Sweet Potato Comfort Pies nourish empathy, unity
“The pies I believe have a calling of giving comfort to anyone,” says Rose McGee, Golden Valley’s 2017 Citizen of the Year. Her nomination was based on her work to comfort people living with cancer and healing from the loss of loved ones such as the families of Jamar Clark and Philando Castile.
McGee said she has taken pies to protesters as well as to the Minneapolis Police Department’s Fourth Precinct, to Mayor Betsy Hodges, to the police chief and to other community leaders.
“My passion is the project that we call Sweet Potato Comfort Pies,” she said. The tagline to that is “A catalyst for carrying and building a community.” She went on to say, “Our objective is to use the pie to bring people together. We have conversations that can be rough. We have conversations about race. We have conversations about healing. In addition to the conversations, there is unity in the community coming together to make the pies.
“[The volunteers] express how much they love coming together to make the pies. They have said it makes them feel a deeper since of empathy when they are able to work together and make the pies, knowing that the pies are going into the community to expand that healing.”
McGee and her crew took pies to Standing Rock Reservation in South Dakota with the blessing of the indigenous people of Oklahoma, where the pies were prepared. Pies have also gone to Charleston, South Carolina and Ferguson, Missouri.
Before delivering pies, McGee thinks about the wants and needs of the communities. “I do not just go barging into communities,” she said. “I try to go into communities with respect and not just with the assumption that we are here to heal you, because that is not the point. We are here to bring something that I consider to be the sacred dessert of Black culture.”
Beginning with an original recipe from her grandmother, McGee, came up with her own recipe through trial and error and getting tips and pointers by tasting other sweet potato pies to add ingredients missing from her pies. She has even owned her own company, Deep Roots Gourmet Desserts.
There have been many unexpected donations to her current pie endeavor that have supported her healing journey. McGee said she has been blessed to have people from across the country help her fund the pies, including an $1,100 donation. She was featured on The Real daytime television program.
During the day, McGee works for Minnesota Humanities Center, which she says has been very supportive of her time, letting her take her pies on the road.
Her pies are also made for times of celebration. She worked with Mayor Shep Harris of Golden Valley and Calgary Lutheran Church, where she used their kitchen to cook 86 pies for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s 86th birthday. McGee and her crew made more because they wanted people in the King celebration to also enjoy eating them. The original 86 pies were given to those in need of healing.
McGee does not know what her next venture for the pies will be, but she plans to keep going as best she can to support the healing and bring comfort to communities across the nation through the love of Sweet Potato Comfort Pies.
For more information visit McGee’s Facebook page at Sweet Potato Comfort Pies.
Brandi D. Phillips welcomes reader responses to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brandi Phillips is a contributing writer at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.