NATIONAL BLACK FOOD AND JUSTICE ALLIANCE  IN SOLIDARITY WITH THE NATIONAL PRISON STRIKE

August 21st - September 9th

As a network of Black-led organizations working towards advancing Black leadership, building Black self-determination, institution building and organizing for food sovereignty, land and justice, the National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA) endorses the National Prison Strike and stands in solidarity with the organizers behind bars and their courageous demands.

The demands--among them, an immediate end to prison slavery and the immediate improvement to the conditions of prisons--speak to the urgency of the conditions inside. The demands, also, challenge the injustices present in sentencing, parole, and rehabilitation; throughout, organizers put forward a comprehensive critique of anti-Black policies and substantive solutions for how we can begin to work together for the liberation of all Black people alongside those who help to lead our collective fight from behind bars. The demands speak to prisoners across the country, as well as to the families and communities from which they're separated.

We acknowledge the significance of the dates chosen for the National Prison Strike, beginning on August 21st, the death anniversary of George Jackson and ending on September 9th, the anniversary of the Attica prison uprising--as a nod to and continued reminder of the plight of political prisoners, many of whom are still behind bars, for their efforts to support Black liberation struggles, even despite their captivity.

We understand the magnitude of the issue and recognize prisons as an extension of slavery and plantation economies. It's no accident that prisoners name an end to prison slavery, in reference to forced and unpaid labor and inhumane conditions. To add, the racial makeup in many prisons is disproportionately and overwhelmingly Black. The abuses have become familiar: prisoners served dangerously ill-prepared food; prisoners denied access to basic necessities and deprived of opportunities to educate themselves; prisoners exploited and exposed to the most toxic environments---all to profit the system of White monopoly capitalism.

Our Alliance works towards building just and sustainable communities, actualizing self-determined visions of how we might nourish and care for one another. Many of us are farmers and growers, we work daily with and are connected to, people locked in cages: they are our family, friends, and neighbors. We know what happens behinds bars is happening to our homes and to our communities; the violence that governs prisons also polices our communities. Our vision for the communities we wish to see makes it our duty to pay close attention and offer deep support to all those locked in cages.

We unapologetically support the demands of the National Prison Strike and call on all of our communities, our organizations, and representative institutions to show solidarity for the strike, first by calling attention to the strikes ongoings, the demands, and its call to action. Additionally, those of us “on the outside” can strike in solidarity by:

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  • Calling our local centers of detention and demand that administrators see and accept the demands immediately

  • Calling surrounding community to join or form local organizations who are centering incarcerated people and their families’ needs

  • Calling on all food growing, training, distributing programs and operations to center formerly incarcerated people and recent returners & to cut ties with companies using prison labor and with ties to prison farms

  • Calling on farmer’s markets to remove any and all official police presence

  • Resist supporting companies and industries exploiting prison labor notably including: IBM, Boeing, Motorola, Microsoft, AT&T, Wireless, Texas Instrument, Dell, Compaq, Honeywell, Hewlett-Packard, Nortel, Lucent Technologies, 3Com, Intel, Northern Telecom, TWA, Nordstrom’s, Revlon, Macy’s, Pierre Cardin, and Target Stores

See the full list of demands and ways to support at prisonstrike.com.

 

In Solidarity,

National Black Food and Justice Alliance

 

2018 Farm Bill Attacks Black Life & Dignity

 
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Attempts by the GOP to reduce the assistance and key food security measures provided in the Farm Bill is an assault on Black life and dignity. Through the proposed legislation, members of Congress attempt to defund and ultimately demoralize food systems in the most vulnerable communities. Such attacks on food access in Black communities are attacks on the most basic elements of human life and dignity: the power to produce and distribute food sustainably and to consume food in culturally dignified ways.

The National Black Food & Justice Alliance opposes anyone who seeks to set back Black and Brown and economically oppressed communities in the fight for food sovereignty. We are firm in our political commitment to support food assistance programs as harm reduction mechanisms against a system of grave economic inequality; we commit to fighting for Black life by minimizing the suffering of hunger right now. More deeply, we commit to the long-term struggle for food sovereignty as an end to designed scarcity and desperation; in this way, we commit to fighting for Black dignity.

