Princess Haley, Michelle Horovitz, and LaTasha Powell
Here it is: the truth about AFC’s founders—for real, unedited. In January 2012, three women, mothers, and warriors sat awkwardly around the large wooden dining room table at 2009 James Avenue North. One jew and two blacks, all three strangers, soon to be sisters who became connected by a shared love of food and curiosity of what was possible for the people in North Minneapolis.
So how did they end up at this table together? With different zip codes, socioeconomic statuses and races, weren’t they supposed to have different interests and issues? In order to answer we have to look back in time.
In 2010, Michelle Horovitz moved back to Minneapolis from Miami, where she had practiced law as a public defender and worked as a line cook. She wasn’t sure what she wanted to be when she grew up, but was looking for a way to combine her passions for food and racial justice. Michelle started doing cooking demonstrations and classes under the name “Urban Baby” in 2011, and was learning about mistakes that many white-led nonprofits make when they try to do work in communities like North Minneapolis.
Michelle wanted to reconnect with her roots on the Northside, but knew the history of the nonprofit industrial complex, and didn’t want to be just another white woman who came into a black community to tell people what they need. Enter Tasha and Princess. Michelle didn’t expect either would want to partner with her. Michelle’s first impression of Princess was awe, “I didn’t know what I expected, but I definitely was amazed by her energy, wisdom and passion for youth.” Tasha, on the other hand, caught Michelle’s attention when she attended Tasha’s Metro State class presentation about the North YMCA. “Her passion for the Northside and her community was clear,” Michelle recalls. “I was instantly drawn to Tasha even before I knew she had a passion for food justice.”
Tasha Powell was born and raised in North Minneapolis. She worked in childcare, and was studying community health at Metro State when this random white lady named Michelle approached her after her class presentation. Tasha planned to play Michelle off. Tasha recalls thinking, “I’ll take her information, but I’m not going to work with her.” But after Michelle kept hounding Tasha’s professor, who then reached out to Tasha three times, Tasha decided to sit down with her It was at this first encounter that Michelle learned Tasha had been experimenting with urban agriculture by just throwing seeds in the backyard to see if they would grow. They did, of course.
Michelle, the recovering public defender and wanna-be chef, had a vision of returning to her roots in North Minneapolis where her dad grew up. She also still hadn’t quite shed her “white savior complex” yet, which Tasha could smell from a mile away, but was willing to look past. Tasha needed her last internship class credit for her undergraduate degree, and as a struggling vegetarian and experimental urban farmer, she was willing to hear Michelle’s talk about quinoa and cauliflower.
Princess had stopped tending her garden in the summer of 2010 after her son Anthony Titus was lost to a bullet intended fro another young man on the 4th of July, right before the fireworks. On July 6th the people responsible for the crime were arrested, but instead of relief Princess felt concern for those young people who were also being taken away from their families. It was a double loss.
But by 2011, Princess had returned to her garden and her work at better Futures MN. The Chicago native had seen a lot. She’d seen the dire segregation in her hometown, but had also seen people of all colors working together in Minneapolis. She’d seen programs struggle for funding to serve the black community, and seen an unhealthy tension between the people providing services and the people who relied on those services.
Amid all this, Princess met Michelle through a mutual friend. She had some skepticism of the white lady with bagels and schmear, but came to see Michelle as someone willing to work with Northsiders. She also saw Michelle as someone who could understand her personal pain. “I felt connected, especially after she shared that she’d just had a miscarriage,” Princess says. “I began to notice that so many of the women I was meeting were moving forward after the loss of a child.”
Princess didn’t know much about Tasha, but she’d heard of “The Powells”—Tasha’s family had a reputation in North Minneapolis: sticking up for and staying with whoever was considered family. Tasha recalls thinking about Princess before meeting her, “I had two little cousins who were Anthony’s age. They went over to Princess’s house, and got to write on the walls. She gave them such a warm welcoming.” Tasha remembered that “they really felt a good vibe from Princess” as they shared memories of their peer who had fallen to gun violence. Tasha thought, “I need to meet this lady.”
All things considered, this was a pretty unlikely threesome, and none of these women would have predicted the fruits (pun intended) of their relationship. The preconceived notions that the three founders of Appetite For Change brought into their first meetings seven years ago didn’t face overnight. To say that Tasha, Princess, and Michelle lacked trust in one another would be an understatement, but food blurred the lines of their cultural differences and healed the traumas that brought them together in the first place.
These three women saw the assets in North Minneapolis, namely its people. When they cooked, ate, and talked together, magic happened. They found out that some people call a saucepan a skillet, and that people are more open to eat leftovers if you call them TV dinners. Dreams got blended with fears, and they whisked away the taste of difference. The mothers of AFC found similarity and connection through their hopes, wins, and losses, and by coming together to prepare and share food with one another. The whole experience was like preparing the land to plant an unknown seed and having the courage to try its fruits.
The first two full years at Appetite For Change weren’t all rainbows and sunshine. It was hard work for the three women to communicate, understand each other’s language, and see through a new world lens. Opportunities increased, workload and community response to the program monopolized their time, and the founders found less time to cook, eat, and talk about the change they wanted to see. They all had different reasons they wanted access to fresh and local food in North Minneapolis, and their shared vision grounded them.
Tasha, Princess, and Michelle came together across differences, and were intrigued by each other; they wanted to learn from each other, and at the beginning in the kitchen, that was easy. It didn’t matter whether they called it a strainer or colander, Princess, Michelle and Tasha found their similarities and connections around food, parenting, spirituality, and music.
Once they really got to the work, and their separate roles became more defined, they were less connected and spent little time together in the kitchen. At this point, trust and connection were lost. Michelle was hustling to write grants and get funding while Princess and Tasha were busy out in the community creating, implementing, and evaluating programs designed to respond to community needs—needs that didn’t seem to ever stop growing.
Shortly after AFC moved to their headquarters at 1200 West Broadway Avenue and opened Breaking Bread Cafe, the founders got back to their roots. They got into the kitchen to cook, eat, and connect with one another yet again. Disputes about “how” to run the business will never go away, but these women have learned how to bridge their differences by focusing on their connections, similarities, and their shared passion for food justice, peace, and prosperity in North Minneapolis. Over the years Michelle, Tasha, and Princess have been through so much. Love, loss, and life have brought these women together as partners in building a culture of health, wealth, and social change.
AFC’s founders came together around their shared vision for North Minneapolis, but what they’ve created has far surpassed what any one of them would have thought possible those years ago. These three women have created an uncommon bond, and have formed a sisterhood through food. As sisters naturally do, they all still test each others’ nerves on occasion, they still respect the sweat, and have nothing but love for each other, Appetite For Change, and North Minneapolis.