Newswire: Leah Chase, legendary ‘Queen of Creole Cuisine’ and Civil Rights icon dies at 96

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Correspondent

Leah Chase

Known as the “Queen of Creole Cuisine,” Leah Chase carved out quite the niche in and around New Orleans for more than six decades.
During that time, she fed individuals like Quincy Jones, Jesse Jackson, Duke Ellington, Thurgood Marshall, James Baldwin, Ray Charles, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and countless others as Executive Chef of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant — one of the best-known and most culturally significant restaurants in New Orleans.
“If your soul is in New Orleans, I know what to give you,” Chase once said in response to being asked if she served soul food.
“I’m going to give you some jambalaya. I can give you some stewed chicken. I can give you some shrimp Creole,” she said.
The renowned cook and freedom fighter, Chase died on Saturday, June 1. She was 96.
“Her daily joy was not simply cooking but preparing meals to bring people together. One of her most prized contributions was advocating for the Civil Rights Movement through feeding those on the front lines of the struggle for human dignity,” Chase’s family said in a statement announcing her death.
“She saw her role and that of Dooky Chase’s Restaurant to serve as a vehicle for social change during a difficult time in our country’s history,” the family said.
Born on January 6, 1923 in New Orleans, Chase was one of 14 children. She was raised in the small town of Madisonville, Louisiana.
There were no high schools for black children, so after sixth grade, Chase moved to New Orleans to live with an aunt, according to her official biography.
After completing high school, Chase had a colorful work history including managing two amateur boxers and becoming the first woman to mark the racehorse board for a local bookie.
Her favorite job, though, was waiting tables in the French Quarter. It was there that she developed her love for food and feeding others.
In 1946, she married local musician Edgar “Dooky” Chase Jr., whose father had opened a street corner stand selling lottery tickets and his wife’s homemade po’boy sandwiches.
Eventually, Leah and Dooky Jr. took over the business, which by then had become a sit-down restaurant and a favorite local gathering place.
In a town deeply divided by segregation, Dooky Chase’s Restaurant was one of the only public places in New Orleans where mixed race groups could meet to discuss strategy for the local Civil Rights Movement.
Although such gatherings were illegal through most of the 1960s, Dooky Chase’s was so popular; it would have caused a public uproar if local law enforcement had interrupted the meetings.
Black voter registration campaign organizers, the NAACP, backdoor political meetings and countless others often found a home at Dooky Chase’s, and Leah cooked for them all, her biography noted.
Chase was also a patron of black art and her collection — displayed on the walls of her restaurant — was at one time considered New Orleans’ best collection of African American art.
Her cookbooks, including “The Dooky Chase Cookbook,” “And Still I Cook,” and “Leah Chase: Listen, I Say Like This,” are popular and have received great praise among her most famous colleagues.
“Leah Chase was a legend, an icon and an inspiration,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said. “It is impossible to overstate what she meant to our City and to our community. At Dooky Chase’s Restaurant: she made creole cuisine the cultural force that it is today,” Cantrell said.
Chase fed Freedom Riders during the Civil Rights Movement and she fed James Meredith and put him up the night before he integrated the University of Mississippi, said Kristen Clarke, the president and executive director of the National Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
“She provided a space for whites and Blacks to strategize when other restaurants wouldn’t,” Clarke said.

Michael Jordan speaks out on deadly police shootings of Black men

By Frederick H. Lowe



Michael Jordan

      Saying he can no longer remain silent in the wake of deadly shootings of unarmed Black men by police and the shooting deaths of police officers, NBA great Michael Jordan, who is also owner of the Charlotte Hornets of the NBA, announced on Monday that he has donated a total of $2 million to the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the Institute for Community –Police Relations for the purpose of building trust and promoting best practices in community policing.

“To support that effort, I am making contributions of $1 million each to two organizations, the International  Association of Chiefs of Police’s newly established  institute for Community-Police Relations and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, ” Jordan said. “My donation to the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the nation’s oldest civil rights organization, will support its ongoing work in support of reforms that will build trust and respect between communities and law enforcement. Although I know these contributions alone are not enough to solve the problem, I hope the resources will help both organizations make a positive difference.”

“I am so pleased and honored that Michael Jordan will be making this donation to LDF in support of our policing reform efforts,” said Sherriyln Ifill, president and director counsel of LDF, which was founded by Thurgood Marshall.

“It is an act of true leadership that Mr. Jordan has chosen to use his stature to highlight the importance to all Americans and by taking a personal stance in support of organizations directly engaged in addressing this crisis in our nation. We are grateful for this support, which will allow to deepen our engagement on the issue of policing reform at this critical time in our country.”

Although Jordan, a member of the NBA Hall of Fame, donates money to various projects, he rarely speaks out on issues, but he said he was moved by the spate of deadly police shootings of unarmed black men and the deadly shootings of police.

“As a proud American, a father who lost his dad in a senseless act of violence, and a back man. I have been deeply troubled by the deaths of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement and angered by the cowardly and hateful targeting of police officers. I grieve with the families who have lost loved ones, as I know their pain all too well,” Jordan said.