Food Security & the Struggle for Black Life

The National Black Food & Justice Alliance is an alignment of Black-led organizations resisting White Supremacy and anti-Black racism by fighting for food sovereignty, growing self-determining food economies on livable, liberated land. As such, we understand the disregard for food assistance programs stated by the Trump Administration and the supporters of the proposed Farm Bill to be an expression of anti-Black racism.

The current draft of the 2018 Farm Bill contains poorly veiled efforts to limit access to food assistance programs for those in economically oppressed communities. The 2018 Farm Bill proposes increases in the work-requirement age limit (from 49 years of age to 59 years of age), increases in weekly required work hours over time (an increase of 20 hours per month), and more unreasonable cutoffs and penalties for job-training enrollment requirements. Such draconian legislation (clearly positioned to reduce enrollment in programs to which, by definition, the public are entitled) are rooted in a shameless contempt for Black and Brown and economically oppressed people.

The false equivalence of government assistance to a handout, for those who occupy a central role in every sector of food production and preparation, exposes an erroneous and a calloused perception of Black and Brown communities-- of food workers, of those who survive daily labor exploitation, wage depression, and systemically imposed job insecurity-- as worthless and lazy. Yet, in struggling daily for our own dignity and sovereignty, we embody work ethic and worth that transcend exploitable “productivity”.

Data shows that those who make the least money pay the highest percentage of their income in taxes like sales tax, local and state taxes, and social security. Still, a stubborn fiction is dispatched in political debate-- one of Black and Brown people “taking” from entitlement programs which the Government itself promises to its public-- in order to disparage those who seek to take the government up on its most basic promises to promote life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Through unforgiving work-requirements and penalties and the blanket defunding of critical food security programs, this 2018 Farm Bill weaponizes hunger, malnutrition, and devastating health outcomes against the most vulnerable communities in this country.

Without transformative amendments, the current draft of the Farm Bill reflects a desire of many in American society and government to dehumanize and even depopulate Black communities, through designed food scarcity.

From Food Security to Food Sovereignty: The Struggle for Black Dignity

Black and Brown, economically oppressed communities use programs like the Value Added Producer Grant, the Farmers Market Promotion Program, the Local Food Promotion Program, and the National Organic Cost Share Program to build and activate our own self-determined food economies and systems. Defunding programs meant to promote the development of local, urban, and organic food production would serve to break economic power and cultural dignity through food production in poorer, predominantly Black and Brown communities. In the face of economic crises, we in Black and Brown communities have sustained ourselves through local food markets, urban and rural agriculture, and increasingly interconnected food systems.

As an alliance of food producers, distributors, educators, and community organizers, we understand the blatant hypocrisy of a government that defends cuts to food assistance by claiming to be invested in self-reliance, while destroying the very programs that Black communities have been using to leverage sovereignty in self-determined food systems. Programs meant to increase food production in food insecure communities address systemic inequities which were imposed on disenfranchised communities. Funding for good food purchasing, farmer training, and local food programs neither constitutes a handout from a government that favors economic freedom in Black communities nor reliance on a system built without exploited, uncompensated Black labor; no such systems have ever existed in America.

We demand that Congress address hunger with immediate action to reduce harm in our communities, while also correcting the systemic causes of hunger. Those who claim to love justice and those sworn to uphold it must roll back systemic barriers to economic freedom through food production. True food justice means reinvesting in the collective brilliance of Black communities who survive centuries of exploitation by modeling local food production, food security, sovereignty, sustainability, and economic freedom for all in our lifetimes.

We call on all governments, whether federal, state, or local, and all NGOs to:

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NBFJA National Organizer Acceptance Speech for James Beard Foundation Leadership Award

James Beard Foundation Leadership Awards Acceptance Speech

May 5, 2018

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Thank you so much.  Very thankful to Sheelah Muhammad- co-founder, visionary with Fresh Moves and also mentor, sister, friend, confidante.

