TO FREE OURSELVES WE MUST FEED OURSELVES
In 1965, James Baldwin wrote to his nephew: "The country is celebrating one hundred years of freedom one hundred years too soon." In the 55 years since, as anyone with eyes can see from the storm which continues to rage about our heads, very little has changed. We continue on a steady, centuries-long course, of systemic exploitation.
The U.S. Industrial food system is a direct descendant of the agriculture-based plantation system. It was built on land stolen from Native Americans, forcibly labored by enslaved Africans, and protected by a legal system designed and evolved to privilege land ownership and citizenship to white men.
Over the last hundred years, Black farmers have lost over 90% of their farmland. They have faced and continue to face formidable odds, from covert denial of financing and legal resources to overt land theft. And yet, Black farming in the U.S. persisted and continues to grow food to nourish our communities despite the systems constructed to destabilize them.
How do we create a clear alternative to the current “conventional” industrial agriculture model? In order to decompose the existing “conventional” system based in land theft, enslavement, and white supremacy, we must build and adopt a new one. One that regenerates as much land as “conventional” agriculture degrades. A new system that creates the political pressure necessary to redefine our food system, so “conventional” industrial agriculture may go extinct.
This new system, as we see it, will be recognized by three defining features:
We believe true freedom, justice and equality begins with justice for Black and Indigenous people of color.
On Juneteenth (Friday, June 19th 2020), we will hold a daylong event, speaking out in depth against the food system’s injustices. The Juneteenth Broadcast is an invitation — to corporations, foundations, donors, and allies — to see, hear and support Black voices in the food system. Register for details at AGrowingCulture.org/HFJ
Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, Iyeshima Harris, Sawdayah Brownlee, Kristina Erskine, Jamila Norman, Amber Tamm, Gethegu Gatungo, Matthew Raiford, Leah Penniman, Naima Penniman, Karen Washington, Chris Newman, Qiana Mickie, Sheryll Durrant
Signers & Presenters
Alexis Mena is an Afro-Latino interdisciplinary artist, born and raised in East New York. In 2011, Alexis and a team of artists opened Kustom Journey, a business incubator that served local artists and the community as an event space and consignment-based retail shop. Alexis currently teaches art history and studio art at Norman Thomas High School in Manhattan and is affiliated with various schools and nonprofits in the tri-state area.
Instagram: @amenra718 @universecitynyc
Amber Tamm is a Brooklyn native who found land through Trauma and shares her experiences as a Black Farmer. Amber is spearheading a movement to set up community gardens in Central Park at the historical site of Seneca Village.
Chris Newman, farmer and founder of Sylvanaqua Farms is out to democratize food and agriculture in the D.C. Region. He is currently raising 80 million dollars to develop a mosaic of public and private lands with a vertically-integrated, employee-owned cooperative of farms, nurseries, mills, processors, retail outlets, and wholesale distributors to offer food at greatly reduced prices.
Gathegu Cecilia Gatungo
A mother, outdoor educator, avid gardener, urban farmer, healer, soil lover, earth protector, wanderer, world and earth citizen.
Rev. Heber Brown III
Rev. Dr. Heber Brown III is the Senior Pastor of Pleasant Hope Baptist Church in Baltimore, Maryland. For nearly two decades, Dr. Brown has been a catalyst for personal transformation and social change. He is the Founding Director of Orita’s Cross Freedom School. In 2015 he launched the Black Church Food Security Network. He is the recipient of a number of awards, including the Ella Baker Freedom Fighter Award and The Afro American Newspaper’s “25 Under 40 Emerging Black History Leaders” award.
Iyeshima Harris is the Project Director of East New York Farms! Iyeshima has taught food justice, advocated for universal free school lunch and assisted in the development and sustainment of youth-led organizations. Through farming, she has found great comfort in her community.
Jamila Norman a.k.a (Farmer J) is a first generation daughter to Caribbean parents, whose history is rooted in agriculture. Jamila is a founding member and current manager of the South West Atlanta Growers Cooperative (SWAG Coop), formed in 2010 as a cooperative centered around black urban farmers in Atlanta’s burgeoning urban agriculture movement. She is an internationally recognized urban farmer, food activist and mother based in Atlanta, GA.
