The Okra Project is a collective founded by Ianne Fields Stewart that aims to address the global crisis faced by Black transgender people by sending Black trans chefs to their homes to make a healthy and culturally specific meal and providing resources to Black trans people wherever they can reach them.
Stewart is a Black queer nonbinary transfeminine New York-based storyteller working at the intersection of theatre and activism. Stewart has performed in productions at NYC venues such as: Joe’s Pub, Dixon Place, La Mama, and many more. Stewart can also be seen on Buzzfeed LGBT, GLAAD, Inside Edition, the You Had Me at Black podcast, the #Safewordsociety podcast, Podcast of Color, the Is it Transphobic Podcast, and serves as the cohost of the Topics Include Podcast. A Humanity in Action’s John Lewis Fellowship winner, they have extensively explored the legacy of the Civil Rights Movement and its roots in present day social justice movements. Stewart has also developed a theatrical consulting and teaching artist practice which spans from talkback facilitation to teaching artistry to community outreach and organizing.
During the Middle Passage, African ancestors sneaked okra onto captive ships to sustain themselves and plant in the new world. Black Diasporic cooking traditions often use the okra plant for its versatility, and it is often associated with health, prosperity, and community.
It is in this spirit that The Okra Project hopes to extend free, delicious, and nutritious meals to Black trans people experiencing food insecurity in the New York City area.
Funded on donations and based on available funds, The Okra Project pays Black trans chefs to go into the homes of Black Trans people to cook them a healthy and home-cooked meal at absolutely no cost to our Black TGNC siblings. For those Black trans folks currently experiencing homeless or whose homes cannot support our chef’s cooking, The Okra Project has partnered with institutions like Osborne Association and other community spaces to deliver foods.
One Session Costs The Okra Project $90 (Including Chef’s Pay & Groceries)
To Make That Possible:
18 people could donate $5
9 people could donate $10
6 people could donate $15
3 people could donate $30
1 super generous human could donate $90
The Okra Project primarily serves Black trans and gender non-conforming people because they face remarkably high rates of poverty, homelessness, sexual assault, and unemployment, compared to white trans people. The rates are even higher for Black trans women in particular; for example, 38% of Black transgender women experience homelessness and extreme poverty, compared to 9% of non-transgender Black women.
Donations received individually or as part of specific fund drives, like their successful $6,000 in 6 Days fundraiser in June, provide resources to finance the Okra Project’s aspirations.
The Okra Project has only been around since late in 2019; and their contributions to the wellness of the Black trans community and continues to grow. They have been able to add to their wellness offerings by creating additional programs:
The Okra Academy
The Okra Academy is a weekend training program taught by their chefs where Black trans people can learn kitchen basics and recipes to enrich their own culinary lives, as well as prepare them to possibly work as chefs themselves.
International Grocery Fund
To address financial and food disparities faced by Black Trans people worldwide, The Okra Project has developed the International Grocery Fund. This is a monthly fundraising effort that allows them to send small $40 grants to Black trans people anywhere in the world, so they can buy food if they are experiencing emergency food shortages.
Provides Black trans people with free opportunities to view performances in some of the most renowned Off-Broadway houses. All attendees receive a chef-prepared pre-packaged meal along with their theatre ticket.
#By Okra Series
During their direct service interim, The Okra Project developed the #ByOkra series which is a monthly Affinity and Wellness spaces for Black trans people. Inspired by the sculptural installation, Black Power Naps, the #ByOkraSeries serves to reclaim laziness, idleness, and luxury as power. In a world that is constantly traumatizing people’s bodies the #ByOkra series is meant to remind Black trans people of the importance of their relaxation and joy. #BeautyByOkra is for Black trans women, #BrothaByOkra is for Black trans men, and #SpectrumByOkra is for Black non-binary people.