When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. accepted his Nobel Peace Prize in Oslo Norway in 1964 he said, "I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education, and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits." Sadly, because of the cancel culture that we live in today in 2023, we are about to celebrate MLK Day in a world that still does not practice what he preached in part because of woke liberal agendas that also push policies and people into accepting cancel culture.
When I founded my breakfast foods company called Cousin T’s I made sure my smiling, conservative, Black American face was on every single package. Why? Because of cancel culture. Yes, the liberal progressive left thought it was a good idea to get woke in the grocery store forcing brands to remove minorities from their products.
I was disappointed and personally offended when the cultural woke powers that be decided to change the name of Aunt Jemima pancakes and syrup and remove her beautiful face from all their products. Quaker Oats had already made some updates to her likeness when they removed the bandana and modernized her look which was fine but to totally cancel her was wrong. Family members of women that served as the face of the brand over the years spoke out against the move because they understood, as I do, it was a way to erase their voice, their story, and their face from history. Nancy Green, who was from Kentucky was a treasure to her community, in fact, this year her hometown honored her on the anniversary of her birthday and family members started the Nancy Green Project. “The project will produce a culinary scholarship for minority students living in Montgomery County and a road marker honoring Green.”
The great-niece of Mrs. Lilian Richard, the original brand ambassador for the brand for decades said in an interview that they were proud of her work and, “I just don't want her legacy lost, because if her legacy is swept under the rug and washed away, it's as if she never was a person." I agree with Anna Short Harrington's great-grandson, Larnell Evans Sr. "This comes as a slap in the face," Larnell Evans Sr. said. "She worked 25 years doing it. She improved their product ... what they're trying to do is ludicrous." Anna Short Harrington was the last real person to portray the role of Aunt Jemima at trade shows and special appearances. That is not all she did, she also taught Black history in New Jersey public schools, because she was a part of history!
If you wanted to buy Land o' Lake’s butter, the new packaging has a sun on it, they thought having a Native American woman on the packaging was bad. If you wanted to make some rice, they got rid of our uncle and took his smiling face away. Now it is just Ben, I do not know Ben, I do not know if he is my brother, my cousin but he is no longer my uncle, the new name is just “Ben.” But for some reason, the Quaker Oats man with the George Washington wig is okay and remains while they got rid of the image of Mr. Frank White, who was an actual chef in Chicago, from every new box of Cream of Wheat. Mr. White was buried in an unmarked grave when he passed away in 1938 but in 2007 he finally got the respect he deserved in death only for him to be insulted again with him being canceled by this woke corporate culture in 2020.
Generations will grow up and not see minorities on products, or classic, American brands and that is a shame. That was a driving reason for Cousin T’s since they got rid of my uncle and my aunt. I am not the only entrepreneur that saw a need for greater representation and public awareness about how the left has canceled food products. I was happy to see Patti Labelle and her delicious pies with her face on them. Even Snoop Dogg who once shared an image of me with fellow Black conservatives calling us the “Coon Bunch” for being free thinkers, having an open mind, being conservative, and supporting Donald Trump, agreed with me and took a page out of my playbook and started his own food company a few months ago in partnership with Master P. They recognize what is wrong with this trend just as I do. If we could get them to reject other progressive liberal trends of putting down Black conservatives, we would make even more progress. The woke liberal progressive left has done something they do not want to admit, they whitewashed the grocery aisle. Snoop said, “There was a void for our culture when they took ‘Aunt Jemima’ off the shelves.”
And when it came time for Goya Foods, a leading Hispanic-owned brand to be canceled because of the CEO’s Republican advocacy, they tried to cancel them too. Thankfully that backfired.
I proudly wear my apron and chef’s hat because I want to honor those the left canceled like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben. I want to honor those Black domestics who took the best job they could find and serve honorably. In the movie “The Butler” there is a scene where the mother, played by Oprah, reminds her son, who was putting down his father for working as a butler in the White House, “Everything you are and everything you have is cause of that butler…”
The content of our character should matter more than the color of the face on the box of pancake mix. Hopefully, my smiling face on my breakfast products inspires young kids and shows all Americans that you can go from the foster house, as I did for 15 years in the foster care system, to being a proud American entrepreneur who happens to be Black, conservative, and still appreciate the work of our chefs, cooks, and anyone in food service and anyone with an entrepreneurial mind. This is the greatest country on earth, and my dream is that more people will see that cancel culture has no place in American culture.
Terrence K. Williams is an actor, comedian, author, social media influencer, adoption advocate, and owner of Cousin T’s.