Chef Jonny Rhodes
Eater Houston named Rhodes “Chef of the Year” and, in 2019, he was a semifinalist for the James Beard “Rising Star Chef” award. His restaurant Indigo was named the eighth “Best New Restaurant of 2019” by Food & Wine magazine, and Rhodes will be opening an encore to Indigo serving classic soul food at a nearby establishment in 2020.
Karen Washington has lived in New York City all her life, and has spent decades promoting urban farming as a way for all New Yorkers to access fresh, locally grown food. Since 1985 Karen has been a community activist, striving to make New York City a better place to live. As a community gardener and board member of the New York Botanical Gardens, Karen worked with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into community gardens. In 2012 Ebony magazine voted her one of their 100 most influential African Americans in the country, and in 2014 she was awarded with the James Beard Leadership Award.
Kristina Erskine is an artist and organizer that has been moving, shaking and shaping the Food Justice landscape in NYC for 10 years. Kristina has developed and facilitated food, art and social justice related events and workshops for organizations such as Make the Road NY, GrowNYC, The Levitt Foundation, Just Food and more. She focuses on the importance of young people challenging and redefining systems as agents of systemic change.
Leah Penniman is a Black educator, farmer, author, and food justice activist. Soul Fire Farm has been recognized by the Soros Racial Justice Fellowship, Fulbright Program, Grist 50, and the James Beard Award. Her book, Farming While Black: Soul Fire Farm's Practical Guide to Liberation on the Land is a love song for the land and her people.
Malik Yakini, Malik Kenyatta Yakini is co-founder and Executive Director of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network and the Detroit People’s Food Co-op. Yakini views the work of DBCFSN as part of the larger movement for building power, self-determination, and justice, and is adamantly opposed to the system of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy.
Marquetta L. Goodwine, who was elected Queen Quet, Chieftess of the Gullah/Geechee Nation, is a native of St. Helena Island, South Carolina. She is an author, preservationist, and performance artist as well as the founder of the Gullah/Geechee Sea Island Coalition. In 1999 she became the first Gullah to speak before the United Nations.
Matthew Raiford is a nationally renowned chef creating inimitable interpretations of Coastal Georgia cuisine. Following a military career and graduation from the Culinary Institute of America, Raiford returned to the farm in 2011 to continue the traditions of his Gullah-Geechee heritage. He has received certification as an ecological horticulturalist from the University of California’s Santa Cruz Center for Agroecology and Sustainable Food Systems and has been recognized by the James Beard Foundation.
Chef Mavis-Jay Sanders
Born into a large southern family, Mavis J. began mastering southern cooking before she could even see over the counter. Legend has it, she perfected cornbread before her ABCs. Mavis J. attended the Culinary Institute of America after receiving a BS in hotel and restaurant management from Georgia Southern. Later, she would impress with her ability and natural leadership at Blue Hill Stone Barns and the Untitled in New York. Exhausted with fine dining, she joined Pico House to create incredible food accessible to everyone.
Instagram: @chefmavisjay @foodpluspeople_
Naima Penniman is a multi-dimensional artist, activist, healer, grower and educator committed to planetary health and community resilience. She is the Program Director at Soul Fire Farm, and the Co-Founder of WILDSEED Community Farm & Healing Village, a Black and Brown-led intentional community focused on ecological collaboration, transformative justice, and intergenerational responsibility.
Following her role as Executive Director of Just Foods until March 2020, Qiana Mickie is excited to transition into a new role that will allow her to support Just Food’s effort towards a collective leadership model as well as focusing specifically on policy/advocacy and designing the 2020 Just Food Conference. She serves on the Organizational Council of the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), the International Council of Urgenci, Coordination Committee of the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) for the United Nations, and South Bronx Farmers Market.
Sawdayah Kaliaha Brownlee is a farmer, educator, and food justice activist who is currently the Board President of the Brooklyn-Queens Land Trust. She is a core member of the Milk Crate Gardens Collective, an assemblage of people born out of an immediate need to disassemble and distribute milk crate gardens throughout NYC.
Sheryll Durrant is an urban farmer, educator and food justice advocate. Sheryll is the resident manager of Kelly Street Garden, part of an affordable housing development in South Bronx’s Longwood neighborhood. Formerly, she was the director of the urban farm and garden program for Sustainable Flatbush, developing community based urban agricultural projects in Brooklyn.