Fernay McPherson of Minnie Bell's Soul Movement in Oakland shares her experiences as a Black chef and business owner amid nationwide protests over police brutality.

Fernay McPherson | Minnie Bell's Soul Food Movement
Credit: Jenny Love Photography

I’m Fillmore born and raised. The East Bay has made my business possible and raised my son. I love the Bay. On May 25, George Floyd was murdered, on video, in yet another example of police violence against Black people that I’ve seen in my community and across the country my entire life. Racism, and the violence born out of it that disregards human life, touches every part of my life and that of my family. I cannot rest, our community cannot rest, our country cannot rest until we address the systemic roots of that problem and universally commit to fighting against it at all costs.

On May 27, as protests across the Bay and across the country demanded accountability from a broken system that has yet to hear us despite years and years of violence against us, the Emeryville Public Marketplace was broken into and damaged. No one was harmed, and we sustained little to no damage at Minnie Bell’s, though the impact has been to suspend sales at the Market. My business is the tool that I built, in my community, to make my way in this world. It has no value to me, or to anyone, if our world remains as deeply unfair and violent as it is. And the outpouring of support in the wake of that small moment has been overwhelming. It is all the proof that I’ve ever needed that we are stronger than these moments.

I don’t worry about my business. I worry about my son, a student in Albany, and how to explain to him how to be safe. How to feel protected. I don’t worry about my business. I worry about the Fillmore that I grew up in, and how to earn back the houses, businesses, and communities that private wealth and government decisions have looted from us over the last 50 years. I don’t worry about my business. I worry that the voices of my community that continue to peacefully advocate in the streets for accountability, for systemic change, and for basic fucking decency to all of us will be marginalized, hushed in the name of a minority of protestors who inflicted damage like this or, even worse, subject to the very violence that these protests seek to end.

I want anyone who cares to know that violence against property is nothing close to violence against people. We will fix the broken pieces of my business. But until we have confidence that this city, county, and country will fix its own broken mess, the mess that keeps taking Black lives with no remorse, I’ll stand with the protestors, and my business and I will do what we can to feed them, to sustain them, and to make sure their voices are not diminished.