Posted by Jeff Heehs
Dismantling racism in the food system, within and by way of sustainable food projects, was the focus of a gathering of around 150 community food activists from all over the U.S. and Canada from September 18 to 21 in Milwaukee. Group trainings and discussions provided “safe space” for participants to share a challenging, emotional process of understanding and confronting racial privilege and oppression in ourselves and our communities, amid workshops and talks on food justice and sustainability initiatives.
The conference was the product of planning by the Growing Food and Justice for All Initiative (GFJI), an outgrowth of activities initiated within the Community Food Security Coalition. Milwaukee’s urban farming non-profit Growing Power organized and sponsored the event. Just two days after the conference adjourned we were all thrilled by the announcement that Will Allen, the towering founder of Growing Power and host of the Gathering, was named recipient of a MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant for his pioneering work in urban agriculture and community building.
Prior to the main gathering a core group of facilitators attended an intensive leadership training program on interpersonal methods to understand and challenge racial inequities in general and in the food system. These facilitators then conducted workshops, called Dismantling Racism 101, for others attending the Gathering. Using techniques of non-verbal interaction resembling games or silent theater among mixed groups, followed by open discussion, the workshops were a powerful, revealing experience.
Other workshop leaders presented on topics including:
- projects promoting food sovereignty and self determination among groups of Native Americans, immigrant farm workers, rural latino communities, urban communities of color and others