Last Updated on July 24, 2023 by BVN

T. Faye Griffin, Guest Writer and Artist 

In the process of documenting and understanding the history of rice, Black Voice News reached out to the community for their insight and expression of the history of rice within African American culture. We held an open call for Black artists to create art to be featured as part of  the Still I Rice! series. 

In this artists’ open call we wanted to share art that highlights the history of rice within the Black community. We welcomed any form of art, from written to visual. We received submissions from artists T. Faye Griffin, Theresa P. Shellcroft and Delgreta Brown, the first two who are based in the Inland Empire. Check out their submissions in this section of the Still I Rice! series. This segment of the series is curated by Black Voice News reporter Aryana Noroozi.

A painting accompanying artist T. Faye Griffin’s “A Tale of Two Rices,” depicts hands offering bowls of rice, with one pair of hands representing her birth mother, and the other pair of hands representing her foster mother.  (Photo of artwork by T. Faye Griffin)

At the risk of sounding Dickensian I must preface this by saying that my life has been the best of rice and the worst of rice. You see, I was almost an adult before I realized that rice was something more than a watery soup consisting of mushy white grains doused in butter and sugar. 

For as long as I can remember that’s how it was served at our table. My foster mother (God rest her) was an earnest, hardworking woman who took very good care of me but couldn’t cook for love nor money. 

I know what you’re thinking: “How could such a travesty happen?” Well, I had no real point of reference while coming of age during the late 60’s [and] early 70’s. Due to Mom’s grueling work schedule, TV dinners were the order of the day, and dining out was a rare occurrence, usually relegated to a restaurant formerly known as “Kentucky Fried Chicken.” Ironically, it would be a meal served at the home of my biological mother that would rock my rice world.

While I didn’t reside with my birth mother and siblings, occasionally Mom would drive me from our spacious duplex in West Athens, a middle-class Black community in an unincorporated part of Los Angeles, to the compact apartment on Broadway near 108th [Street] in South Central [Los Angeles] that my mother, “Mama,” shared with my sisters. 

It was there amazing aromas of delicacies like spaghetti made with lamb necks, savory green beans, white potatoes and ham hocks, and cornbread dressing embraced me. But it was Mama’s smothered round steak with rice and gravy that cast its spell on my uninitiated palate.

Like a first kiss it is a taste and texture I’ll never forget–slices of tender beef glistening in peppery brown gravy set atop a steaming mound of white rice. With its cylindrical shape still intact there was not one bloated, waterlogged grain to be found. 

In hindsight, I view my mothers’ different approaches to preparing rice as an analogy of their different approaches to caring for me. My foster mother’s sugar laden concoction symbolizes the material things she broke her back to provide for me.  Her intentions were pure, but I was spoiled rotten like a bad tooth. Seriously, I may have been the only five-year old kid on the block with a 13” television and personal Christmas tree in their bedroom. 

Meanwhile, my sisters shared bunk beds as my birth mother struggled to make ends meet. Her expression of love was evident in the simple but delicious dishes she served. She was much like her rice–both firm and tender. She loved me enough to let go in the hope that I’d have a better life than she could provide. Two rices, two women, two loves for one child. 

Then, in 2019, I traveled to Lagos, Nigeria and experienced Jollof rice for the first time. Two words—mind blown! But that’s another story for another day.

Portrait of T. Faye Griffin, a TV writer-producer for over 30 years said after a life-altering trip to Lagos, Nigeria in 2019, she was inspired to expand her creative portfolio to include visual art. (Courtesy of T. Faye Griffin)

Artist Statement

As a TV writer-producer for over 30 years, words have been T. Faye Griffin’s self-described “stock-in-trade.” After a life-altering trip to Lagos, Nigeria in 2019, Griffin said she was inspired to expand her creative portfolio to include visual art. “I employ a wide range of mediums and techniques to produce written and visual narratives that I hope will provoke conversation, as well as allow me to express my deep nostalgia for Black culture in Los Angeles during the 60’s-70’s,” Griffin said. ‘Still, I Rice! presented a wonderful opportunity for me to relive a precious coming-of-age memory,” she added.

In addition to a visual artist, T. Faye Griffin is an award winning TV writer and author, as well as TV, film and live event producer. She is currently the Regional Program Director of the High Desert at Arts Connection, The Arts Council of San Bernardino County.  Read more about T. Faye Griffin and her work here.

Still I Rice! is part of the Black Voice News series, Centerpoint: The Healing Power of Cultural Connections, funded by Ethnic Media’s Stop the Hate campaign administered by the California State Library.

This article was modified on July 24, 2023 to best reflect attribution for the writer and  curator.