Here are a couple more posts from the US Social Forum – still more to come!
6/25/10, by Reid Mukai, CAGJ Co-Chair
Social Movement Strategies and Tactics for Rebuilding Local Food Economies
Keeping it Real: Embodying Alliance in the Quest for Real Food
PMA: Food Sovereignty
I got an early start since I carpooled with Heather, Travis, Yecelica and Maria in the morning, so we stopped at a great “hippy” coffeeshop and bakery called “Avalon” where I got a cup of tea and a breakfast sandwich. The first workshop of the day was Social Movement Strategies and Tactics for Rebuilding Local Food Economies, organized by Agricultural Missions. Steven Bartlett was the main moderator, but also present were Luca Benitez of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers and Via Campesina represtatives from Honduras and Nicaragua, a farmer from the Dominican Republic and Haitian members of Collective of Wise Women, Popular Democratic Movement, Via Campesina and Papay Peasants’ Movement. The structure of the workshop was pretty loose, allowing both questions and answers from all of the participants in the room. There were many questions, but one of the main themes was “what is the best way to support worker’s struggles around the world?”. The diverse range of possible solutions included:
- build broader social movement
- stronger fair trade associations
- an international alliance of CSAs
- educate and influence political leaders
- instill culture of health among youth
- unite allied groups and individuals in a coordinated manner
- let corporations know what they do right as well as what they do wrong
- and a people’s tribunal for corporations such as Monsanto
The next workshop on the list was Keeping it Real: Embodying Alliance in the Quest for Real Food, organized by Navina Khanna and Lloyd Nadal of Food For the People. The opening question posed by Navina was “how can we amplify voices of different groups and form a collective vision?”, and much of the following conversation centered on possible answers. Related ideas that our group came up with included developing and connecting land stewardship programs, urban farm hubs, anti-oppression workshops as part of urban gardens, organic food distribution contracts with family-owned urban convenience stores and outreach to youth using music, poetry, visual art and digital media.
After this workshop I walked over to the “Tent Village” area several blocks west of the Cobo building to attend a second Food Sovereignty People’s Movement Assembly, also moderated by Steven Bartlett. When I arrived, a Food First organizer was discussing the importance of seed sovereignty. He viewed indigenous agricultural communities as valuable storehouses of generations of knowledge about seeds and food. Not long after, we formed break-out groups to brainstorm different aspects of a proposed Food Justice Alliance. The following is the list of group discussion topics and a sampling of some of the ideas from each (the group I was in was Values/Principles):
Structure and Implementation: Should there be individual membership? Create subcommittee focused on membership and structure. Expand coordinating committee and working groups.
Values/Principles: Everyone has right to real food. Respect for inherent value of life and natural systems, cultural diversity and biodiversity. Commitment to anti-oppression principles. International solidarity between youth, workers, activists and agricultural communities. Develop leadership and decentralize power. Localize food systems.
Outreach/Organizing: Outreach for Food Justice Alliance continuing at future USSFs. Networking through existing relationships, phone banks, email lists, and regional workgroups. Develop goals and membership criteria.
Action Agenda: Mobilize around issue of climate change. Fight against land grabs. Organize networking visits.
Heather joined the PMA after I got there, so when the assembly ended we carpooled back to the Cobo building with Dean and Clare, two great organizers and PMA participants from California. At Cobo we reconnected with Travis, Yecelica and Maria then carpooled to the Mexico Town district for dinner. Before going in the restaurant we admired a beautiful mural on a wall across the street in the process of being painted by USSF attendees from Brooklyn. After dinner I was feeling tired so returned to Cobo to do a little writing and check the news before going back to the office/house, meanwhile, the rest of the group partied hard at the USSF’s Leftist Lounge.
6/26/10, by Reid Mukai, CAGJ Co-Chair
Workshop: Detroit Highlighted: Detroit Black Community Food Security Network / Earthworks Urban Farm
It was hard for me to believe it was the last day of the USSF. That morning Shankara and I had breakfast at the solidarity housing and caught the bus to the Cobo building for a workshop called Detroit Highlighted: Detroit Black Community Food Security Network / Earthworks Urban Farm. This was actually a shared workshop highlighting the work of the Detroit Black Community Network and Earthworks, a project of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen, which shares some of the same staff. Some of the same speakers from the first USSF workshop I attended were there such as Lila Campbell, Patrick Crouch and Dr. Monica White. Monica spoke first, talking about the mission of Detroit Black Community Food Network (DBCFN) and how food access is their focus but it’s just one aspect of their goal of self-determination. She outlined some of the major problems Detroit’s citizens struggle against, such as unemployment (approx. 35-50% unemployment rate), foreclosures and a weak local economy (out of the city’s 140 square miles, approximately 40 square miles are vacant) and lack of access to fresh and healthy food (Detroit’s last chain grocery store closed in 2007). To address these issues, DBCFN has organized programs that mobilize people to buy locally, develop youth activism and leadership, created a citizen’s food policy council, and established D-Town farms, a 2.5 acre plot in a neighborhood park with 37-40 crops. Patrick Crouch, also a member of DBCFN, then spoke about Earthworks Urban Farm, a community garden that focuses on food access but also educates and engages the community. Projects they organize through the farm include the Healthy Stores Initiative (a partnership with Wayne State University that brings fresh produce to stores that traditionally offer processed foods, alcohol and cigarettes), and the Garden Resource Program, which distributes educational materials, seed and gardening supplies to students. Following Patrick Crouch’s talk was a powerful anti-oppression excercize led by Lila Campbell, which explained why being anti-racist is never passive and is always an ongoing process. This incorporated an open discussion about what is racist and anti-racist leading to a wider conversation about environmental racism, impact of race on Detroit’s history and present, gentrification and land grabs, state and city policy, and alliances with indigenous peoples, the original stewards of the land.
After doing a little sight-seeing after the workshop, I regrouped with Heather, Travis, Yecelica, Maria and Masha, for dinner and coffee. We were all almost deleriously exhausted by the end of the evening but had fun talking about events of the week and any random thing that popped up. After I got dropped off at the solidarity housing I was surprised to find the place was now nearly empty except for Shankara and two other people.
6/27/10, by Reid Mukai, CAGJ Co-Chair
The Day After USSF
I woke up late, enjoyed the peace and quiet of the near-empty office building and got my things packed for the flight back to Seattle later that night. For the past couple of nights Shankara and I were borrowing a couple of camping air mattresses from Travis and Heather, so they stopped by briefly to pick them up. While waiting in the parking lot I met a rapper named Majestic from New York, who told me some great stories about the USSF party I missed on Friday which he performed at. We also got into a good conversation about road trips when Heather and Travis arrived since he was thinking of touring through the midwest and west coast. After they left I had brunch with Shankara at the Avalon coffeeshop down the street, and after that it was another bus ride to the airport and then the flight back home.
Thinking back on the past week at the USSF, I feel inspired by the numerous informative workshops, people I’ve met, and their wealth of ideas and experiences. It’s a rare opportunity to meet many people from a wide range of states and nations (including Detroit locals) working to create a better world in so many different ways. The USSF brings together an analysis of local and global problems from a diverse range of perspectives, making it easier to see connections between various issues as well as ways groups and individuals could potentially collaborate, share information and strategies, and form alliances to stand up to institutions that are often the source of problems (ie. corporations and governments). After days of workshops, the many struggles of the modern world may seem overwhelmingly complex and intertwined, but the multitude of ongoing and future projects organized by allied groups interacting at the forum give reason for hope.