After 42 years of working in the U.S. and around the world to end hunger and build social justice for all, we know firsthand that the just, plentiful world we are working to build has no room for oppressive or discriminatory rhetoric, threats or actions. With federal policies and practices that threaten those values unfolding at a rapid pace, WhyHunger will continue to stand up for and with our community-based partners and work together to build a just, hunger free world.
We will remain vigilant defenders of human rights, at home and abroad, and protectors of the earth that provides for us all. We will organize across sectors from the environment to food to immigration to gender and race – standing in solidarity with our partners, allies and supporters on the front lines of the struggle to ensure that all people have the right and opportunity to live a dignified life free from hunger and oppression.
We will reject pending federal policy and budget decisions that threaten to pull apart the fabric of our democracy, to destroy the vital safety net – from health care to SNAP - that is keeping millions from falling deeper into hunger and poverty, and to deport and criminalize immigrant communities on whose backs our exploitive food system is built.
Now is the time to take action!
•Call your elected officials – locally, statewide and federally – to share your vision for a just world, free from hunger. Ask them to invest in policies that protect the environment and support the rights of all people to have nutritious food and a dignified life that free from oppression, fear and discrimination.
•Recommit your time, energy and funds to supporting community-based organizations and social movements that are driving local innovation and fueling progress.
•Take the time to engage in political analysis and dialogue around the deeper issues of hunger at the intersection of economic inequality, racism, health and the environment.
Join WhyHunger in continually asking the WHY questions in the face of injustice, oppression and hunger and interrogating the effectiveness, equity and consequences behind each and every proposed solution. Together we can strengthen and grow the movement for social justice and realize the just, hunger free world we’ve imagined and set out to build.
A month ago, I got to attend the Facing Race Conference in Atlanta with several colleagues two days after the election and it could not have been timelier. After this long election, many were exhausted, panic-stricken and scared and this was the perfect place to heal and find opportunities to learn and collaborate together. From the beginning to the end, the theme of this space was clear; the importance of collaboration amongst racial justice groups and the need to have conversation. Race Forward: The Center For Racial Justice Innovation advances racial justice through research, media and practice and they host Facing Race, the largest conference for racial justice movement-making, focused on alliance building, issue framing and advancing solutions. This year’s conference had over 50 workshops. The opening plenary, ‘Multiracial Movements for Black Lives’ consisted of Michelle Alexander as the moderator and Alicia Garza, Founder of #BlackLivesMatter, Judith LeBlanc of Native Organizers Alliance, Isa Noyola of Transgender Law Center, Zon Moua of Freedom Inc. & Chris Crass, a longtime leading voice in white communities for racial justice anti-racist organizing. This intersectional conversation was powerful because it highlighted the importance of building deep alliances that are inclusive so all voices are heard.
Alicia Garza, the co-founder of #BlackLivesMatter pointed out the importance of having deep multiracial and multinational alliances that practice real solidarity. Crass was one of the last speakers of the opening plenary and used humor to connect with the audience, showcasing his passion about addressing racism and making sure that white people have conversations with each other about white privilege. This was essential in that it highlighted the importance of white people in racial justice movement work and reminded individuals to not only learn but to hold each other accountable to grow together. By calling out white people and what it means to be a white ally, Crass highlighted the enormity of the work ahead.
Again and again throughout the weekend, we were reminded that open conversations and the need for unity is key to this work because we are stronger when we are united and coordinated. Facing Race is a solid model of holding space to discuss our struggles and the difficulty of the fight for rights. It allows participants to reflect back on what has been done and is being done to build racial and social justice and continuing to fight and grow together.
The conversations in workshops were wide-ranging and touched on topics from implicit bias to power inclusion to racial equity plans, structural racism, systems change, activist philanthropy, mass criminalization and more. These workshops exemplified how critical it is to take the time to listen and learn from different voices and experiences.
