Cathy “Mama Cat” Daniels, feeding mouths and souls

ST. LOUIS—  Four years after the death of Michael Brown Jr. and the Ferguson Uprising, community activist and chef Cathy Daniels, also known as Mama Cat, is still fighting injustice with a home-cooked meal. 

“I never saw a soldier win a war hungry. I had to make sure folks were eating,” said Mama Cat.

It all started in 2014 during the hot summer days of the Ferguson Uprising when Mama Cat saw a group of young people sleeping outside on the hot ground with no protection from the 100-degree weather. When she asked the young people why they were sleeping outside, they told her they planned to stay outside until justice for Mike Brown was served.

The protesters told Mama Cat they were hungry and a good home cooked meal would help, and the next day Mama Cat served the protesters spaghetti, salad, and garlic bread on the Andy Wurm parking lot in Ferguson. 

“That’s what God called me to do; I’ve been a chef for more than 40 years,” said Mama Cat. 

From that point on Mama Cat and her team, the Pot Bangerz, have been fighting for justice through feeding St. Louis’ most vulnerable citizens.

Mama Cat says when she is serving her community she is going back to her roots, watching her mother cook extra portions of food during the winter months in the Bronx to feed the poor and homeless. She believes that’s what her organization is all about—helping those who are not in a position to help themselves. According to Mama Cat, she and the PotBangerz are starting a revolution through love and in her opinion love always wins.

“If we are going to go somewhere and make a difference we have to go together. I have to support my people. People who have a problem with me feeding the unhoused don’t want to see progress in St. Louis,” said Mama Cat. She adds, “I might not see the change I want in my lifetime, but I have a great-grandson and one day hopefully he will see that change.”

Mama Cat and the PotBangerz’ work doesn’t stop in north county, they also donate and serve in north St. Louis. They have collaborated with St. John AME Church on North Grand, St. Paul AME Church and New Northside Church. Mama Cat claims north St. Louis needs the most work and is ignored by the majority of city officials. 

In her efforts to meet the needs of communities with limited resources, Mama Cat and her team sometimes have to make difficult choices or find creative solutions. Once, Mama Cat substituted apples for potatoes in a green bean dish she made, because apples were all she had available. She said she was unsure about using the apples but she felt she had no choice. Mama Cat didn’t know how the dish would be received, but it was a hit in the community. 

Mama Cat says when she is serving in north St. Louis she sometimes sees pain and despair. While donating and feeding the poor in north St. Louis Mama Cat noticed the lack of nutritious options in areas north of Delmar. 

“No wonder people are hungry, there is nothing for them to eat. I am not shocked they are stealing and turning to crime to survive,” said Mama Cat.

She sees community gardens as one solution. PotBangerz has partnered with the organization Art House, located on Greer Avenue. Art House has set up community gardens in north St. Louis and she is proud to see neighborhoods like Greater Ville have the opportunity to have fresh fruits and vegetables.

“We’re not looking for fame, we do what we do, we are doing this for the community,” said Mama Cat. 

Ashley Winters

Ashley Winters is a staff reporter at The NorthSider. She's a north St. Louis native and a graduate of Columbia College Chicago. In the near future she plans to write and publish children's books. She can be reached at ashley.winters@thenorthsider.com

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