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To the Waitress at The Red Rooster

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To the Waitress at The Red Rooster,

As a little girl, I remember sitting at tables full of adults telling stories. I barely understood the story’s context, but I watched as the power of a good story moved through a room. The sweetness of each sentence drifted through the air like the smell of freshly baked biscuits. My favorite stories were the ones that ended with deep and profound belly laughs and a loud smack of a hand on the table.

Stories have always been a gift for Black people. We pass the secret wisdom of our ancestors through the stories we tell. The words of our stories are our bond. We are bound together through our commonalities. Our stories lead us to clarity and remind us of our collective humanity.

Our stories and brilliance connect us to who we are becoming, and lead us to clarity.

Recently, I was in Harlem for our Black and Brilliant Day series celebrating Black brilliance with people, businesses, and organizations that are leaving a legacy of Black brilliance. One of our stops was The Red Rooster, a culinary masterpiece by Marcus Samuelsson and his team.

We sat and were greeted by you, a quiet but confident waitress. Before we ordered our collard greens and mac n’ cheese, we asked how you were doing. You smiled, and then noticed our book B is for Black Brilliance, sitting on the table. When you opened it, your face lit up. Then, after taking a deep breath, you said, “I want to write a children’s cookbook.” We watched as you shared your story idea, your eyes lit up, and your brilliance was palpable.

We shared stories and learned about your hopes and dreams. You asked questions about the process of writing a book and asked about our illustrator. We learned about your niece and your love of culinary art. As you shared, we shared, and something came alive within us.

At that moment, I saw the profound impact of our sharing stories. Our oral storytelling has an ancestral rhythm that binds our brilliance together. I am grateful to you for this reminder and will place the lessons I learned from that moment with our caregivers.

Storytelling takes time. We must slow down long enough to hear the lessons that lurk in the corners of our stories.

Stories are acts of love. Sharing stories and recalling who we are takes effort, intentionality, and energy. Stories open up vulnerabilities, and to do this takes a deep act of love and trust.

The collective stories we leave create our legacies. Our brilliance is woven into the stories of our lives. We capture our moments and movements when we tell stories. And, these stories teach our children the practices of brilliance.

Thank you for the reminder,


P.S. This Black Brilliance month, let’s reclaim the stories we tell by telling them with strength, courage, and audacity. If you need an example, buy our book!

P.P.S. And channel the elders who have passed down the art of oral storytelling. Our history and legacies have been preserved through word, song, and movement. We hold a brilliant and innate formula for telling our stories. Our stories are awe-inspiring examples of faith, hope, and love.