Here are my 4 key takeaways:
1. When it comes to implicit bias, we might think that our actions and decisions are not harmful but choices that are invisible have visible consequences. Implicit bias refers to the attitudes or stereotypes that affect our understanding, actions, and decisions in an unconscious manner. Some biases are obviously wrong such as treating equally qualified applicants differently in hiring’s and promotions. Every day biases, like making assumptions on an applicant based on their name, are hard to point out because they’re so personal so it’s up to us to hold each other accountable and be aware of what we do to each other. One phrase I heard at the conference, ‘if we had the ability to make the invisible, visible’ is intriguing in that if we were faced with these unconscious biases, would one recognize they were coming from you? ‘Who’s telling the story and who has the power?’ was a clear theme of this conference and how meaningful and essential the power of narrative is.
2. Conversations about power inclusion and equity are challenging but necessary. As our society becomes more and more fractured, we must not exclude but rather engage all communities to get people in the room that have different experiences, strengths and blind spots. Creating the space for human connection to share and listen to one another’s stories is in itself a healing process and essential in challenging times.
3. Show up in spaces you don’t think are connected to the work to do. Social justice has many layers and as Roxane Gay said during her keynote speech ‘it is simple and complicated in that it’s just common sense.’ We need to continue to discuss the economic realities that make it so that people cannot feed themselves. We tend to just focus on what is oppressing us and we need to discuss how power and privilege play a role in our lives, because having privilege does not mean that we’re not disadvantaged elsewhere.
4. Advocating & supporting each other is crucial. Getting to hear from activists and elders that have been doing this work alongside those that are just starting the work at this conference was so powerful. There’s much to learn from each other and from what’s happened in the past. The intentionality when it comes to bridging the gap, perceived and actual, between communities that seem unlikely to collaborate shows that we all have the power to affect change. Being willing to get past preconceived notions because ‘often it is us that is dividing and conquering’ is something an elder said during one of the workshops that also stood out because it is important to pair intersectionality with intentionality. Find the movements and shakers in each community because we’re not starting from scratch.
Going forward, this experience adds fuel to WhyHunger’s motivation to continue expanding our learning and growth around the issues of race and privilege with ourselves and with our partners.
In order to learn more about Facing Race and Race forward, go to their website here.
Like so many of our fellow Americans, the staff at WhyHunger gathered this morning to reflect on a moment in our collective history that has the power to reshape our country and our future. We feel a deep sense of urgency to support and lift up our grassroots partners who have been on the forefront of the movement to end hunger and to build a world brimming with -- not just food justice -- but social justice. It is alongside them that we are strengthening our resolve to transform our collective food system into one that is socially and economically just, nourishes whole communities, cools the planet and ensures the rights of all people to food, land, water and sustainable livelihoods.
This is a critical juncture in our nation’s history. It is a moment for political education where we must strengthen our shared understanding of the systems and institutions that have fostered the deep divides along racial, gender and class lines, and the painful struggles of those communities most impacted by the failures of the current political and economic systems. It is a moment to come together with the millions of Americans who share our values of social justice and equity for all. To double down on our strategies to build and strengthen grassroots-led movements for food justice and food sovereignty; to work for social justice by addressing the root causes of hunger and the deep inequities of poverty at the intersection of economic inequality, racism, health and the environment; and to protect and advance the right to nutritious food for all.
Now more than ever, this is the time to recommit ourselves to building strong and vibrant social movements that lift up the ideals of the just, hunger free world that we all want to see. Our work for the last 41 years has been to nourish, support and accompany these grassroots organizations and social movements to further their work and build power together. We remain committed to continuing to build alongside our partners with even greater urgency. We have seen firsthand the resilience, power and beauty of the community-led solutions that are transforming our communities, our country and our world for the better – from vibrant urban farms and rural co-ops, to food banks and food pantries working at the root causes of hunger, to youth leadership development and Veggie RX nutrition programs, and from networks and alliances to large-scale social movements. We know that it is with, and only with, a grassroots movement led by those who are most affected by the injustices of hunger and poverty that we can achieve real change.
We know we are not alone. There are millions of people in this country who want change and are ready and willing to address the structural issues that we are facing, like so many of you who have supported our work and the work of our partners over the years. Together, we must move forward by envisioning and then building the country and world we want to live in where nutritious food, a dignified life, opportunity and justice are a right for everyone. We need to take this moment of pain and build. We need to come together and be bold in our resolve to continue the struggle. We must reject racism, sexism, misogyny, bigotry and hate as a critical step on the journey to build social justice and peace for all. We must use this moment as an opportunity to elevate the discourse, the actions and engagement of all those who share our belief in justice for all.
