could use to combat racist comments. In particular, she pointed to his video on Hennessy.
"'There's this negative connotation between Black people and cognac, right?'" Kearney recalled. "'And someone like me who's white, when I hear someone say something racist about Black people and liquor, I can be like 'Yo, Hennessy donated money to an HBCU a hundred years ago. Hennessey was sponsoring Black publications in the '50s. That's before the civil rights act. I can fight racism with facts because of the stuff you say.'"
Kearney also said he never imagined the account would become as popular as it has.
"Yes, our education should include a bunch of stuff that it doesn't," he said. "And that's why people like me, every so often, we blow up [in popularity] because it's like, 'Holy crap. This guy is teaching me things that I should have learned in school.' But our systems are not designed to teach empowerment of African-Americans so until that changes, it's gonna be what it is."
Read the original article on Insider