10 December 2019

Pan African Answers for Food InJustice | Julialynne Walker | TEDxKingLincolnBronzeville

Access to food is a human right but many African Americans do not recognize rights beyond those identified as civil rights. Our communities are food deserts and ...

King planting carrots be considered a

revolutionary act it's community gardening a subversive activity and do african-american community gardeners understand the pan-african roots of what it is that they do the food justice movement in America is rooted in the production of food it can be individual it can be community or collective it can be corporate but it doesn't end there it is the distribution and trade the existence the public and public safety and health issues an extensive transportation and Community Planning and Regional Development and I'm not going to talk about all that tonight what I want to talk about is the near east side of Columbus I want to talk about full justice in the context of a comb historic african-american community where we're sitting right now this evening and I hope that we would understand that in a community that consists of over 14 or 18 different neighborhoods there's been one consistent element throughout his existence and that has been the ability to obtain accessible affordable nutritious food we all know many of us know the Carl Brown IgA Foodliner and this was at the corner of champion this

last addition was at the corner of champion and Mount Vernon but Carl Brown started taking food to people's homes with a little trolley Reagan he moved to having piles of produce on a corner before he begot this brick and mortar building he learned the ways of selling food from and to his community by doing it but he wasn't the first there was a mr. Hulett mr. who is grocery with a 178 South High Street near town these ads are from the Ohio State Journal on March 17 and 18 1909 we know very little about mr. hood both his personal or profession life but we do know that he made a tremendous impact on our community because of the documentation of our preeminent cultural historian the artist Amina Robinson so she documented mr. hoods grocery at the corner of town and High Street in the early 1900's but the question for us is if they were able to do this before if it was possible to have full-service grocery stores if it was possible to have exchange of produce within the markets why isn't it possible today what has happened that's proof that what are the barriers why is it that we aren't able to overcome what needs to be done in the interest of our

community and that's some of what my talk is going to address tonight in order to do that I had to look at how did I come to food justice what was it that that attracted me how did I understand this commitment not just for myself but for others as well and it really began with my family I'm a third generation member of the near east side of Columbus Ohio my mother was born and raised at Malvern in a twenty second my father on the near north side my maternal grandfather hunted and fished he also had an extensive gardens so we were never without fresh produce my paternal grandparents lived in Cleveland and they had almost a half acre garden on 76 between Cedar and central and my parents my parents always had a few tomatoes a few beings you know maybe something else over here there was always this stubborn patch of mint down in the corner but also I want to tell you about aunt Ethel Oh Ethel had a farm it was small but she had a barn it was small but she had cows and they were thin but we used to pack up and go to on Ephesus if we were going on an expedition so we bought things and we

packed them in the truck to take to the counter country and then when we got there the adults talked to adult business while the children ran around to see what changes have been made at the end of the day we put country things into the car trunk to take back to the city and then we got there safely we were exhausted but on ethel's farm within blacklick ohio and black lick is a bedroom community of Columbus right now and people live in Blackwood and come to work in downtown Columbus every day without a thought but more about Ethel later because I want to go back to my experiences abroad and as I lived and worked in various countries of Africa wherever I lived for even a brief period of time I had a garden I also tried to talk with the women whenever I could to learn about different foodstuffs and how to prepare things and what are these seeds and how does this go with this and they would just say slow down Julia Lynne slow down and then we would go to the market and I would say okay but I don't understand what this is and I thought you said and they would say yes so gradually I learned from the women in my environment I learned from the women

in the market and I tried to understand how these things all fit together but eventually I had to come home and when I came home I was very fortunate in being able to obtain a plot owned by the Presbyterian Church that was co-founded by my maternal grandmother and great aunts and that is now over 100 years old and this plot was very small at the beginning but I was very fortunate in having a number of people come forward and to provide assistance and people came who were neighbors and friends people came who were members of the church people came representing different institutions and workplaces in corporate entities and people came who just wanted to get their hands dirty and fill the soil and see what was growing and what they could do to make a difference but there was also a very special group a group of women who worked in the community who were home health care aides and who all came from Africa and who came to me with a handful of seeds and said could we find someplace in your garden to put our food from home and we did and not only did we grow the tomatoes and you know my parents grew we

had the standards but now we also grew five to seven different types of heirloom tomatoes we grew a variety of peppers and cucumbers and we try to ensure that there was always food available for the community lunch program for the workers who assisted and to provide to anyone who came through who said do you have a few green tomatoes but there were also young men some perhaps not so young but there was one consistent thread for all of these men they would look at us working in the garden and they would say why are you working so hard what you're doing that looks like some slavery stuff I don't understand why you're working so hard and at first we lost they are their brothers and they don't understand it but and then we had to back up and say wait a minute we have failed them we have failed them because we have not provided a paradigm of empowerment that replaces the paradigm of disparagement we have failed them because we have not been able to share that the enslaved Africans who were brought to the Americas came with knowledge and skills that were essential to the development of the agrarian South that supported the

