Rosie Bowen & Adriana Bowen-Herrera
Owner of Rose’s Bakery in Baltimore’s Northeast Market, Rosie Bowen is the keeper of family recipes and foodways traditions for Baltimore’s Lumbee community. Bowen learned to cook her family’s traditional dishes primarily from her grandmother Pearl Bowen, a community leader and one of the oldest living Lumbee tribal members in Maryland before passing away at the age of 104.
Lumbee foodways are relatively new in Maryland, having arrived in Baltimore during the mid-20th century when many Lumbee migrated from North Carolina in search of work during World War II. Lumbee would often travel back and forth from North Carolina for work during the 1940s and ’50s, before finally settling in the city’s Fell’s Point neighborhood. Today, Baltimore is home to the largest concentration of Lumbee people outside of Robeson County, North Carolina.
At the 81st National Folk Festival, Bowen will demonstrate how to make collard green sandwiches, a dish that is central to Lumbee identity and feelings of family and home. It is also a symbol of southern demographics–the blending of Black, Native, and White influences. Described as the perfect food to understand colonialism, the flavor profile of collard green sandwiches consists of collards and greens brought from Africa, fried cornbread (corn) from the Americas, and the fatback of hogs, which were brought by the Spanish in the 1500s.
A recipient of the 2008 Brewington Business Award from the Baltimore American Indian Center as well as a 2019-20 Folklife Apprenticeship Award from the Maryland State Arts Council, Bowen has been teaching her daughter, Adriana Bowen-Herrera, to cook as a way to maintain that connection to their people, and to pass this knowledge forward. Being far from their traditional homelands, Bowen-Herrera, who will join her mom at the festival, described the importance of learning these traditions from her mother: “I feel like traditional Lumbee culture isn’t celebrated the way it should be, even in North Carolina, but when I see my elders, I know that as long as they’re here spreading knowledge and their experiences, our culture is still flourishing. I want this to be my part in passing it on.”