The invitation read: “Erykah Badu Invites You to a Soul Food Vegan Dinner Celebrating the Soul Train Awards.” Once I got over the initial shock that I was being offered a seat at the table with one of my ultimate beauty and style icons, my mouth began to water just thinking of how Ms. Badu would feed my belly and soul. And after overcoming so many mentally and emotionally draining experiences this year alone as a black woman in the U.S., I was desperately in need of nourishment.
When I stepped inside the Kitchen Table, I was immediately engulfed in warmth and flavors. Black, brilliant, and beautiful journalists from other news and culture outlets, including Ebony, Essence, The Grio, and Nylon, filled the room with their exuberant light. The dress code for the evening was kimono style. So, of course, everyone was dressed to impress. In the heart of the venue space was a lustworthy kitchen where chef and Afro-Vegan author Bryant Terry, the über-cool culinary crew Ghetto Gastro, and more cooks prepped tasty hors d’oeuvres and main dishes.
The singer curated a cozy space that allowed me to let down my hair and bond with other like-minded human beings who look just like me without judgment. Introductions were made as guests ate sea salt fries, coconut-flavored vegan chili, and pineapple bites and drank libations from black winemaker André Hueston Mack.
Twenty minutes after I arrived, Badu entered the main room with freshly lit incense trailing behind her top hat and all-black outfit. She exchanged “peaces” and flashed her megawatt smile before heading straight to a laptop to edit a soul and hip-hop playlist. With all the right vibes in place, the group made its way into a back space with a long wooden table for Badu and her 25 guests.
The 45-year-old kicked off the dinner by formally thanking all “the beautiful people” for sharing in “this moment” and introducing Chef Terry. She then asked attendees to bow their heads in prayer. This act of fellowship took me back to my Southern roots, being raised by Christian women, and it further connected me to everyone underneath the purple-lit bulbs.
Waiters went on to serve us tantalizing plates, such as glazed carrots, purple potato soup, BBQ tempeh and mashed potatoes, and roasted baby beets. Even though I was one of the few vegans in the room, I could tell from all the plate scraping that the food was well-received. As a delectable dessert of spiced apple pie with a side of nondairy vanilla ice cream was placed before me, Badu introduced the first game of the evening. “What Would THEY Be Thankful For?” was her take on a classic Thanksgiving tradition. Everyone pulled a piece of paper from the star’s oversize hat and began to sound off. Drake, Cookie Lyon, Serena Williams, Kanye, Miley Cyrus, DJ Khaled were all praised. And when it was my turn, I made it clear that Hillary Clinton was thankful for … pantsuits.
The final game, “Love, Peace, and Happiness,” was a spin on the popular Soul Train slogan “Love, Peace, and Soul!” Badu shared that performing fuels her happiness, she can live in peace without mosquitos, and one thing she loves about herself is that she is a giver. A resounding “yes” was made on all her points.
Fueled by great food and conversation, Badu left behind the sweetest taste in my mouth with these parting words: “You are all worthy of love and life.”
Watch Erykah Badu host the Soul Train Awards on Sunday, Nov. 27, at 8 p.m. EST on BET and Centric.