For day 9 of black history month, I’m thinking of a bunch of people whose names I’ll probably never know because they were bought and sold and forbidden to read or write or marry or own property. They worked without end and without credit and when they couldn’t anymore they were discarded and forgotten, and if we’re lucky we know a little bit about them based on their chain of ownership.

But they managed to pass knowledge down anyway, person to person, and to innovate, and to hold on to an idea of home through music and dance, and today I am thinking of how many individuals were involved in creating and refining and preserving the okra dishes I love, which are so similar to West African cuisine. I am thinking of the everyday defiance of saying “I want to eat what I want to eat” no matter how many times you’re told that it doesn’t matter what you want.