At WhyHunger, we pledge to continue with urgency and determination to build this global and growing movement with our partners, foster dialogue and collective action and continue to support and amplify the voices of those facing hunger, poverty and injustice. We will keep bringing you stories of hope and glimpses of the communities and people who are transforming our world each and every day. We will bring you opportunities to learn, engage and act, because we need you in this struggle. Together, we know that we can and will build a just world for us all.
The WhyHunger Staff
What does Ferguson mean for the food justice movement? Find out in our new thought-provoking series with a special introduction and Issue 1 out now! 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 discuss the connection between the oppression that black communities face at the hands of police violence and at the hands of an unjust food system. Over the next few months we’ll release a powerful collection featuring the grassroots voices of black leaders working within movement building and food justice to create real social change. We hope you join us for this important conversation and contribute your thoughts, so read the series introduction and the first issue by Malik Yakini, Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and join us for a Twitter Chat on 9/24 at 1pm featuring Malik Yakini and other activists using hashtag #FoodJusticeVoices.
Listen to full audio of the call below.
Introduction by Beatriz Beckford
So it starts with a question. What does Ferguson mean for the Food Justice Movement? This is a question I have grappled with personally and in community with some of the most brilliant black organizers and activists I know from across the country for the past year. We cannot hide or avoid it, we cannot ignore the connections and or place Ferguson and Food Justice in separate stories in different books on different shelves in different houses.
Asking what Ferguson means for Food Justice has forced me to confront my personal hesitation to juxtapose the connection between the death of black people at the hands of the police and state, and the death of black people at the hands of the corporate food system intentionally reinforced by the state. This deep reflection has not been without pain or struggle, it has not been without deep learning and transformation, and has pushed me to name both as extreme acts of violence against black bodies. It is important that I and other Food Justice activists personally and politically affirm what black nationalists, black radical feminists, queer activists, black farmers, abolitionists, community health advocates and members from communities across the country, including my own, have framed as state violence that restricts the self-determination of black people, and name explicitly all the ways that violence shows up in their communities as racism and anti-blackness.
The intricacy of America’s systems of oppression have always used land and food as weapons of choice. I say this not to take away any urgency from the extreme state violence black communities face at the hands of the state via a militarized police, but to make some important connections between the extreme and the everyday manifestations of violence against black people.
I hope to lift up the silent often unnamed killers of black bodies that are related to food, land and the lack thereof. This type of violence touches us all, our friends, family members and children. Black and brown children are now expected to live shorter lives than their parents because of diet related illness including diabetes and obesity. And it is important to understand that this is not about individual behaviors, this is about a system that is built to provide the illusion of choice. It is about a system of food apartheid in black and brown communities across the country like the Bronx NY, Jackson MS, and Baltimore MD where politically-sanctioned redlining restricts access to healthy food. It is about the Food Justice movement’s inability to name race and anti-blackness as the root of systemic food and land oppression, and further the food justice movement’s lack of a mass based strategy grounded in organizing and direct action.
What Ferguson Means for the Food Justice Movement: Issue 1 by Malik Yakini
Prompt 1: How do we define food justice with a racial justice lens?
Ok. So starting with just looking at the demographics of the United States, if we’re talking about food justice we have to be talking about people of color. We have to be talking about people of African descent, people who are called Hispanics, Native Americans, Asians - who, as we progress more into this century, will be the majority in this country and people who are defined as white will be the minority. And as has already been said, the majority of work within the food system is done by people of color, both the planting and cultivating and harvesting of food and the processing of food in plants is done by people of color, and those most impacted by food insecurity are people of color. So we can’t address the issue of food justice unless we look at it through a racial justice lens. It’s impossible. The other aspect of it, I just wanna raise up is, in order to have a food justice movement which really addresses racial justice, the food justice movement has to be led by those who are most impacted by food insecurity and the other injustices within the food system.
Prompt 2: Considering the fact that our movements (food, labor, gender, etc.,) are segmented and often divorced of a racial justice analysis, how do we create movement interdependency that acknowledges racial biases and institutional racism as root cause for all these other issues?