Have to always start by thanking my ancestors- and the ancestors of this movement on whose shoulders I – and we all- stand.  This award is dedicated to the ancestors AND the future. Tonight the future is represented for me by my brilliant niece Milan.

Also thanking my family here and all over who were unable to come, who are helping to celebrate a revolutionary, unapologetically Black radical feminist and ALL of the thousands and thousands of radical visionaries, fearless leaders I get to work with through the National Black Food and Justice Alliance, HEAL (Health Environment Ag and Labor) Food Alliance, Movement for Black Lives and so many others to be among the incredible leaders receiving the JBF 2018 leadership award. What an incredible honor.

And what an incredible message from JBF to honor leaders and movements who aren’t satisfied with superficial band aid solutions but who are instead actually BOLDLY fighting for justice in a system – a food system—within an entire economic system rooted in the dispossession of land, attempted genocide, enslavement and a system of racial capitalism that continues to dehumanize, compromise and exploit Black and Brown bodies, labor and dignity via the food system. Leaders who are fighting this same system that continues the legacy of slavery or what we now know as the prison industrial complex via the Abolitionist movement.

I’m SO inspired by the movement towards abolition (especially here in Chicago with the reparations campaign that was won against the Jon Burge police tortures) and I draw great inspiration from the abolitionist movement in how we think about the food system.  Abolition requires a confrontation with the ACTUAL reality of enslavement, exploitation, and requires a BRILLIANT imagination to dream up and create what we actually want.  Dreaming and conjuring what we actually deserve.

Justice.   Dignity.  Humanity.   Freedom.  Self-Determination.  Love.  Beauty.  Joy.  And to be our full, whole, healthy selves. With everyone being able to grow, produce, create, and provide good, quality, fair, just food on every table in this country and worldwide.  Can you imagine?

I mentioned ancestors earlier. I think it’s important to say we stand on the shoulders of GIANTS in this work. Their work shows us our work is absolutely possible.  Harriet Tubman, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, Berta Caceres, Cesar Chavez, Steve Biko, Winnie Mandela, Wangari Mathai, and former James Beard Award winner Cynthia Hayes.  May we all continue the critical imaginative, visionary work and never settle for band aids and empty solutions like so many of our ancestors taught us.

Would like to close with the words of comrade Winona LaDuke: “We don’t want a bigger piece of the pie.  We want a different pie.” 

I look forward to fighting with each and every one of you for a more just, fairer, more sustainable, creative, freer, abolitionist, brilliant, much more generative and beautifully nourishing pie for all of our people.

Hasta la victoria siempre.

Thank you.

NBFJA Black Grocery Cooperative Convening: Jackson, MS, Jan 26-28

On the weekend of January 26th, the National Black Food and Justice Alliance convened around 22 of the leading advocates, practitioners, and theoreticians working for food justice in Black communities, at Cooperation Jackson’s Lumumba Center in Jackson, MS. Assembled around a call to reimagine our food systems as instruments of Black liberation, these Black food producers, cooperative managers, and organizers spent three days bonding, sharing and challenging each other about the possibility that exists in Black food cooperatives. Those convened committed to work in sustained coordination for the emergence of self-determined food economies built on the economic democracy of a cooperative model.

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The purpose of the food cooperative convening in Jackson was three-fold:

  1. To hold a space for creative and generative energy to be shared among Black folks working for food justice and food-driven liberation in their communities;

  2. To initiate the development of a shared analysis of cooperative food production and distribution among Black food justice organizers; and

  3. To facilitate a commitment and a plan among those that lead Black food justice movements around the country to begin to develop a coordinated and systematic plan of action around the growth of self-determining, cooperative food economies

Sessions dedicated to story-sharing, skill-sharing, and project-based workshopping comprised the 3-day gathering. In the end, a sense of energizing hope and a humbling sobriety emerged from the radically transparent stories of the organizers and organizations who assembled. As cooperative operators, community organizers, and farmers sharing about our successes and challenges, our skill-sharing sessions served to develop a collective braintrust in which we are more prepared to address common challenges in food systems and food justice work with sharpened nuance. And as leaders working on the ground to execute boldly imaginative visions of food sovereignty, the opportunity to share a familial space in which to present new ideas, difficult questions, and areas of needed growth, we renewed a commitment not only to the important work of building self-determining Black food economies but also a shared commitment to the growth and care of the indispensable comrades doing that work.  

