Anita McKenzie

alias Sistahintheraw, is inspired by raw food's health benefits - and by her African-Caribbean roots A raw food diet has made me feel healthier than ever before. I first tried it in 2007 when I’d been unwell for some time. Very quickly my symptoms disappeared. I felt grounded, energised and clear-headed. The transformation was miraculous —and many people remarked on it. So it was natural to want to help others enjoy the same benefits. That’s how I became a raw food teacher and coach.

It’s a way of honouring the life force in plants at a spiritual level. Cooking often damages plants, reducing the spectrum of nutrients we can absorb. Adopting a raw food lifestyle involves being more respectful of their different qualities. And being conscious about nutrition and what sustains our bodies is also a way of connecting with the Earth, nature and our humanness.

We have to ‘unlearn’ many of our assumptions about food first. All of us grow up with rituals about preparing food, and drawn to certain tastes, smells and textures. For example, most people from a Caribbean background prepare plantain by steaming, baking or frying it. One of the first recipes I demonstrate in my food workshops is chopped raw plantain, with orange juice, kiwi fruit, spring onions, olive oil and seasoning, sprinkled with watercress or other sprouts. People love it!

Raw food draws on indigenous traditions, and the knowledge of our ancestors. My parents were from Jamaica, and once, when we were on holiday there, my daughter developed a serious skin condition. I vividly remember how my grandmother used her knowledge of herbs to concoct a remedy that healed the infection within hours. I believe a raw food diet maximises health and can prevent a lot of disease occurring.

Sometimes people seek me out because I’m a black minister. Many of my ceremonies include libations —the ritual pouring of a drink, usually water or alcohol, onto the earth as an offering to God. Recently I led the funeral of a Rastafarian man, half of whose children wanted a service that respected their father’s beliefs, half of whom were Seventh Day Adventists. Eventually we worked out an approach everybody could accept. It was so important that I had an empathy for and understanding of African-Caribbean spiritual traditions.

Being an interfaith minister enables me to work in an open-hearted way. The training helped me to “drop the knife” of harsh judgments about myself and others. It’s just as important to be compassionate and supportive with people on a raw food course —who often come due to a health challenge—as it is with families dealing with grief. Both are a chance to work more deeply with people, at times when they are open to exploring the deeper aspects of being alive.

Anita’s website and blogs:

Her Sistahintheraw page on facebook has more than 35,000 likes. She is also on Twitter.

Anita McKenzie was ordained in 2006 and is based in Brixton, south London.

Interview and write-up by Rob MacLachlan, June 2015.