industrialized north we have failed them because we didn't share that the enslaved Africans who had over 1624 years of nation-building that included agricultural sustainability that enabled their communities to thrive even in times of civil strife and an environmental crisis we have failed because we haven't shared that the fair trade movement that exists today actually has its roots in pre Civil War activity of free blacks and Quakers who gather together to ensure that only products produced by free labor were sold in the marketplace we have failed because by promoting the great man theory of history we have obscured the contributions of thousands of men and women who contributed to cooperative movements who promoted homesteading and who ensured that no one no one was left behind by sharing whatever little they had and we have failed by not acknowledging the strengths and contributions of organizations like the Black Panther Party with the free breakfast program and other health initiatives that were demonized and yet adopted by lyndon b johnson

under the Great Society program in the war on poverty we have failed but perhaps the biggest indictment of all is that we have failed to promote a model of food justice that is socially transformative as opposed to the current model that relies relies on handouts commodity surplus products and food pantries we need to do away with food pantries so what are we going to do we can't retrace our steps we can't do the same thing we think about what happened to the land and when I think about even what happened to Aunt Ethel's farm I have to acknowledge that that was also our responsibility when I asked and said well where's the firm the response was I don't know someone left the farm there was no caretaker no one wanted it we lost it and even though that was true for some there was a lot of other land that was stolen from us either through legal or illegal beans and we have to recognize that that existed as well but now we're in back in our neighborhood and in this neighborhood we have to recognize that yes it is a food desert and that we don't have access to affordable nutritious food within one-mile radius of our community it's a

food swamp and that we have too many outlets that provide counter products with empty calories and that contributed to the health disparities facing our community and we realize that the response is not just in terms of the the corporations but what it is that we do ourselves and so when we look at today there's a growing increase in the number of African American farmers but when you compare forty-five thousand to 3.2 million in terms of the overall number of farmers we know that we have a lot more to do and what we have to do in terms of going back to land is not necessarily look at some of the small farm holdings but look at where we sit today in the urban areas so the Bronzeville community garden hosted by Bethany Presbyterian Church gave birth to the Brownsville growers market and this market has been instrumental in trying to educate people in the community where they are going to events going to pop ups you know sharing the food having tastings really just sharing whatever we have we've also made sure that we're a source of community information so any activities that are available people have access to we've

provided workshops so people can come and learn about particular topics and gain information that they couldn't go home and work themselves we've worked with other markets to ensure that any information we have or any resources we have are shared with those markets and we've had pick-your-own events where people can come and actually experience you know the picking selecting their own food and we've also participated with the rescue and recovery efforts that by another nonprofit and ensuring that the food is none of them is wasted but I want to segue now and share with you that this is actually the fiftieth anniversary of my first trip to Ghana and that time I was on the beach and there were vendors would come by with cool drink and fruit and whatnot and this one came and he had white watermelon it was the most incredible thing it was sweet and delicate and it was a taste sensation that just remained in my mouth but I never found it after coming back to Ghana years later and I never found it in the US until recently when I was searching through a catalogue and I found the white watermelon and it was a

group of young people who searched the world picking up different seas to bring back to make sure that the diversity of plants were continued somebody else had my heritage is it a revolutionary act to plant peas absolutely is it a subversive activity to plant peas to be a part of a community garden it can be if it's actually a part of a process that challenges the supremacy of notions that really undermine who we are as a people and as a community do African American urban farmers understand their roots of pan-africanism some are beginning to we exchange seeds we have discussions we look at different practices and we understand that a lot of what assumed to be coming from the majority of science society actually came from us so for me now it's important to think 50 years from now and now quite think about that white watermelon because I don't want the grands and great grands of my nuclear and extended family to not know the taste of a red strawberry or green apple I don't want the grands and great grants of my nuclear and extended family not to know the feel of putting their hands in soil and the joy of seeing

something grow and providing nutrition long after you've planted that seed and I surely don't want the grands in great grands of my nuclear family 50 years from now not to have access to affordable nutritious food in local institutions and local Gardens so I know that in order for this to be true I have to look at what is it that I can do today I study I am mentored I get my hands dirty I teach I lecture I mentor I study policy I share whatever I can that is what I do today but this is all of our watch so for me there's only one question that remains and that is what will you do [Applause]