I have been absent from this space for some time now due to multiple changes that were happening in my life. While I am still not quite ready to return with any regularity, seeing as we’re nearing the end of Black History Month and I haven’t posted anything, I feel compelled to write. Black history, racism, social justice, gentrification, white superiority, and similar topics are all extremely important and related to the intentional and conscious development of community food forests. I have visited multiple community food forests struggling with these topics and how to be a space within their community that was inclusive, engaging, and provided an opportunity for addressing the scars, unhealed wounds, and on-going trauma inflicted on the social landscape of neighborhoods, towns, and cities.
In that light, I also want to share an online event happening this evening that I will be attending and offers a place for community leaders to start: Compassionate Interventions to White Supremacy which is part of a series of talks on the Human Ecology of Racism (H.E.R.) by Richael Faithful. You can learn more about Richael by clicking on her name. I encourage everyone to register and attend this event to contribute to an opportunity for a needed and meaningful discussion. Additionally, we promote the Theory of Change in the Community Food Forest Handbook and I believe this will provide a great example of to use it in action to create the type change we discuss in the book. The following information is about the online event from Richael’s website:
Tuesday February 26, 2019, 6:30pm – 8:30pm
This (virtual) space, for white-identified or white-passing people, will practice ways to interrupt behaviors, decisions and other actions that reinforce the daily mechanics of white supremacy. Based on a theory of change that centers on transforming whiteness for everyone’s well-being, this space will explore compassionate interventions that are generative to new ways of existing for everyone.
In January, I presented at the 2019 Northeast Organic Farming Association- NY Winter Conference (Theme- Climate of Change) and one of the keynote speakers was Leah Penniman, the Founding Co-Director of Soul Fire Farm and author of the recently published book Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm’s Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land. The book provides history that shed lights on where some of our sustainable farming practices actually come from with roots in African wisdom as well as the decline in the percentage of African-American farmers in the United States from discrimination and violence against them. It also offers a pathway forward and discusses innovative programs that are helping to reverse the trend to increase farmland stewardship, access to land, addressing injustice in our food system to end food apartheid, and improving black communities access to fresh food and healthy natural ecosystems.
Leah was inspiring to listen to and talked about the history of African slaves weaving seeds of their most cherished plants into women’s hair as they prepared to travel not knowing where they were going, or if they would make it, but knowing that if they did arrive, they had seeds to plant for survival. This history was repeated in the keynote address by Onika Abraham, which I heard at the Ohio Ecological Food and Farm Association’s 40th Annual Conference (Theme- Just Farming: The Path Before Us) in February while giving workshops on community food forests and agroforestry. While there I also read an article by Five River Metroparks program on Growing Community in the Garden and how spaces can serve refugee populations, connecting them to familiar foods, and providing a space for connecting rather than focusing on the differences and separation they may have experienced in their own country. Onika is the Director of Farm School NYC and discussed her personal experience of being in a training program and learning about farming history in the United States which she knew from her family’s history of losing access to farm land was only one side of the story, the white side. The experience left her feeling isolated and questioning her path while in a program learning about what she felt called to and loved- growing food.
Here are some resource from these two speakers that I hope inspire you to weave these topics into the tapestry of your community food forest social design similarly to the way seeds were woven into hair to ensure survival. Honoring these seeds of wisdom, history, and current situations will help plan them so we can create a harvest for everyone in the future:
Time Magazine- Voices of America- Onika Abraham: Farm School Teaches Urban Farming in NYC