WhyHunger’s What Ferguson Means for the Food Justice Movement series is a bold attempt to explore the way in which police violence and institutionalized anti-black racism is deeply interconnected to food, land and Black bodies. What is the connection between the death of Black people at the hands of the state (police shootings) and the death of Black people at the hands of the corporate food system (diet-related disease/land displacement/redlining)?
To lift up critical voices of the movement, WhyHunger’s Beatriz Beckford facilitated a national call with dynamic organizers and activists across the country to gather a collective interrogation of these issues from the perspective of Black activists organizing around food justice. Issue #2 featuring activist Dara Cooper focuses on the power of people organizing and the creation of sustainable, self-determining communities and introduces the National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA).
Beatriz Beckford: Can you speak to the importance of creating autonomous spaces that center Black leadership, Black struggle, and solutions to food sovereignty and land rights work?
Dara Cooper: An essential part of Black struggle is self-determination, including how our communities are able to feed and house ourselves. As it stands now, our communities are almost wholesale reliant on corporate and outside producers to feed us, house us and protect us—ultimately affecting our ability to be truly self-determining and liberated. As we defend ourselves against the incessant violence via the state and racist vigilantes, we also understand the violent attacks on our communities via the violence of hunger, land dispossession, blatant discrimination against Black farmers/growers, wage theft and exploitation and excessive saturation of junk food marketing in Black communities—all of which the state is also complicit in.
Black communities, however, have a long history of resilience, self-determination and deep historical roots in Black food security, production and culture. From farming, to developing systems of distribution, to shaping the culinary traditions of foodways nationwide, to production and a wide array of collective/ cooperative food businesses, Black communities have historically organized ourselves to address our needs where the system fails (and assaults) us. For these reasons and many more, we are organizing a network of Black-led organizations working towards advancing Black leadership, building Black self-determination, and organizing towards food sovereignty and justice. We are organizing the National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA).