Friends and neighbors: chef/activist Abraham Dickerson
By GWEN OREL
Abraham Dickerson, the chef at Abe Foods, describes himself as an activist. He can often be seen at Township Council and Board of Education meetings, where he offers public comment. Dickerson and his daughter Alexis, a Montclair High School senior, designed a three-color flag that they would like to see adopted by the Montclair Police Department, titled the “Citizen Police Unity Flag,” which would help to unite Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter. Three different things the two are asking for, Dickerson writes, are: 1) when officers stop individuals they should first introduce themselves then hand them a business card with their name and badge number on it 2) for Montclair police officers to wear body cameras and 3) have community meetings every two months. Dickerson said the black represents the sorrow of slain civilians or police officers, the red bloodshed, the blue clarity, and the purple hearts coming together.
So how did this flag start?
My daughter and I was pulled over by the police department, OK. My daughter was in a vehicle. So was her mother. At the time, she was 16. This was right around that time with Ferguson and everything happening. It was crazy. So. when we was driving up Glenridge Avenue, we observed the police, four white police officers, African-American female stopped. Glenridge Avenue. So I decided to go inside Glenridge Pathmark parking lot, good distance [away]. We just filmed — the purpose of filming, just in case anything happened. We’re going to have the truth on both sides.
But the officer kept looking back intently.
So we drive out of the parking lot. Next thing my daughter said, “Dad, the cops are behind us.” OK. They can’t pull me over for anything — I haven’t done anything. Lo and behold, as we get out of the parking lot, Bloomfield Avenue, the cops pull us over. The first thing the officer says is: “I’m not going to give you a ticket. You have a front headlight out.” I said: “I don’t have a front headlight out. This is a brand new car.” I say all the while we got the tape recording on the iPhone. So I said, “Can I step out and see that headlight?” We step out. We looked. I said, “Look, my headlight is not out.”
What really bothered me was my daughter kept saying, “They’re going to pull you over.” Her perception of the police has always been a good one. She’s not as jaded as I have been. I grew up in Newark. My first experience with the police, with police brutality, was when I was 13. So my daughter eventually said “Dad, we have to do something.” We started noticing all these blue lives license plates driving around. It was like, “What can we do to offset this division?”
Tell me about the school lunch issue.
I make the correlation with health care. We’re fighting over Trumpcare, Obamacare, but we have the opportunity to write our health care bill and at the school level simply by giving kids nutritious whole foods. I’m not against desserts, so long as they are made from scratch. I’m arguing for whole nutritious food. I’m arguing for our school lunch to be profitable for our kids to at least grow into the adults who are healthier than what we have done.
You’re a chef yourself.
Yes, I have my own catering business, but I use two local restaurants’ kitchens.
When I called up I got a message about ordering wings for the Super Bowl.
I have to take that message off. Me and Laboratorio Kitchen Restaurant, we partner up to do what we call a wing fling for the Super Bowl.
Did you always want to be a chef?
I always wanted to cook. With my friends, the reputation was, “his mom can cook.” And
everything she made obviously was always from scratch. So we didn’t know about Burger Kings. We didn’t know about Kentucky Fried Chicken. When I would see Chinese food, I would turn my nose. I just found it did not look normal. I mean, like I’m a bean guy. Coming home from school, about three doors in, I knew what mom was cooking from the smell. Her smell lit the block up.
I played football, and that’s the real reason why it got me cooking. Coming home from football practice and mom wasn’t always there, and peanut butter and jelly just didn’t cut it.
In “Friends and Neighbors” we spotlight interesting Montclairites doing interesting things. Some of them you might have heard of, others you might not. Answers have been edited for space. Got someone you think we should write about? Drop a line to firstname.lastname@example.org.
MEET THE NEIGHBOR
Family: Daughter, Alexis; her mother, Tiffany. Youngest of seven. Five brothers, one deceased, two sisters.
Pets: Cleo. (emphatically) Dogs.
First job: My first job, 11 years old, I was a neighborhood grocery person for seniors. First paid job, Bergen and Clinton avenue, convenience pharmacy store.
Last job: Last week, Super Bowl.
Oscar predictions: The British actor [Daniel Kaluuya] from “Get Out.”
Olympics: The Nigerian bobsled team, that’s who I’m waiting for.
Hobby: Keyboard, that’s my hobby. I’m trying to learn. I’m trying to get somebody else to help me learn it.
Last record heard: Stevie Wonder, the song “As,” from “Songs in the Key of Life.”
Favorite drink: Unsweetened mint lemonade tea.
Favorite dessert: Cheesecake or chocolate cake from scratch.
Favorite condiment: Hot sauce.
Hero(es): My parents, Joel and Barbara. My daddy’s still living. And Malcolm X.
Last book read: “Your Brain at Work” by David Rock.
Last TV show watched: “Westworld.”
I want to meet (alive or dead): My mom, since she passed. Malcolm X and Stevie Wonder.
If I weren’t me: I’d love to be an African king. Or a heart surgeon. Someone who gave people a second life.
Job fairy wish (no world peace): No more processed foods. Just whole foods. I want to be that person who distributes them. The fresh food empire.
I said I’d never: let Alexis spend the night somewhere when she was younger. And I did.