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.