Filipino Black chef feeds protesters fighting for equality and justice

BROOKLYN, NY — This is one way a neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York is showing solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

For several evenings now — since nationwide protests erupted in different parts of the country after George Floyd’s killing, these New Yorkers have gathered at this park, holding vigils as their way to protest police brutality and racial discrimination.

“It’s always a scary time to be a Black man in America. I felt like I didn’t really be involved in the protest. Because I know myself, I know my temper. I know the kind of triggers I have. I can’t go in a huge protest and potentially find myself in trouble. I worked really hard in my life. I have a lot to lose. So I shied away from it,” said Channing Centeno.

Filipino American Channing Centeno not only found the right space here — he also found a purpose.

Since last week, this chef has been cooking up mostly Filipino food bites to give away to protesters.

“I wanted to kind of create a draw to the park to get more people involved. I kind of set up next to a registration booth to call people to action and vote. People are like, hey how much is food? Just sign up to vote.”

Channing told ABS CBN News he realized more now, after seeing the outcry to defund the police and invest more in communities, how fortunate he was growing up in Cleveland.

“I didn’t realize how serious the problem was because of the way I was raised. My mom had to raise a black man as a Filipino woman. She tried to shield me from a lot of these things. The way she raised me was kind of pushed through these things. She taught me how to navigate the world a bit better.”

Centeno’s mom Catherine Sanchez was born in Manila. His African American dad Homer Thompson is a Navy veteran.

Centeno who owns a pop-up catering company called Tiki and Slow Jams, credited his Lola for some of his cooking skills.

His friend Filipino Canadian Samantha Casuga said the city could be overwhelming and lonely for new big apple residents like her and Centeno — especially this year.

So they are all trying some way to connect.

“Just speaking from someone who doesn’t feel comfortable protesting or going out there on the street, he’s just doing what he can. And especially just bringing that hospitality, not only from his job but in the spirit of being Filipino. It just fits, it makes sense. But also, I’m just so proud of him.”

Channing Centeno is hoping this could encourage other people to find their way, to participate and to be part of what many are seeing a long and challenging journey to racial equality.

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