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Gwen Hedgepeth has learned a lot from her 25-day hunger strike. Who knew there were so many TV ads for pizza?

Fire in the Belly


Last week, despite a 23-day fast, City Councilwoman the Rev. Gwen C. Hedgepeth saw her request again denied by City Council to help fund the South Richmond Family Resource and Cultural Arts Center in her 9th District.

On June 1, Hedgepeth started eating again — but only during a four-hour block of time in the morning. She vows to keep up her partial fast until June 30, when she will hold her Race 4 Kids community walk as a fund-raiser for the center.

Style Weekly talked with Hedgepeth a day before she tasted her first solid food in weeks.

Style: Well, it's been more than three weeks. How are you feeling?

Hedgepeth: Well, I have my good days and I have my bad days. And I often have weakness, and just feeling really bad. I've had two bad-feeling days together. Sometimes joints and muscle aches. The hunger is there, but I find that I have more discipline now with temptations.

Style: What is a good day like?

Hedgepeth: Well, a good day is that I have energy, and I feel good, and I can do what I need to do. However, I do need to go to bed early, because my energy wears very low in the evenings.

Style: What time do you go to bed now?

Hedgepeth: I go home, sometimes I get in bed as early as 6.

Style: And up at what time?

Hedgepeth: I try to get up around 7.

Style: Was this your first fast?

Hedgepeth: Yes.

Style: So did you do any research about how to do it, how to approach it?

Hedgepeth: I didn't do any research, but I was aware that others — I really do admire Dr. Martin Luther King, and I know that was one method he used. And, of course, you know, Dick Gregory is very famous for it, and Gandhi. And even Jesus, fasting when he went in the desert. So I felt like it was humanly possible. But I really didn't plan to fast this long.

Style: Since it has gone on so long, have your friends and family told you to stop?

Hedgepeth: Well, my family have been very concerned, but they have been in prayer with me, and they understand the urgency and the seriousness of the issue. So it hasn't been a combative thing with my family members. Just more of concern, and of prayers and support.

Style: So what's been the most difficult part about this?

Hedgepeth: The most difficult part has been to help people that are disheartened and don't have faith in Council looking out for the little people.

Style: Apparently, people hit a wall when doing something like this. When was the first time you didn't feel hungry?

Hedgepeth: I think that I probably was fasting for about a week, maybe six or seven days, and I just was having the hunger, and when I saw things or smelled things it drove me crazy. And so I think that just gradually as my stomach shrunk, and as I got past having or wanting to eat every meal. So I think it may have taken that many days.

Now I did, as recent as last week, have some severe stomach cramps. But I have not been having the severe cramps this week.

Style: What food do you miss most?

Hedgepeth: Well, I'll be honest with you: I am a pizza fan. So when I'm looking at TV, or if I see a commercial, it is really very hard. But I start putting my hand over my eyes so I won't see the advertisement. I had no idea they advertised food so much on TV.

Style: I've heard you say you've lost about 12 to 15 pounds.

Hedgepeth: And I'm just estimating. I look at my clothes. It has never been about the weight.

Style: Right. But you know, lots of people would kill for that. Is this a good diet?

Hedgepeth: Well, I don't think that people would have the stamina. Because when I get weak, and I want to stop, and I just feel like I can't go on anymore, I think about the kids. And I think about my senior citizens that are complaining there are kids on their block shooting guns to intimidate them so that they won't report what they're doing. And I think about that, and I say, I can't quit. I have to do this for them. And so, I don't think people that are dieting would have that much of a moving reason to just diet this way — or any way.

When you lose weight this way, I think it comes back rather quickly. So it certainly isn't a diet and I don't recommend it as a diet for people.

Style: You say you're continuing the fast through June 30. If this affects your health in a serious way, are you prepared for the worst?

Hedgepeth: I don't want to get sick, and I feel like I can do more if I'm well, and I'm here to fight the fight for the people. And so this, by no means, do I wish or want to get sick. And if I do get sick, I'm going to address that. And as you may know, starting tomorrow, June 1, I will have four hours in the morning that I can eat solid food, and then I'll only have liquids during the remainder of the 20 hours.

Style: So what's your first meal going to be?

Hedgepeth: My husband is going to fix me breakfast, and so I would like very much to have some eggs and bacon and some

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