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Published: Thursday, 2/24/2011 - Updated: 4 years ago

Cookbook could lead to more opportunities for Toledo area writer

Cookbook could lead to more opportunities for area writer


Brooke Campbell with the Coca-Cola cookbook featuring her poetry. Brooke Campbell with the Coca-Cola cookbook featuring her poetry.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo
When Brooke Campbell was a student at Central Catholic High School about a decade ago, she wrote a song and played the music for the soloist who sang during one of the school's well-known Gospel Choir concerts.

The words in the song were quite spiritual. They made a memorable impression on that audience, so much so it was no surprise to anyone who heard them to learn that Ms. Campbell was selected by the Coca-Cola Co. to write the poetry for its 2011 Black History Month project, a commemorative cookbook titled celebrate the taste of black history.

Ms. Campbell, 26, graduated from Central Catholic in 2002 and holds a degree in theology from Lourdes College. She said she more or less fell into becoming the writer of the brightly colored 32-page cookbook.

The soft-drink firm saw an article she had written for an online publication, glasscityconnect.com. After seeing more of her work, Coke selected her for the book. Ms. Campbell wrote the poetry to enhance the project after seeing the illustrations by award-winning artist Kadir Nelson, who was the leading artist for the film Amistad and the album cover for "Michael," the posthumous Michael Jackson album. His work also has appeared on the sets of sitcoms and movies.

In the cookbook, paired with an illustration of a distinguished looking woman who could easily represent the doyenne in any family, Ms. Campbell writes the following underneath the image of a figure that almost leaps off the page:

Once at the table our orator, our great aunt Sadie, had to give thanks before each meal. She stood and would proclaim, at length, the same accounts time and time again. Rich with embellishments, they grew to become our legendary fables.

With another illustration of handsome young men of various hues, she writes:

I gazed at each face and found, along with an assortment of color, that we all shared a commonality in our history. Ingredients that could not be replaced. We completed each other.

And still another, next to the recipe for collard greens, Ms. Campbell writes:

Hands that told a story all their own, had grown, picked and cleaned collard greens. A tradition passed down from generation to generation, sewn in the fabric of a heritage we wear proudly.

Coca-Cola's 'celebrate the taste of black history' cookbook. Coca-Cola's 'celebrate the taste of black history' cookbook.
THE BLADE/ANDY MORRISON Enlarge | Buy This Photo
Gerry Garvin, better known as Chef G Garvin on the TV series, Turn Up the Heat with G Garvin, provides 12 recipes that generally tend to be favorites at African-American dinner tables, whether for celebratory occasions or for no particular event at all: banana pudding, Southern-style collard greens, succotash with fried okra, and baked catfish.

Having her name, brief biography, and photograph on the same page with Chef G Garvin and Mr. Nelson is a major accomplishment for the young Toledoan, but there is not a flicker of arrogance in her deportment. In fact, she's grateful to her own family and for Coke providing her this chance.

"I am just now beginning to comprehend the magnitude of this opportunity. Sometimes you just need one break; I am hoping that this experience will be the catalyst to a fruitful career," she said.

"It was natural to write about family because mine has been so instrumental. It makes me smile to think that my mother would be so proud if she was here," Ms. Campbell said of her mother Gloria who died in 2004.

As she travels for Coke -- she was in Atlanta at the firm's headquarters last week and is in Jacksonville Friday reading her poetry -- she is hopeful that the experience will open a door to expand her interests and develop a writing career that will allow her to write more than songs or poetry, but scripts for movies and television.

Meanwhile, she'll keep working at the Greater Toledo Urban League as administrative coordinator and writing for online publications.

To obtain a free copy of the cookbook -- available while supplies last or until Monday when the offer expires -- visit mycokerewards.com/blackhistory, enter three pin codes that you will find on Coke products (on Coke soft drinks, look for the code underneath the bottle cap) and the promotional code "BlackHistory."

Contact Rose Russell at rrussell@theblade.com or 419-724-6178.

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