Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Because It's Important to Me

I once quoted to a good friend that the movie Soul Food was one of the biggest cultural contradictions on the big screen. I've also told him that most tragedies aren't tragic at all. The movie centered on a mother stricken with health issues common to African Americans - diabetes, heart disease, etc. The movie highlighted the importance of the communion and fellowship that occurs around soul food, in this instance prepared by the mother of the family. Unfortunately in the movie, the mother loses her fight to these health conditions, and the family pays homage to her by preparing the meals she used to prepare, in order to continue the tradition of fellowship and communion with family and community. My comment to my friend was that their response to this tragedy was to serve the very foods that brought on the health conditions of their mother. As an African American, especially living in the south (intentionally made lowercase), I am in the small minority of those who believe that traditions have their place. Most traditions were developed out of survival, or the hope for a better tomorrow. The tradition was an unintended response to a social condition that drove a repetitive response by a certain group of people. Every element of the tradition had a relevant context to present, past, and future. Science and healthcare has made it well known the impact of soul food in the context of today's lifestyle. No one argues the importance of fellowship and communion among family and friends. The debate in the case of the soul food diet centers on the contradiction of celebrating a legacy of survival and progress through the consumption, and sometimes addiction, to destructive practices.

I am so glad to know there are others who have the same concern as I and many others about improving the dietary practices of African Americans. My position on trying to be more healthy has impacted my relationships at work, with my family, and even in my marriage. The video below helps to explain the perspective of both parties; how my view of the world can be threatening and insulting to others, and also how their world has become important and relevant to them over time. I encourage you to take a look at this video and give me your thoughts on the content.

Oh yes, what does this have to do with branding? I would say a great deal. Targeting cultures can often involve exploitation, and an unintended consequence for those who have been exploited through negative imagery. Just yesterday, Sergio Garcia reiterated this notion of images of African Americans by stating that he would keep fried chicken in his abode if he knew Tiger was coming to visit. Even a well-fit, elite golfing superstar, with wealth and influence cannot escape the negative connotation of a dietary practice that represents a sense of pride and shame at the same time for African Americans. A move toward purchasing preferences that resemble healthier choices would in fact transform brand strategies for many marketers. Yes, this is all about the brand!


Watch Soul Food Junkies on PBS. See more from Independent Lens.


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