A Call for Corn and Community

Sara Elise

“A Call for Corn and Community” was published in Active Cultures’ Digest, Issue 14, November 2022 (edited by Nneka Jackson).

Images: All images courtesy of the artist. 

Sara Elise is a Black & Indigenous, queer, autistic femme creative splitting her time between Brooklyn and Upstate, NY.

She works primarily in the hospitality and wellness industries and is the co-founder and designer of Apogeo Collective, a hospitality experience centering QTPOC; the founder of Harvest & Revel, an event catering + design company; and is currently working on her forthcoming book with Harper Collins (Amistad Books) entitled A Recipe For More.

Sara Elise has been featured in Dazed, Playboy, Afropunk, Healthy-ish, Well + Good, Nylon, StyleLikeU, and them, among others.

With all of her work, she aims to challenge our collective reality by first re-imagining and then creating alternative systems and spaces (both external and internal) for BIPOC and LGBTQIA2S+ folks to thrive.

She spends much of her thoughtspace contemplating pleasure, pain, healing, destruction, and growth— and how inextricably those concepts are linked. To that end, Sara Elise has deep interests in BDSM, ritualization, relationship dynamics, and the development of personal awareness and well-being.

In the same week that my father said it wasn’t his priority to process my feelings or communicate with me, a Black Native woman lovingly braided a leather wrap into my hair and welcomed me into her Powwow family.

Over hundreds of years, the United States has displaced and abused  Indigenous people but we are still here and present for each other.  Still, despite having Indigenous ancestral heritage, so many of us are disconnected from our culture— our language, generational storytelling, and food rituals. My grandmother was the person who told me most about our Native heritage, but when she died, much of that knowledge remained with her.

This past Summer, I attended my first Intertribal Powwow (hosted by the Redhawk American Arts Council at Bear Mountain). I witnessed Tribal dancing in celebration of corn — one of my life’s greatest delights and a symbol of sustenance, fertility, and joy in many Indigenous cultures. I also tried corn-centric traditional foods for the first time like Corn, Pork & Bean Soup, and Cornmeal Fry Bread. Inspired by the hospitality and love I felt from people I met at the Powwow, I decided to make my own Corn, Pork & Bean Soup. This version uses all fresh ingredients local to Lenapehoking (also known now as Brooklyn, NY), where I live.

Corn, Pork, & Bean Soup


1 tablespoon sunflower or safflower oil
3 quarts of vegetable stock, preferably homemade
2 bags (15 oz each) dried hominy (sourced from Inca Hominy)
3 ears fresh corn (sourced from Sunny Harvest Farm *pro tip: once you remove the kernels, use the corn stalks for your veggie stock*)
1 lb pork belly (sourced from Stryker Farm), cut into strips
16 oz bag dried organic kidney beans (sourced from a local co-op bulk section)
Sea salt to season

1. Pat the pork belly strips dry with a paper towel and season heavily with sea salt. Let sit on the counter for several minutes.

2. In a heavy-bottomed pot, heat sunflower oil over medium-high heat and pan-sear pork belly strips so that they are browned. Once cooked to temp, remove and let rest before cutting into small pieces.

3. In the same pot used to cook the pork, pour 2 quarts of stock. Add in the dried hominy and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot and let sit for an hour.

4. Add in the 3rd quart of stock and add in the dried kidney beans. Bring to a simmer, add salt, and cover the pot. Let sit for another hour.

5. Taste the beans and hominy to see if they are tender. Once they are tender, add the cooked pork. Bring to a simmer and add salt to taste. Add fresh corn as the last step and add more salt to taste.

I made a huge pot of this soup and shared it with friends, packaging it in containers and distributing it over the next few days.


When the people we were born to don’t love us in the ways we need, it’s easy to feel like we’re undeserving of love— always seeking more to fill the places left empty from their limits. For some of us, as we witness the limited capacity of our blood family or learn about and begin to repair our connection to our ancestral line, family becomes more about action than genetics– especially when our connective lines have been largely destroyed and systematically taken from us. Family can be intentionally called in and cultivated. Family can happen through the practice of making and remaking. In her 2020 article for Emergence Magazine, Robin Wall Kimmer references a gift economy wherein food abundance is stored in our brothers’ bellies. Family, found or otherwise, can too be about abundance; endless efforts to listen and receive, to try to understand, to celebrate both our unique selves and collective joys together, to feed each other— ensuring that we can all feel full.

Active Cultures is a cultural organization that explores the convergence of food and art in contemporary life.