As a self-proclaimed Black environmentalist, I’ve been finding my way between the intersectionality of the environmental movement and the liberation for Black people. Recently, I’ve come across the means of food as a tool to not only relinquish our addiction to an agricultural system that is detrimental to the planet and health of people across the world, but also for the ability for food to free people, most importantly of color, from the oppressive forces of society. Malcolm X once said in this striking quote,
“Revolution is based on land. Land is the basis of all independence. Land is the basis of freedom, justice, and equality…”
I decided, ultimately, that I wanted to spend my final year at my respective university researching food apartheid more in-depth in my hometown of Chicago. I do this, because it’s personal. Thus, the project is political in nature. The personal is political. I can easily think of the times, living in Chatham or Calumet City or Woodlawn or Bronzeville, when fast food was the most accessible option for dinner… and as much as I like Harold's, I'd love other, more healthier options to be just as accessible. Do you know there are nearly 34 Harold's in Chicago? (Although it feels like there are way more... Harold's is the Starbucks of the South side.) How insane if we invested in grocery stores as much as we did fried chicken restaurants? Say, a Harold's Chicken of grocery store chains that are blacked-owned and operated for African-American communities?
What will it take to radically uproot the intentionally placed food deserts in African-American communities on the South side of Chicago?
This is the question I will be delving into this upcoming school year. Why are African-Americans disproportionately exposed to food deserts? How is that linked to education for black youth and crime rates? How is food valued? Or are there other underlying social or cultural forces affecting what food we choose to consume? Is a Marianos or Whole Foods enough to solve food apartheid? Or it just another market with which corporations (without an interest in social transformation) can tap into and capitalize on? Are these efforts sufficient in addressing food inaccessibility or are there still thousands of people still unable to have easy access to healthy, affordable food? Concluding, if so, how do we address that?
These are some of the questions I hope to explore in the course of the next year or so. This online platform will be an incubating space for those ideas. This space is meant to be a representation of the research I will be conducting this upcoming year. It’s meant to be a place for accountability to those who have allowed the problem to exist. A space for discussion and engagement with these issues.
In writing and research this next year, I hope to engage with more people on the subject of food, specifically pertaining black lives. A lot of the posts will end with questions (some, helpful for my research) with which I'd love for the general audience to engage in. It's called social media right?!?!
To wrap this up, it's very important to dream (MLK WAS A DREAMER); I spend way to much time doing so. In dreaming, its natural to begin envisioning a better world-city-planet. A utopia that works for all and not for some. My food vision involves black people not spending their dollars at McDonalds or other corporations that don't give a fuck about them. That black people become food-sovereign and create a local economy around urban farmers. We are the true agriculturalist in the country historically; let's return, through self-determination, to our roots. That we eat food that was grown by us, free of chemicals detrimental to our bodies. That we take back our vacant homes lots and did something transformational (socially, environmentally, and economically) with them. That we find a way to push against the system that pushes, so forcefully, upon black and brown bodies.
I believe that food can be used as a tool for liberation; a means of nourishing every aspect of our being. It is not the only means, but a very important one. As I embark on this experience, I hope to not only learn more about myself, my city, and my people, but also about the solutions that are necessary in radically, attacking the issue at the root.
Food for Thought:
[_______] as a means for liberation? What would you fill in the blank with?