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Those assembled, among many others, included representatives of Seward Food Co-op (Minneapolis, MN), The Mississippi Association of Cooperatives (Mississippi), The Black Oaks Center and the Healthy Food Hub (Chicago, IL), Cooperation Jackson and Freedom Farms (Jackson, MS), The Organization for Human Rights & Democracy and Cooperative Atlanta (Atlanta, Georgia),  Detroit Black Community Food Security Network (Michigan), Brooklyn Movement Center (New York), Renaissance Community Cooperative (Greensboro, NC), Kheprw Institute (Indianapolis, IN), and Center for Social Inclusion/Race Forward (New York).

As we departed back to our respective homes, we committed to three concrete actions that we could take together:

  1. We committed to long-term conversation about our emergent challenges and success on a biannual phone call to be facilitated by NBFJA

  2. We committed to working toward the development of a shared knowledge resource and corresponding support network similar to that of food cooperatives operating in majority-population, non-Black communities

  3. We committed to spiritually nurture the renewed sense of energy, determination, and inspiration that arose from conversation between dynamic and world-changing organizers

The National Black Food and Justice Alliance committed to coordinating next steps needed to manifest our shared vision and our commitment to work in conversation. As an alliance, we are aiming to respond to the need for convergence between those on the frontlines of a fight for nutritional equity, self-determined food economies, and food as a tool in a broader struggle for the liberation of Black people.

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The purpose of convening food-focused freedom fighters has no expiration date: the call to reimagine food as a practice in freedom and food cooperatives as a tool in the fight for Black liberation grows the emergent work of the brilliant people who sustain Black food justice communities, and thus Black communities at large. The call to make a practice of activating food cooperatives together, through sustained dialogue, coordinated action will move our movement from a place of emergent strategy to convergent strategy. Such is the power of a shared vision and plan of action between Black folks who are fighting for freedom: when we build sustainable, self-governed food systems together we manifest the power a people unmovable in self-determination, unwavering in our decision to feed and grow our bodies and souls, until such time as we are truly free.

NBFJA Statement: Land Justice is Essential to Food Justice

“Land Justice is Essential to Food Justice: on Black Leadership, Accountability and the Good Food Movement"

 The National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA) applauds chef Nadine Nelson and the Black farmers and activists attending the recent Stone Barn Young Farmers Conference in what has led to the surfacing of a much needed conversation around race, privilege, leadership and accountability within the food movement. The food movement is often portrayed in the mainstream narrative as predominantly white (and often times male), which is highly problematic given the many organized bodies of leaders, organizations and alliances led by Black and Brown people who are organizing, innovating and leading so much of the food movement.

Black and Brown people have always been the life force of the food movement. From national formations created and led by Black leaders such as the National Black Food and Justice Alliance, to local formations such as Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, groups are organizing and thus positioning themselves in rightful leadership within the food movement. Continuously portraying the leadership of the food movement almost exclusively in the body of white men is not only inaccurate and harmful, but a dated form of hegemony.

Following the Stone Barn conference, the New Food Economy released an article entitled “Young Black farmers to Mark Bittman: We don’t need your land reform.”   While bringing some important conversations to light, we find the sensational framing of the article deeply concerning. Taking one quote from one leader (and perhaps out of context) and wholesale ascribing it to a position of young Black farmers nationwide is disturbing, particularly considering how many Black farmers and organizations are indeed fighting for land reform.

