Real Men Cook: 35 Years of Celebrating Fathers And Uplifting Black Men

When Yvette Moyo co-founded Real Men Cook with Kofi Moyo, the mission was clear: to change the narrative around Black men and celebrate their contributions as fathers, mentors and community leaders.

“At that time, even though there were no Black unemployment statistics for males, we still understood that the media portrayed Black men negatively,” Moyo recalled. In creating Real Men Cook, they aimed to dominate the media with positive messages and images of Black men. 

Aspiration fulfilled.

Thirty-five years later, the impact of the Chicago-born Real Men Cook movement is undeniable and far-reaching. 

If you notice a group of men gathering to cook for folks on Father’s Day, there’s a great chance they were influenced by Real Men Cook, whose vast reach even touched the White House lawn—more on this later. 

But here at home, the organization is again bringing men together for its annual Father’s Day tradition, during which men make and share food and celebrate their positive roles in their communities.

Moyo and her son Rael Jackson, president of Real Men Cook, recently spoke with The Chicago Defender about the organization’s time-honored Father’s Day tradition, the various people connected with it and what lies ahead. 

Real Men Cooking and Changing the Narrative Around Black Men

A man grilling food at a Real Men Cook event

A man grilling food at a Real Men Cook event (Photo provided by Yvette Moyo).

The idea for Real Men Cook was born from a desire to counteract the pervasive negative stereotypes about Black men. 

“We wanted to celebrate the passion of men who, despite racism and discrimination, still get up every day and try to make a difference,” Moyo said. 

In celebrating men, Yvette and Kofi Moyo wanted to uplift fathers of all kinds, from biological ones to stepfathers and community leaders who provide valuable mentorship to many. 

“So, we said, ‘Every configuration of the family works. And on Father’s Day, we should be celebrating the men who have raised other people’s children forever and not called it anything but family,'” Moyo said.

The annual event has been featured in Time Magazine, USA Today, and numerous television shows, spreading its message far and wide.

Memorable Moments and Enduring Lessons

Over the years, countless stories have emerged from the Real Men Cook events, each highlighting the deep connections they’ve fostered and their transformative impact. 

One such story involves a participant named Lucius Bell, a well-known musician, who registered to cook with his newborn grandson’s picture in the event’s cookbook. Another memorable moment was when a man, heartbroken from being unable to see his child, came to the event for solace. After being encouraged to reach out to his child’s mother, he eventually gained custody of his son.

Then there are the lessons learned.

Moyo said, “When fathers with newborn babies come to us, they see Real Men Cook as a rite of passage because they want to be around other men who serve and have kept their family relationships together, no matter what the challenges.”

“So it’s much more than just food,” Moyo said of the Father’s Day event. “We say that people come for the food, and we feed their soul.”

Supporting Men and Their Families Beyond Father’s Day

However, through Real Men Cook’s nonprofit arm, Real Men Charities, Jackson and Moyo also work to assist families year-round. Their building, The Quarry, serves as a community hub on the South Side. 

“Men know that when they come to our facility, which we own, called The Quarry in South Shore, they know that we will have a special ear for them because we are a hub for their healing,” she said.

Challenging Persistent Narratives

Despite progress, Moyo acknowledges that the struggle to change the narrative about Black men continues. 

“I’m brokenhearted that we’re still here with the same narrative 35 years later. There’s a different twist on it, but the bottom line is we’re worse off in many cases than we were 35 years ago.

In addition to having the highest death rates in America, Black men remain disproportionately impacted by unemployment and, therefore, do not possess as many financial resources. 

“Real Men Charities is a movement to change the way people view Black men, but also how Black men view themselves.”

“We’re also attempting to communicate to them that their presence is more important than their money, that we don’t have to buy into capitalism that way.

Connection Generations Through An Enduring Tradition

Youth participating at a Real Men Cook event

Youth participating at a Real Men Cook event (Photo provided by Yvette Moyo).

For Rael Jackson, Moyo’s son and a key figure in Real Men Cook, the event is about bridging generational gaps and fostering traditions. 

“The stories, the good lessons that I’ve learned, are that Real Men Cook has been a tradition for men on Father’s Day. I ran to a guy at the barber shop a few years ago, and I had on a Real Men Cook shirt, and he was like, ‘I have one of those.’ And then he was like, ‘I have an apron. He was listing all this Real Men Cook stuff that he had,” said Jackson.

When Jackson asked how he got all that Real Men Cook swag, the man said, “My father used to participate in Real Men Cook. He used to take me to Real Men Cook on Father’s Day every year.”

“That’s what Real Men Cook is all about,” Jackson said. “Before us, there were no Father’s Day traditions, especially for our community, but really, throughout the United States. So, if you see any events where people are cooking in parks around Father’s Day weekend, it’s part of the Real Men Cook tradition. It’s part of what we started 35 years ago.”

Of the many connections RMC has had with men in the Chicagoland community, Jackson brings up one participant who had yet to rise to national prominence. 

“I love the fact that we have pictures of Barack Obama in a bandana,” Jackson said. “We have pictures of him holding Sasha and Malia at Real Men Cook, and he actually wrote the foreword for our cookbook. And this is all before he became a national phenom.”

During one of Obama’s early years at the White House, he hosted a Father’s Day barbecue on the White House lawn and wore a White House apron—an indication to Jackson that this event was undoubtedly Real Men Cook-inspired. 

“We know that that’s where he gets that understanding from because there were no other food events on Father’s Day before Real Men Cook,” he said.

A Vision for the Future

Rael Jackson of Real Men Cook

Rael Jackson of Real Men Cook (Photo Provided by Yvette Moyo).

There was a time when Real Men Cook hosted Father’s Day events in multiple cities on the same day. The pandemic altered those plans, and the annual tradition is now being held in Chicago.

Still, Jackson has more expansive plans for RMC, where its presence will become even more embedded in everyday life.

He envisions a future where Real Men Cook hosts cooking competitions and becomes associated with kitchen essentials. 

“My real vision is licensing,” he said. “I would love to see a Real Men Cook refrigerator in homes. I would love to see Real Men Cook become like the Brand Jordan of the kitchen. So, Real Men Cook knives, Real Men Cook cast iron skillets. It can become a symbol of quality in the kitchen.”

As Real Men Cook looks to the future, the focus remains on sustaining and growing its impact. “We’re one person away from a big breakthrough,” Jackson believes. 

Yet, if there were a world where RMC ceased to continue its Father’s Day event, Jackson would find solace in what this mighty organization has accomplished.

“If we didn’t do another Real Men Cook, I’d be satisfied with what we’ve created and presented to the city of Chicago.”

For More Information

What: Real Men Cook 35th Annual Anniversary

When: Sunday, June 16 (Father’s Day)

Where: The Quarry Event Center (2423 E 75th Street, Chicago, 60649)

What Else: General admission tickets for adults and children are $25 and $15, respectively. For tickets, visit this link.

About Post Author


From the Web

Skip to content