EBONY 2022 Power 100 awardee Alexis Nikole Nelson, aka Black Forager, is one of TikToks' biggest stars. While most creators are online dancing or even sharing the latest gadgets and products that we should be buying, Nelson is schooling us on the importance and historical significance of foraging.
"I chose the username 'blackforager' back in 2018 when I was struggling to find anyone who looked like me in the online foraging community," Nelson explains. "It was a way to let folks know—even when they couldn't see my face—that black folks forage, too."
Foraging is defined as the acquisition of food by hunting, fishing, or the gathering of plant matter. Through her witty and engaging videos—that reach her over 4 million+ followers—the Columbus, Ohio native and 2022 James Beard Media Award recipient educates us on how to reconnect with our roots—literally.
"My mom kindled my love of foraging, and plants in general, by teaching me about everything growing in her garden when I was small. I couldn't believe there was this hidden world of nearly-forgotten wild foods. It made the world seem a bit more magical," Nelson shares. "I share my foraging obsession with the world both because it truly excites me, and because I think when people recognize that there are exciting plants hiding in plain sight in their own neighborhoods, they take better care of it. They spend more time outside. I don't necessarily think I'm going to get millions of people eating off their lawn, but I hope to help them each feel a little more connected to the world around them."
While her list of accolades are certainly noteworthy—we should also add, she will release a book in 2023 as well—Nelson just simply enjoys sharing her love and passion for foraging with the world. She will take the stage during the South Beach Wine and Food Festival—happening Feb. 23-26, 2023—as one of the featured talents during the event's new FoodieCon. This latest activation will bring together some of the culinary world's biggest and best young talent, while giving fans a chance to interact with them in-person.
"Expect lots of jokes, plant ID lessons, soup, and yelling," she says. "I feel like it's so easy for content creators to be put into a box and feel like we're only relevant to people when they're on their phones, so honestly one reason why being invited to FoodieCon (and other events) is important to me is it makes me feel taken seriously."
We asked Nelson to share why she feels we as Black people should really seek to educate ourselves more on foraging, and what our historical connection was.
"There is a rich history of Black foraging in this country, but due to Jim Crow era laws driving generations of Black folks away from the 'great outdoors' for their own safety, we're disconnected from that past. We're so disconnected that some folks don't think it's "for us", but it is."