In the heart of the Golden Gate community, my grandmother and great-grandmother were an inseparable force, stationed in the kitchen. Down there, among the warmth of the stove and the clatter of pots, their legacy brewed in the form of delicious meals.

  • My earliest memories are painted with the image of my great-great-grandmother, a vibrant mix of Native American, Irish, and Black heritage. They said she was a spitfire. Together, they'd whip up cheese toast, a morning delight that became a tradition.

  • My great-grandmother was the Queen of Homemade Pancakes and had perfected making them from scratch. Yet, it was my grandmother who tended to them both. They all lived under one roof, my grandmother being the anchor in this family saga.

  • Her journey to Chicago from Yazoo City, Mississippi, stands as a testament to her resilience. She ventured north alone at a tender age, armed with just a seventh-grade education. Back home, she toiled as a sharecropper alongside her mother. Up here, she started in a tiny kitchenette in Bronzeville, taking up odd jobs cleaning for affluent households.

Despite a severe car accident that shattered her leg, she never slowed down. Always in motion, she became the beacon of our community, organizing breakfast gatherings and assuming the role of the community chairperson. Remember those pancake breakfasts? They were more than just a meal. My great-grandmother's pancake prowess met grandma's penchant for elegance—tablecloths, finger bowls, a touch of refinement that was rare, especially in the '70s.

These gatherings weren't merely about food; they were about fostering unity. Held at the Roundhouse, a long-lost community building, people from Dolton, Riverdale, and all corners of Chicago, spanning diverse backgrounds, congregated. The conversations weren't just idle chatter; they were calls for unity, a pooling of resources and ideas to bolster our communities. It was a melting pot of ethnicity and hue, all converging to weave threads of goodness and strength across our neighborhoods.


When I think about entrepreneurship, I can't help but think of my grandma. She was a force to be reckoned with, let me tell you. I never even realized she was an entrepreneur until I looked back on it all. She was the queen of hustle, selling everything from Tupperware to Mary Kay, and even vitamins back in the day. But what really stands out to me is her kitchen. That's where the magic happened. She'd whip up these incredible meals influenced by her experiences working in rich folks' homes, as she'd call them, or dining in other communities. And let me tell you, those meals were something special.

  • Fast forward to our summers at Grandma's house. Picture this: a small three-bedroom starter home on the far south side of Chicago, packed to the brim with at least 18 of us grandkids. Chaos? Maybe. But Grandma ran a tight ship. Breakfast at seven, lunch at noon, dinner at six, and don't you dare be late. But here's the kicker - in addition to keeping us in line, she made sure we all had our own little businesses. Mine? A cookie business. Grandma gave me the seed money, and I was off to the races.

  • I'd wake up at the crack of dawn, hitting the kitchen before the summer heat set in (no AC in Grandma's house, remember?) and start baking. Chocolate chip, butter, oatmeal - you name it, I made it. And let me tell you, those were the beginnings of my entrepreneurial spirit. But it didn't stop there. Over the years, we sold everything from ice cups to pizza slices, and even candy bars in high school. Grandma's influence was everywhere, pushing us to think outside the box and make a buck.

  • But it wasn't just about the hustle. It was about the food too. Grandma's kitchen was a melting pot of cultures, with dishes that could make your mouth water just thinking about them. Those buttermilk biscuits? To die for. And don't even get me started on her sweet and sour string beans. Those were legendary. And fried rice? Let's just say Grandma had her own twist on it that involved bacon and government cheese. It was unconventional, sure, but it was delicious.


It's hard not to think about my grandma's influence on my path, especially when it comes to health and entrepreneurship. She may not have had a formal education, but she was a visionary in her own right, a true matriarch with a seventh-grade education and a knack for making things happen. Growing up, her cooking was legendary, but it wasn't until later that I realized the toll those rich foods took on her health. As a medical missionary, I was driven to reverse the effects of unhealthy eating habits, not just for my family, but for our entire community.

So, I started out by helping people transition to a more plant-based diet, swapping out fried chicken for healthier alternatives and ditching the dairy-heavy dishes. It was a journey of transformation, not just for their bodies, but for their souls too. But I soon realized that it wasn't just about what they were eating—it was about the connection to their culture and community that was missing. That's when I turned to popcorn, a blank canvas for flavor and a way to invite people into a shared experience.

My journey with popcorn began with simple flavors inspired by my family's recipes, like onion and dill, but it didn't stop there. I drew inspiration from my travels and experiences, creating flavors like masala that transported people to far-off places with each bite. And seeing the joy it brought to my clients, especially those from marginalized communities, was truly fulfilling. It was a way to honor my grandmother's legacy of boldness and curiosity, and to bring people together through food.

But it wasn't just about creating tasty snacks—it was about using my platform to promote health and wellness in our communities. When my grandmother fell ill, my husband and I stepped in to help, putting her on a plant-based diet and seeing miraculous improvements in her health. It was a full-circle moment, realizing that the same foods that had once contributed to her illness could also be part of her healing journey.

And as I sat by her side in her final days, I was reminded of the importance of connection in our journey to wellness. Whether it's through sharing flavors from around the world or inviting people into our homes, true health and wellness cannot exist in isolation. It's about building community, embracing our cultural heritage, and lifting each other up along the way. And that's the legacy I strive to carry forward, honoring my grandmother's memory with each flavorful bite.