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  • Well, I stand strong on those that come before me; I have to call on my

  • ancestors and

  • let them know that I have not forgotten them.

  • I stand strong because I stand on the shoulders of your ancestors as well.

  • I want them to know that I have not forgotten them.

  • I am an activist.

  • I've always been an activist and I always will be an activist.

  • And I became a food activist

  • because my son, Wade,

  • developed food allergies at a very early age.

  • He's allergic to all dairy products, shellfish, eggs and peanuts

  • and I wanted to get the healthiest food that I could for him.

  • I wanted food that was free from genetically modified organisms; I wanted

  • food that was free from pesticides; I wanted food basically that was grown

  • healthy,

  • organically.

  • I really wasn't any different than any other mother

  • and in my community I wanted the best for my son.

  • I want the best for both of my children;

  • but that food - the best food -

  • was not available in my neighborhood on the west side of Chicago.

  • So to change that situation

  • I got involved with what I really didn't know at the time was food justice.

  • We started converting vacant lots

  • to urban farm sites;

  • lots that had not been used in decades.

  • To grow food on them, we started to hire people from the community

  • and

  • we started to build what we thought would be a local food system that

  • responded to urban

  • concerns.

  • And so for me to food system looks something like this

  • It's very simple

  • not too complicated but that was what I understood the food system to be.

  • And then I was introduced to this larger food

  • movement,

  • the one that says, you know, you have to eat well but don't eat too much.

  • Eat mostly plants.

  • i'm like, yes, i got that. I'm with that a hundred percent.

  • But where's my food?

  • And I live in a community where I can get a semi-automatic weapon quicker than I

  • can get a tomato.

  • Now a lot of people have tried to make this statement cute; they said that you can

  • get ketchup quicker than you can get a tomato. I want us to really appreciate

  • the public health message that I'm trying to get across here.

  • And it's that

  • the public health issue of violence is connected

  • to the public health issue of chronic diet-related diseases.

  • It's not about cute phrases or cute terms.

  • It is about life and death, and my community is about living

  • or dying.

  • You can die by the gun or die from a lack of the proper food.

  • But still the food system is not changed. We've done all this work; we know

  • all these things but the food system, still, my idea of the food system, still

  • remained

  • like that.

  • And then I started to think, you know, I really have to step this up a notch.

  • What is food justice 2.0?

  • Well, for me, food justice 2.0

  • is really about the narratives of people of color

  • and beginning to understand that the story

  • that we tell ourselves in the food movement

  • is as important as the stories that we've left out.

  • So, for me, the food justice movement

  • tells the story

  • of colonialism

  • and the impact

  • in historical trauma on communities of color.

  • Food justice talks about manifest destiny.

  • It talks about

  • settling the land in the west; the nineteenth century philosophy is that we're

  • gonna go west.

  • We're going to settle the land

  • but in food justice we know that the Native American people were there.

  • We know that they were pushed off of that land

  • and many of them killed

  • so that others

  • might be able to live.

  • Now we know that that's not the fault

  • of the arriving European immigrants,

  • but we must understand

  • that the land

  • that we stand on we stand on it because someone else's blood

  • is also on it.

  • We understand that food

  • has been used as a weapon.

  • Food used as a weapon

  • during that period of time was used to push people off of the land.

  • We understand

  • that the movement of people for the purposes

  • of exploitation

  • is a part of our food justice movement.

  • We understand that the importation

  • of African slaves into the United States;

  • the enslavement of the Africans provided the labor

  • for what we now call

  • our industrial food system.

  • At the very beginning

  • folk were forced to work the land

  • and they had no choice

  • in the conversation. They were not paid.

  • At the core

  • of what I believe to be

  • the problems in our community, particularly when we start to talk about

  • the accumulation of wealth

  • or the lack of health

  • is really the conversation around slavery that has not been had in the

  • United States.

  • We have not

  • reconciled

  • the event of slavery or its impact.

  • We have to understand that those Africans

  • that were in the South

  • after slavery

  • were pretty much still enslaved after the signing of the emancipation

  • proclamation.

  • We also want to recognize in the food justice movement

  • that the homestead act and the emancipation proclamation were signed at

  • the same time, but the Africans could not

  • take advantage

  • of the homestead act so they were forced to stay in the south and stay in a

  • version of slavery - share cropping -

  • through the black codes

  • and then be forced out of the south

  • through the jim crow laws and up into the North

  • to a different version

  • of racism in slavery.

  • The food justice movement understands

  • that in the nineteen sixties

  • there were lots of things going on

  • but in the nineteen sixties for us that's where civil rights meets

  • food justice,

  • right at the Woolworth lunch counter,

  • in nineteen sixty three,

  • when those students sat down

  • and demanded the right

  • to be treated

  • as a human being.

  • So, for us,

  • food justice

  • is not just about

  • the nutrition -

  • that's important -

  • It's not just about growing the food. It's about dignity.

  • It's about being visible.

  • The nineteen sixties also represent

  • a time where

  • the Black Panther Party

  • started

  • the free breakfast program in Oakland.

  • We called these things into being because sometimes on the merits of the

  • larger food movement it gets lost. In the nineteen sixties we talk about the

  • hippie generation and the back to the

  • land movement and the beginnings of organic food and all of that is true and

  • wonderful

  • and we like those stories too.

  • "Both" "and"

  • have to exist

  • and so we have to begin to tell a narrative

  • or tell a story and develop a narrative that's much more robust

  • then the narrative we tell ourselves today.

  • We must also include in this narrative

  • modern-day slavery.

  • We cannot forget that our food system today is still based on the exploitation of

  • the labor of immigrants

  • in this country.

  • While we're talking about access to free range chickens and grass fed beef,

  • we need to also be talking about immigration reform,

  • fair wages for those farm workers,

  • and, in the entire food chain, workers

  • also. The people who serve us;

  • the people who fix our food also should be paid fairly.

  • We have to say no to food deserts.

  • I don't live in a food desert; I never have.

  • Food desert, as a phrase, is another one of those cute terms masking the harm of the

  • food system in my community.

  • It really is the trojan horse of increased corporate control of the