A weekend of food, literature and cultural learning is planned in West Volusia April 28 and 29, with the goal of raising funds to help women in Africa give birth safely.
DeLand resident Lorna Owens brought the event, “And the Women Gather Literary Jazz Brunch,” with her, when she moved three years ago from the Miami area, where the award-winning gathering was hosted annually by the Ritz-Carlton hotel.
Headlining the event are author and University of Florida professor Uwem Akpan, and Cornell University professor and author Carole Boyce Davies.
The weekend kicks off on Friday, April 28, with a reception at EFG Orchids at 4265 Marsh Road in DeLand, one of the world’s largest producers of Cattleya orchids.
At the plant nursery, wine and small bites will be served, the EFG staff will present a demonstration, and the acoustic musical duo of Kim Hightower and Tony Mawdesley will perform.
Two gatherings are planned on Saturday, April 29. First, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Venue 142 in Downtown DeLand, those attending will focus on lunch and the featured authors.
On Saturday evening, And the Women Gather will move to DeBary for a curated dinner at Genuine Bistro and Lounge.
Both the reception and the Saturday midday event are included in the ticket price of $25. The Saturday-night dinner, as well as a full meal at Venue 142, may be purchased separately.
At Venue 142, Akpan will speak about his second book and first novel, New York, My Village. His first book, Say You’re One of Them, was a New York Times bestseller and the 2009 pick of Oprah Winfrey’s Book Club.
Boyce Davies, the Frank H.T. Rhodes professor of humane letters at Cornell University, will share her book, Black Women’s Rights: Leadership and the Circularities of Power. A scholar of the African diaspora, Boyce Davies focuses in the book on how Black women can be stripped of their power institutionally.
The Muse Book Shop in Downtown DeLand will make copies of the authors’ books available, and the food will be a collaboration between Jamaican-born vegan chef Sandi Morais, who is visiting for the event, and the crew of Downtown DeLand’s BakeChop restaurant.
Morais is a graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, and studied food styling with former Disney Executive Chef Johnny Rivers and Dr. Aris LaTham, the father of Gourmet Ethical Raw Foods Cuisine.
She will present a vegan-food demonstration, introducing her love for raw foods with Raw Walnutty Truffles.
The Alley Cats will provide jazz music for the event at Venue 142.
How it all started
Owens is an attorney, international speaker, legal commentator for Nancy Grace and author of the books My Journey With Food in the Time of the Coronavirus and Everyday Grace, Everyday Miracle: Living the Life You Were Born to Live.
She also is the founder and owner of Desert-Sage Lifestyle, which offers fine teas and botanicals, soy candles, natural body washes and lotions.
Born in Jamaica, Owens studied nursing at the University of West Indies in Jamaica, and midwifery in England at Good Hope Maternity Hospital, and attended law school at the University of Florida.
After seeing a 60 Minutes piece called “Rape as a Weapon of War,” Owens created the Footprints Foundation in 2010. The foundation’s mission is to take nurses and doctors to Africa to help train nurses and doctors to reduce infant mortality, and how to handle the complications of pregnancy.
In Africa, Owens said, women often deliver their babies in dangerous conditions without skilled care. Once a year, the Footprints Foundation sends safe-birthing kits to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The foundation has also helped train pediatricians in neonatology, to improve outcomes for women and babies in Jamaica.
After falling in love with the energy of DeLand, Owens said, she found the courage to share the “And the Women Gather Literary Jazz Brunch” with the West Volusia community.
Tickets for the event, along with tickets for the add-on meals, can be purchased at www.desert-sage.co.
If you go
Tickets cost $25 per person and may be purchased at www.desert-sage.co. The tickets provide admission to two events:
• A reception at 6 p.m. Friday, April 28, at EFG Orchids, 4265 Marsh Road in DeLand. Wine, small bites, an orchid-growing demonstration and music by Kim Hightower and Tony Mawdesley.
• A book event 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, April 29, at Venue 142, 142 N. Woodland Blvd. in DeLand. Talks by two visiting authors, a vegan-cooking demonstration by Chef Sandi Morais, champagne and wine, and music by The Alley Cats. An optional full lunch by BakeChop is available for purchase separately.
The event’s final gathering is an optional curated dinner Saturday evening, April 29, at Genuine Bistro and Lounge, 2 S. Richard Beall Blvd. in DeBary. The cost is $80, and a full-course dinner, with vegan options, will be served.