DeAmon: Open Bite almost didn’t happen.
Ro – the week leading up to Open Bite was a turbulent one in the country due to all of the police violence and the racial climate. It came to a head. The spiritual side of them felt what everyone was going through and was trying to figure out what to do, what to say. But they were tapped out: hurt, grieving. The night before, their pastor encouraged them to do it, because they didn’t want to. They knew it needed to be done. They didn’t want to let people down and began to see it as an opportunity to bring the community together. It turned out that it was exactly what we needed.
January – was aware of the current events, what was going on with the police and black people. Around the time of the first Open Bite Night, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile both lost their lives. The tensions were high all over, collectively, as a people. We were scheduled to cook, but there was so much going on emotionally, that it was tough to stay focused on what you’re trying to do or see the bigger picture and how it will affect everyone else. It was easy to turn to backing out or saying now is not the time. Open Bite was necessary. It lifted this section of the neighborhood. For these two household, of a strong black woman and a powerful black man, we were all experiencing these collective energies.
A few nights before the Open Bite Night, we got together for a pow wow to get our minds right. It was very powerful, emotion driven. We went from laughing to crying. We were under the spell of America. In the end they decided to move forward and who were we to say that we wouldn’t push forward with it.
DeAmon: And it was a surprising success.
Ro – We’d thrown several open mics previously and expected Open Bite to have a similar turnout, 40-70 people. Turns out we were closer to the 300 range. Several cooks sold out. A couple were able to make rent. It was perfect and beautiful and everything we hoped the outcome would be. And beyond. Things were happening that we couldn’t have even day dreamed about.
DeAmon: It centered in these two yards in the neighborhood.
Ro – Everyone, at some point in the night, had that moment of looking around and saying “Dang, this is 34th and Clifton.” One of the top three most dangerous hoods in Indianapolis and there was nothing but peace, camaraderie, laughter, and hugs.
DeAmon: Where did you get the concept of Open Bite?
Ro – When Earl and I started catering, in 2012, it was difficult for RoE Creations to get their food out. Like with music artists, they want to get their music out and have as many people listen to it as possible. With cooks, we have to get as many people to taste our food and that’s a little more costly. And challenging. Not everyone has grants and small business loans to pump into their new business. We randomly came up with the idea to give other aspiring food artists and businesses a platform to get people to eat their food without having to come out of pocket too much. Playing with the idea of an open mic, we came up with Open Bite.
DeAmon: What can we expect from Open Bite Reloaded?
Ro – we have roughly 30 musicians, 26 cooks across all different kind of food genres (Afro-Carribbean to gluten free), an open air art exhibit, a Zumba marathon, a burger battle, hip hop cypher, merchandise vendors.
January – I expect an explosion of food and art. I liken it to the Penrod Art Fair. It’s huge, lots of food, people, and art. Except this is grassroots. I expect some amazing food and art. And I’ll do some poems.