As an organization representing hundreds of Black farmers, activists, organizers and numerous organizations throughout the country, members of the National Black Food and Justice Alliance recognize and understand that land reform is absolutely essential to food justice, hence the focus of our organizing work. With the drastic decline (98%) in Black land ownership due to a variety of reasons including state sponsored discriminatory practices that still continue today, we know land justice is essential. According to Savi Horne of Land Loss Prevention Project and a founding member of NBFJA:

“If we don't do anything about land, the very thing that connects us with freedom, connects us with our civil rights, our food ways, our family life… If we lose all of that then what is there? Why struggle? Land MUST be re-centered in our struggle because it connects us to everything.[1]" (Baxter et al, 106 )

 On Accountability within the Food Movement

In addition to the harmful framing around the importance of land reform to young Black farmers, the article also missed an important opportunity to explore the context of chef Nadine’s points at the conference. The context surrounding her question and the subsequent comments spoke to larger issues of accountability from white allies, the unjust and racially inequitable concentrations of power, and the erasure of Black and Brown people within the mainstream portrayal of the food movement.

While Bittman later issued a much needed apology, we see much of what has erupted following the Stone Barn conference as indicative of larger systemic issues, particularly around who and how the “real” leaders of the food justice movement are decided and selected. While Bittman’s written work has been important within the food movement, we must challenge the antiquated assumptions of white men with a certain amount of privilege and status with no base of people/community to whom they are accountable, as the “leaders” within our movement.

And for those who have historically positioned themselves as leaders of the food movement, Chef Nadine’s question and the incredible amount of discussion following, all indicate that no longer will they be able to continue dominating the narratives and spotlights without any kind of accountability—particularly from those most impacted within the food system.  

As this conversation has called for more work towards defining accountability, we should also consider the definition of a “movement,” which is often co-opted by white dominant non-profit organizations with no real strategy or investment in disrupting existing power structures.  A “movement” entails a number (or mass) of people moving in a particular political direction, through organizing, coordination, strategy, deep organization, and most importantly--- building momentum with a base of people to whom leadership is accountable.

With self-appointed lone white men often times portrayed as leadership, this question and subsequent critique around accountability is absolutely essential. Accountability often entails taking direction, listening to, accepting feedback and criticism, and most importantly--being in deep relationship with those on whose behalf you purport to speak. It also entails challenging power and acknowledging the privilege, positioning and space you occupy.

As we continue challenging ourselves to further define accountability, there are so many organizations around the country that we can look to, and from whom we can learn. Understanding that solutions must come from communities most affected, the most logical course for the food movement is to look toward leadership of color--including the workers, the farmers, the land stewards, the organizers, the cultural workers, etc. and commit to actual movement building.

Additionally, Black and Brown leaders are already doing the work, in our own spaces, and where we aren’t subjected to being trivialized and dismissed such as the reported experiences at the Stone Barn convening. Organizations like National Black Food Justice Alliance, Black Urban Growers, HEAL (Health Environment Agriculture and Labor) Food Alliance, Climate Justice Alliance, Food Chain Workers Alliance, the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, Soil Generation, Brooklyn Movement Center and so many others are disrupting business as usual and committed to organizing in critical ways.  These organizations aren’t interested in replicating microcosms of the same structural inequities but are instead committed to an intersectional praxis fighting for a system free from white supremacy, sexism, homophobia, and capitalist exploitation. This is where people should be looking for leadership within the food “movement,” where we are deeply invested in collective liberation, democratic leadership, disrupting power, and building our own tables instead of asking for a seat at someone else’s.

 About the National Black Food and Justice Alliance:

The National Black Food and Justice Alliance (NBFJA) is a network of Black-led organizations working towards advancing Black leadership, building Black self-determination, institution building, organizing for food sovereignty, land and justice.   NBFJA seeks to achieve this by engaging in broad based coalition organizing, increasing visibility of Black led narratives and work, advancing Black led visions for just and sustainable communities, and building capacity for self-determination via the lens of healing, organizing and resistance against anti-Blackness.

For more information, contact blackfoodjustice@gmail.com or visit www.blackfoodjustice.org

More from Savi Horne and Dr. Monica White on land justice here:  http://edgeeffects.net/savi-horne/

[1] Baxter, Kirtrina et al, “Womanism as Agrarianism: Black Women Healing Through Innate Agrarian Artistry.” Land Justice: Re-imagining Land, Food and the Commons in the United States. Eds Justine Williams and Eric Holt-Gimenez, Oakland: Food First Books, 2017. P. 106.