Over the past few months, I have been collaborating on a chapter about black land issues with three amazing sista-friends, who are champions in the black agrarian movement. What is this black agrarian movement, you might ask? To me, this is the authentic process of enthusiastic, grower-activists reaffirming through political means, our ancestral connection with the land through growing food while caring for the earth and each other, always in honor of our ancestors. While trying to finish up our writing before our deadline, it dawned on me that it was women’s history month and because I had been so busy with the book I had not taken time to outwardly acknowledge and celebrate the women in my life. This blog post is dedicated to the sistas, who over the last few months of writing, inspired, encouraged, and held me up as we Reclaimed the voices of women growers through our writing. Aleya Frasier, Dara Cooper, and Shakara Tyler...I love you.
For many years, and even now, generations of black folks who migrated north to escape life in the south, returned home in search of spiritual nourishment, a healing, that was fundamentally connected to reaffirming one’s connection to nature, to a contemplative life where one could take time, sit on a porch, walk, fish, and catch lightning bugs. If we think of urban life as a location where black folks learned to accept a mind/body split that made it possible abuse the body, we can better understand the growth of nihilism and despair in the black psyche. And we can know when we talk about healing that psyche we must also speak about restoring our connection to the natural world.
- bell hooks, Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Discovery
Earth Mother, is how I’ve come to know her. The nurturing, comforting, healing goddess of life. Though just like a mother, she is not always kind in her lessons of growth for us, but always teaching, sharing, giving. I heard her call first, in the hills of Oneonta, NY, though I am sure it was not her first call to me. Being intimately in relationship with the earth has taught me a lot about the value of women.
My life as a community organizer and activist, dedicated to the simultaneous eradication and rebuilding of our food system, has placed many strong women in my circle, whom I have come to love. They are special to me because of my relationship to them, though we are all products of our environment. I am perpetually surrounded by powerful women in the food movement as well as the liberation movement for black people. I feel that we are all blessed to have so many strong Black women, ancestors and elders who have come before us, to guide, protect and grow us as we work for our families and communities. In fact, this is part of our history as black people in this country: A constant representation of strong, community-minded black women.
Gentrification has been a consistent trend in urban neighborhoods, which results in increased property values resulting in the displacement of lower-income families, businesses, and eventually changing the entire neighborhood structure. Recently, Philadelphia has been experiencing a massive gentrification movement. However, a new type of gentrification has been creeping into neighborhoods in the form of “environmental improvement/repair” more commonly known as “environmental gentrification.”
Designing highly-functioning NPAO--or a larger, emergent pattern Peter and I called “Social Benefit Permaculture Enterprises”--is more about social permaculture design than physical. If the structure doesn’t support human dignity and equality, there’s no hope for the land. When implemented properly, I believe that NPAO will perform a major role balancing inequities in our highly dysfunctional and dangerous farm, food, and property ownership systems. Additionally, NPAO should be able to provide strategies to grow self-sustaining and resilient revenue streams, allowing for a larger number of organizations to drink from the funding pool. As of now, NPAO that I’m aware of have a long way to go before realizing this potential. Permaculture design seems the natural bridge to connect vision and reality.
By Andrianna Natsoulas
Reposted by permission of author from WHYhunger Kids Newsletter
By Alicia Dorsey
Philadelphia is addressing blight and crime by revitalizing stressed communities with community gardens and green space. I have been learning the process of acquiring vacant land and hope to assist in building community with the knowledge I have acquired from The Public Interest Law Center, PHS, Soil Generation and other gardening groups.
By Zoe Jeka
I am writing a follow-up to my June blog post, “Bringing Race, Racism, and Critical Compassion into Focus at Food Justice Events”, with more concrete steps individuals can take to disrupt and resist the systemic racism perpetuated at these kinds of events. For anyone who doesn’t know where to start (or feels stuck) in thinking or talking about race and racism at events like Food for Thought at the Schuylkill Center, I’ve made a list of some “code words” to watch out for. To me, these words are used as replacements for more obviously raced words (i.e. when people say “minorities” instead of “people of Color”) when people are uncomfortable or don’t know how to talk about race.
On June 11, Amy Laura Cahn joined leaders of several organizations in sending a letter to Mayor Michael Nutter requesting that the City of Philadelphia postpone a tax lien auction scheduled for June 17, 2015. After scrutinizing some of the properties listed, these leaders found many discrepancies in the city's record regarding the liens. Though the auction has already started, The Law Center has taken extra steps to inform the city about gardens that would be affected by this process. In a letter to the Revenue Commissioner, Amy Laura Cahn writes...
I am trying to point out here that what may have felt like a pleasant, comfortable, and fulfilling night for some of the folks who attended Food for Thought was actually an active perpetuation of a systemically racist structure. As long as explicit knowledge and conversations about race and racism remain absent from White gatherings such as Food for Thought, this systemic racism will continue to go unnoticed amongst White people in the food movement. Excessive amounts of resources will remain in the hands of wealthy, White communities, and the “food movement” that White people participate in will continue perpetuating injustice over liberation.