About the Founder
Hi! My name is Taylor Johnson-Gordon and I am a food educator, herbalist, homecook, and founder of Sistah of the Yam, LLC. I teach interactive and engaging sessions on plant-based cooking, food, nutrition and herbal medicine throughout the greater Philadelphia region.
So, what is a food educator?
I am a food educator and not strictly a nutritionist or nutrition educator because I believe that food is complex. Food is more than filling our bellies, and real food is more than calories, vitamins, and minerals.
Real food is about . . . C O M M U N I T Y + C O N N E C T I O N
Real food is about . . . S T O R Y + T R A D I T I O N
Real food is about . . . E Q U I T Y + J U S T I C E
Real food is about . . . J O Y + P L E A S U R E
In a time where health and wellness is heavily focused on which "new" or "trendy" food you must eat, I try to practice and teach the art of instinctive cooking and eating; knowing how to listen to what your body is telling you that it needs and cooking simply with what is available to you. I believe that our bodies inherently have much wisdom and are constantly trying to communicate with us. However, it can be difficult to know how to tap into it. The world is unpredictable and stress, trauma, and just life itself can get in the way of being connected to our bodies in ways that allow us to feed it what it needs to naturally thrive, detox, heal, and become more resilient.
My teaching philosophy weaves together the following truths:
Real food can free us, not hold us captive
Food is inherently political; when we eat real food we are saying that our bodies and lives matter
A vegan/plant-based lifestyle* can be accessible and affordable
Learning should be joyous, communal, and intergenerational
*We practice a vegan lifestyle for both health and ethical reasons and believe that it is the most sustainable, just, and healthy way to eat. However, the programs that are offered through Sistah of the Yam are open and welcoming to anyone, regardless of one's diet and/or food lifestyle.
As a recovering emotional and secretive eater, I spent much of my adolescent and young adult years with a broken relationship with food. Food was my escape from any challenging emotion or reality that I was experiencing. I had low self-worth and a negative body image. It wasn't until my time at seminary that I began to consider the ways in which food had an emotional, physical, and spiritual power over me and my life. I began exploring how my relationship to food and how I treated my body didn't match what I believed to be true theologically: that I was created in the image of God.
Never in a million years did I think I would not eat animals! However, I began learning about nutrition and learning more about food justice and how animals are abused in the food industry in this country. I felt led to at least give vegetarianism a try. It was on one ordinary, humid July afternoon in Princeton, NJ that I walked to Qdoba and ordered my first vegetarian bowl (made of rice, beans, vegetables, and no meat). Since that day, I never looked back; I have been on this journey now for nearly 5 years (2 years vegetarian and almost 3 years vegan).
My eclectic academic background intersects food, faith (with particular interest in Black American Churches), and holistic health. I have earned a Bachelor of Arts in Biology from Point Loma Nazarene University, a Master of Arts in Christian Education from Princeton Theological Seminary and I am working towards my Masters of Science in Nutrition and Integrative Health (with a concentration in Herbal Medicine) from Maryland University School of Integrative Health. I am also working towards becoming a Certified Nutrition Specialist (CNS).
For 2 years, I worked as an Adult Nutrition Educator with The Food Trust where I taught nutrition in corner stores/bodegas, churches, food pantries, libraries, public housing facilities, farmers markets, and community centers throughout North Philadelphia. It is there that I piloted the Oldways' A Taste of African Heritage curriculum at 3 different locations throughout North Philly. I also had the unique opportunity to help present our organization's supermarket programming to former Surgeon General Vivek Hallegere Murthy at one of our local grocery stores.
Below are past places where I have offered programming in the past:
Drueding Center (Food Pantry)
Stephen Klein Wellness Center YMCA
Columbia North YMCA
Lillian Marrero Library
Dorado Village Apartments
Urban Tree Connection
Cobbs Creek Recreation Center
Fairhill Square Farmer's Market
Oxford Circle Farmer's Market
26th and Alleghany Farmer's Market
Crusaders for Christ Church (Food Pantry)
Girls' Rock Philly LRC Camp
Philadelphia Museum of Art
Princeton Theological Seminary
several corner and grocery stores throughout North Philadelphia
Tajah EBRAM / Administrative Assistant
Tajah offers part-time administrative support for SOTY! Tajah is originally from New Jersey, and is a researcher, scholar, educator and soon to be herbalist living in Philadelphia. She is committed to exploring Black women's knowledge and practice and how it can inform teaching and creating wellness in our communities. In her spare time, Tajah enjoys finding and cooking new plant based recipes.
About Sistah of the Yam
Sistah of the Yam, LLC was first envisioned for a school project in 2014 while Taylor was student at Princeton Theological Seminary. Inspired by prolific feminist writer, educator, and activist bell hooks' book Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery, our mission is to help Black women and girls heal and grow resiliency through real, affordable food. We do this by offering a variety of services, including 1:1 Food Healing Sessions, engaging workshops, and resources that are both relevant and affordable to Black women, their families, and communities. While we offer resources online, we are proudly based in Philadelphia and offer services to various neighborhoods and communities throughout the city.
We are grounded and guided by the following virtues:
Black women are image bearers of God
Healing is our birthright
The body intuitively knows what it needs to thrive
Our well-being depends on us being interdependent
Taking care of our bodies means taking care of the earth
Why Black women?
Black women are a life force. We are traditionally at the center of our families and communities, leading in a variety of important roles. We are community leaders, entrepreneurs, caretakers, workers, and everything in between. Historically, we have served as the keepers of food traditions and meal making for generations.
Yet in spite of nurturing others, we are often neglectful of self-nurture; not solely because of a lack of interest, but because of lack of time, resources, and tangible support. We live in a country that has as history of abusing and violating Black women's bodies. Through chattel slavery to reproductive health inequities, this country continues to enact violence on us through structural racism. It is often just too much to bear; as a result, we compromise our physical health, which in turn causes our emotional, mental, and spiritual health to deteriorate. Indeed we are resilient, but such resilience has come at a cost.
Researchers are finding that Black women are uniquely affected by various diseases, reproductive issues, mental illness at alarming rates. Both heart disease and Type 2 diabetes disproportionately and indiscriminately affect Black women. According to the American Diabetes Association and American Heart Association (AHA):
Sistah of the Yam is a solution.
Now more than ever, we have an opportunity to see Black women heal and focus on being whole rather than always having to be strong. By using food as our first medicine, we are making an investment in our own lives. We are saying that our lives matter to us and to God. We are saying that we are not disposable and that we will no longer slowly die. Our choice has a rippling affect and in turn has the opportunity to make a transformative impact on the lives of those we love and care for, both now and for future generations to come.