Activist Profile: CAGJ Staff Organizer Noël Lum

Featuring Noël Lum! This month we are highlighting a returning contributor to CAGJ, Noël Lum (formerly Hutton)! Noël coordinated our SLEE volunteers in 2019, led 2020 Rise Up! Summer School, and was on staff as a paid organizer from 2020 – 2021. After working with Trade Justice Education Fund for some time, Noël has returned to the CAGJ team as a part-time organizer and 2023 SLEE Coordinator. During her free time, Noël enjoys hot beverages of many sorts and sharing yummy meals with the people she loves. She is also finding a lot of joy in motherhood, raising her tiny human.

About CAGJ Activist Profiles: Each month CAGJ is introducing CAGJ staff, activists and interns to our members!

What led you to working with CAGJ?

In 2018, I had just moved from Arcata, California to Seattle and had begun working a food-related AmeriCorps position at a local organization serving unhoused youth. While researching regional orgs doing food justice work, I came across that year’s SLEE! poster, first online and then again when long-time CAGJ member Goldie Caughlin was tabling at the Columbia City farmer’s market. I volunteered that year as a server and met a bunch of wonderful people, loved the vibes, and the buzz got me hooked!

What does food sovereignty mean to you? 

Food sovereignty to me is all about community self-determination, rooted in devotion to this planet and to one another. It’s joyful and fierce resistance to the corporate destruction of our food and lifeways by centering those of us who actually keep our communities fed. It’s honoring our Mother Earth, her soils, waterways, and all lifeforms big and small. It’s knowing that the solutions we need to overcome the intersecting crises of our time must be grounded in localized knowledges, and must support the people who carry forward those knowledges. Food sovereignty is asking ourselves everyday: how can I catch myself treating food as some market commodity, and return to revering food as sacred, as something to be cherished, shared, and a vehicle for revolution?

Where do you see CAGJ in 5-10 years? 

I have seen CAGJ in the past few years put real intention towards the art of communication as a means of consciousness-raising, and I think we will continue to emerge as a unique voice for global justice. In particular, I see CAGJ continuing to strengthen organizing across sectors and geography. I hope we can also grow in our capacity to disrupt the glorified lore of the philanthropic billionaire!

Can you tell us one favorite aspect of your work with CAGJ? 

CAGJ is a quality soil for budding activists; a supportive birthplace for beautiful radical politics! From the beginning, I have always felt wholly encouraged to develop new skills and appreciated for whatever it was I had to offer. The direct and adjacent community is creative, kind, and caring.

What is one growing edge you think CAGJ can work on?

We try to hold a lot, much of which is not entirely visible from the outside. Did you know that everything CAGJ accomplishes is thanks to a ton of volunteer laboring of love, and a consistently overstretched and tiny staff? Yeah, I know, the revolution will not be funded, and I’m not necessarily trying to insert a fundraising pitch, but I actually think you should consider putting in a chunk of change towards the work! I mean, how many other organizations are directly criticizing philanthrocapitalism? It’s not a great fundraising strategy, but it’s work that needs to be done!

I would love to see CAGJ hire for a few solid staff positions that would allow us the stability necessary to focus on long-term projects and essential movement-building opportunities. Unlike many non-profits, CAGJ has had a profound amount of freedom in our ability to answer to the movement and respond to needs as they arise, without disingenuously moderating our voices for funders.

If you’re on board with the work we’re doing, I hope you’ll consider becoming a monthly sustainer, giving a one-time contribution, or dedicating some of your time and energy to our research and/or organizing (in other words, become a member!). That’s how we keep this work independent. And with just a bit more financial stability under our belt, I think CAGJ can make real waves towards a future with food sovereignty for all.

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