I think a lot of it rests around how we frame our work. And for me, either we can be revolutionary - which in my mind means that we’re really working to replace the current system of capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy with systems that assure justice and equity - or we can be reformist, meaning that we’re just trying to “make life better on the plantation” as one of my elders used to say. We’re not trying to really have a fundamental shift in power, but we’re trying to make life more comfortable. Which might look like having greater access to food in our community. Or it might look like lifting up Black chefs or whatever. So I think, if in fact our work is revolutionary and we’re committed to a fundamental shift in power, then that has to be part of our ongoing discourse. It has to be part of the conversation we have with people as we’re doing community organizing. It has to be part of the conversation we’re having within the larger movement. So that we’re intentionally really radicalizing the movement and moving away from the kind of cosmetic reform that might be proposed by some of the more elitist aspects within the movement. So I think by framing it in a more revolutionary way, we tie it to all of these other issues - we tie it to institutional racism, we tie it to the question of power, and we tie it to the question of a fundamental shift in power so that our people are empowered. So that we can have sovereignty and define our own destiny. The reality is that no people have food sovereignty unless they have sovereignty. Food sovereignty is tied to control and access to land and the reality is that unless you have control of land, and the ability to govern yourself, that you’re only gonna have nominal degrees of food sovereignty. So the question of food sovereignty is really tied to the larger question of sovereignty and freedom.
Plataforma de Afectados por la Hipoteca (PAH). Photo credit: Robert Pluma
In the Spanish municipal elections in May this year, a tide of social justice movements swept populist groups into local government. Cities across the country, including Barcelona and Madrid, saw unprecedented participation of everyday people in politics. On the eve of the elections, a delegation of 20 New York City-based activists and organizers traveled to Spain, to learn firsthand how Spanish communities were using social movements to take command of their living conditions, and to pave the way for an electoral insurgency and a Spanish democratic revolution.
Last Tuesday, July 7, 2015, the delegation gathered at CUNY’s Murphy Institute to report back on their experiences to an audience of about a hundred people. Employing some of the techniques they had picked up on their travels, the organizers split the talking points evenly between themselves, encouraged questions and group discussions and, of course, provided food. The mood was convivial and the discussion was frank.
Organizer Elia Gran outlined the economic situation in Spain, where education has been privatized, social security has been limited, 6 million people are unemployed and 3 million people are officially in poverty. Gran explained that Spanish activists are vigilant in refusing to accept the term ‘economic crisis’ – they call the 2008 crash a ‘scam,’ and point to current housing conditions as an example. Approximately 200 people are evicted everyday in Spain, in many cases because of foreclosure. Spain has a mortgage law unique to Europe: if your house is seized by the bank, your mortgage is not forfeit. Forcibly removed from their homes, many Spaniards are additionally crippled by continuing mortgage debt. The irony here, Gran reminded the audience, is that leading up to 2008 the Spanish government built a record number of new houses and urged citizens to buy the houses as a ‘stable investment.’ When the market crashed the banks were bailed out, but the new homeowners were not.
Faced with homelessness, poverty and stringent austerity measures, Spanish communities have banded together to form social justice groups and new political platforms. Gran described the movement as, “Not a movement about the left or the right, but about asking for real democracy and accountability of governments.”
The New York delegation shared information about a number of the movements that have emerged:
Powers thought that the Spanish social justice movement was important for Americans to understand, as an example of a first world country grappling with austerity measures.
The delegation has some money left over from their fundraising, but rather than reimbursing themselves for travel expenses, they have opted to reinvest the money to fund another delegation to travel to Spain for the parliamentary elections in November to keep learning. More information on their trip is available at NYC to Spain.
Over 200 immigrant farmworkers have been on strike for almost a month at Sakuma Brothers Farms in Washington State, one of the nation's largest berry farms. The strike was initiated in protest of what was believed to be an unjust firing of a worker; the workers are now addressing other basic human rights issues as they craft their list of demands, including right to a fair wage, freedom from wage theft, and improvements to the expensive and substandard housing they are provided.
