Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor (April 4, 1937 - September 3, 2016) was a self-proclaimed culinary griot + Geechee girl from the Low Country of South Carolina. Around the age of ten, Vertamae's family migrated from Geechee lands to a dead end street in North Philadelphia, thus beginning her travels across the African diaspora. From Philly she sojourned to Paris to explore her love for theater + art. This became her entry point into a life-long journey of documentation, storytelling + unapologetically setting a place at the table filled with Black diasporic foodways + traditions.
Vertamae was truly a formidable artist + revolutionary, spreading her magic across the Black Arts movement as an anthropologist, actress, writer, television + radio host and even costume designer + chef for Sun Ra's Arkestra. She was also a key consultant for Julie Dash's Daughters of the Dust. Her inaugural book, Vibration Cooking or Travel Notes of a Geechee Girl, was the main inspiration for Our Mothers’ Kitchens, a culinary + literature project for Black folk. Vertamae’s writing + audacity are what compelled the OMK collective to dig deeper into their studies + begin weaving our histories + cultural context into their culinary community work. She is OMK's chosen ancestor + first foremother.
Vertamae Smart-Grosvenor became an ancestor on September 3, 2016. Her story should be sung in Black kitchens across the diaspora. This design by artist Francis Meade + Our Mothers' Kitchens is an altar to Vertamae's legacy + the special place she holds in our hearts.
Visit www.ourmotherskitchens.org to learn more about Vertamae + the other OMK foremothers, Ntozake Shange, Zora Neale Hurston + Alice Walker.
Hand printed in Philadelphia | Unisex Cut (Average fit) | Size Chart
Philadelphia Printworks has collaborated with Our Mothers' Kitchens to create a limited edition design for their dinner series. Only 75 shirts of this design will be printed.
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