Under US law, farmworkers--one of the most marginalized and abused groups in the country--are prohibited from organizing to better their conditions, and are not protected from retaliation by employers if they decide to do so. In Washington, the farm owners have tried repeatedly to break the strike through intimidation and use of scabs, but so far these tactics haven't succeeded. The strike is organized entirely by the workers, who are mostly indigenous families from Oaxaca, Mexico; one recent report about their strategy says, "[t]he workers are still non-unionized but are in effect acting as a union and taking bold actions that are rarely seen in the trade union movement today," including translation of all interactions into the three languages the workers speak and building transparent democratic decision-making processes. WhyHunger's longtime friend and US Food Sovereignty Alliance co-founder Rosalinda Guillen and her colleagues from Community to Community Development have been working with the strikers for the last several weeks.Rosalinda says,
This is not just about the money, this is about something much more fundamental, this struggle is about dignity. This is what all of us as farm workers have also been asking for, the difference is they took a courageous action and risked all for their dignity. When is the last time we risked our comfort for dignity in a public and organized way?
At the workers' camp, writer Tomás Madrigal has been spending time with eight-year-old Marco. He writes,
Astute observers, after everyone goes home, the youth role play the behavior that was modeled by those who came to their camp from the outside. Whether that behavior was charity, disrespect, racism, or perhaps dignity. On my way out last night, I saw Marco and his friends play in the empty grass field at the entrance of their home, where an encampment had been erected earlier that day, the youth were waving picket signs that read "respect," pumping their fists and chanting "¡SI SE PUEDE!" -- "Yes we can!" This is what is at stake.
Eighteen years ago, when urban agriculture was still considered an oxymoron -- even among those working on food security issues -- Jerry Kaufman was my champion, advocate and inspiration. After a long and distinguished academic career in urban planning and food systems, Jerry died yesterday surrounded by friends and family. He will be missed by so many of us.
Jerry’s influence on my work – though certainly buoyed by his scholarship and the scholarship he inspired in others – was primarily through his stalwart support as an ally in my attempts as the first Urban Agriculture field coordinator for Heifer International. He took me and my work seriously when many others considered it quaint “community gardening.” When the city of Chicago impounded the goats the children were caring for in the Cabrini Greens housing project, he encouraged me to write an op-ed to the Chicago Tribune (which was published!), citing the economic and community development potential brought by farming in the city – especially one with a record 14,000+ vacant lots. When the residents of the infamous Robert Taylor Homes were being evicted wholesale so the buildings could be demolished, God’s Gang youth group, who raised worms and tilapia in the basement of one of the buildings -- an early Heifer Project I supported -- hung a 40-foot banner out the window with an image of a red wriggler that read: “Fighting Worms – We Won’t Be Evicted.” Jerry cheered and then instructed me in the link between urban agriculture, advocacy and social justice.
At every step of the way, Jerry made my forays into urban farming-cum-community development seem less and less crazy. His efforts to mainstream food systems as a sub-discipline within urban planning departments around the country, coupled with his capacity to bridge and carefully knit together grassroots efforts and academic rigor, made him a gem in the growing field of community food security and urban agriculture. He was just as much at home in the classroom as he was in the greenhouse.
I didn’t see much of Jerry over the last 10 years. We communicated by e-mail and passed on our news to each other through the occasional e-mail and even more frequently through Will Allen and Martin Bailkey -- dear friends and colleagues that Jerry urged me to work with in the late '90s. But Jerry’s importance to what would become my life-long commitment to and passion for food justice, local economies and community-based food security has never waned. I am grateful to him for the encouragement he gave me through his words, the doors he opened for me into circles where urban agriculture was being seriously discussed, the scholarship he undertook that justified my work, and the example he provided as a human being walking through the world with warmth, optimism and a calling to social justice.
Alison Cohen is Senior Director of Programs at WhyHunger.
We're excited that Food for Maine's Future has just announced the launch of the documentary, You Wanted to Be A Farmer: A Discussion of Scale! The film, made by No Umbrella Media and the Sap Pail, profiles Dan (photo) and Judy Brown of Gravelwood Farm in Blue Hill, Maine, and the issues surrounding the lawsuit filed against them by the State of Maine and Maine Department of Agriculture.
Food for Maine's Future is part of a growing movement for food sovereignty, and has been actively engaged with the US Food Sovereignty Alliance to promote awareness and take action on issues such as local control of food systems, food justice and agricultural land grabs. Visit their website to learn how you can take action to promote the film!