19 Individuals and Organizations Building Stronger Black Communities and Food Systems
By Danielle Nierenberg
Following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, people around the United States are protesting racism, police brutality, inequality, and violence in their own communities. No matter your political affiliation, the violence by multiple police departments in this country is unacceptable.
We must remember and honor the memory of people including Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and David McAtee, the owner of a barbecue restaurant in Louisville who was killed by police during protests. These murders are a travesty and something that should not happen in the United States of America—or any nation.
It's time for people of all backgrounds to not only denounce violence, but to actively use their voices, dollars, and power to demand change. I'm in awe of the many people who have been working for years to restore democracy, empathy, and equality to this country.
These 19 organizations and individuals represent a small portion of the efforts underway to fight racism and inequality and to build stronger Black communities and food systems, and I hope you'll join me in supporting them.
The Anti Police-Terror Project is a Black-led, multi-generational coalition of people working to end police terror in communities. Based in Oakland and Sacramento, California, APTP is building a sustainable model for justice that can be replicated around the country. They also document police abuses and help impacted families access legal and healing resources.
Based in Baltimore but operating nationally, the Black Church Food Security Network aims to support gardening and farming within Black churches. They establish agricultural projects on church land, connect farmers to congregational markets, and create asset maps of Black churches and surrounding neighborhoods to help better use resources. They also operate a small directory and interactive map of faith-based Black farmers across the East Coast, Midwest, and southeastern U.S.
Black Lives Matter, a movement created in response to murders of innocent Black people by police and vigilantes, works to build power to bring justice, healing, and freedom to Black people across the globe. Black Lives Matter is a broad coalition and affirms the lives of Black people across the gender spectrum, of all abilities, and of any documentation status.
Black Urban Growers maintains a network and community support in order to foster Black leadership in food and farm advocacy. Their programs include the Black Farmers & Urban Gardeners Conference, a national conference started in 2010 that brings together Black farmers, advocates, chefs, and communities to share their best practices and leadership efforts.
The Detroit Black Community Food Security Network is working on the ground in Detroit, Michigan, to ensure that the local urban agriculture movement is racially and socially inclusive. It was founded in 2006 to mobilize the Black community to address food insecurity challenges, and the network believes that the most effective movements grow organically within the communities they are designed to benefit. They operate organic urban farm sites, various local food policy initiatives, and a cooperative food-buying program for community residents.
Washington D.C. nonprofit Dreaming Out Loud works to create healthier, more equitable food systems in low-income communities. Dreaming Out Loud supports economic opportunity-building with their two-acre farm, several community gardens and farmers markets, and a food business accelerator. During the COVID-19 pandemic, they partnered with Little Sesame restaurant to provide free meals for people of all ages every weekday afternoon.
7. Fair Fight
One of the most impactful ways to participate in democracy is by voting, but many people, particularly in minority communities, face structural barriers against having their voices be heard. Fair Fight was founded by Stacey Abrams, who lost a close race for Georgia governor in 2018 amid allegations that her opponent, then-state Secretary of State Brian Kemp, had engaged in voter suppression. The organization aims to end voter suppression, make sure everyone can access their constitutional right to vote, and fight for fairer elections. You can donate online here.
8. Jamila Norman of Patchwork City Farms
Based in Atlanta, Georgia, Jamila Norman is a world-renowned urban farmer and food activist. In 2010, Norman founded Patchwork City Farms, a certified naturally grown organic urban farm where Norman farms—and provides the local community with safe and nutritious foods. Norman is also co-founder of EAT Where You Are, an initiative that aims to spread awareness of the importance of including fresh foods in diets, and is the manager and one of the founding members of the South West Atlanta Growers Cooperative, which helps Black farmers create equitable, sustainable, responsible food systems.
9. Karen Washington, founder of Rise and Root Farm
Karen Washington, a farmer and community activist, wants to build a different agricultural narrative, inclusive of all races, genders, and sexualities. She created Rise and Root Farm to be a place of healing for diverse and marginalized communities—particularly important today, as black farmers work to call attention to not only their own contributions to the modern food system but also the impact of the slave trade on the development of global food chains. "Agriculture must be inclusive in its diversity," Washington tells Food Tank.
10. La Via Campesina
La Via Campesina is an international coalition of organizations that defend food sovereignty as a way to promote social justice and worker dignity. They built a movement that amplifies the voices of smallholder peasant farmers and aims to decentralize the power of corporate-driven agriculture, which they argue is destructive to the environment and social relations.
11. Leah Penniman, founder of Soul Fire Farm
Soul Fire Farm grows food as an act of solidarity with those oppressed by food apartheid while maintaining respect for their ancestors, history, and the environment. Soul Fire Farm conducts training programs to raise the next generation of activist-farmers and support food sovereignty for future communities. The organization's Co-Director Leah Penniman recently completed a book, "Farming While Black," a guide for African-heritage growers to reclaim their dignity.
The National Bail Fund Network is a directory of bail funds in over 30 states, which free unfairly detained people from jail and fight to end the cash bail system. Donations to local and national bail funds support jailed protesters who are not only at risk for being prosecuted unfairly, but who are also at risk for contracting COVID-19 while detained.
A coalition of Black-led organizations, the National Black Food and Justice Alliance builds Black self-determination around food and land sovereignty. They accomplish this through community organizing and increasing visibility of Black narratives, visions, and achievements. In 2018, co-founder Dara Cooper was honored with a James Beard Foundation Leadership Award "for dedicating her life to racial equity and justice in the food system and increasing capacity and visibility of Black-led narratives and work."
14. Planting Justice
In Oakland, California, Planting Justice builds economic justice and food sovereignty among communities impacted by mass incarceration. Planting Justice teaches gardening skills to people while in prison and offers them paid positions after release. Planting Justice has planted over 500 gardens in the Bay Area, offered reentry employment opportunities to over 40 people, and helped people reconnect with the land.
A Minneapolis-based organization, Reclaim the Block works to reallocate city money away from police and instead toward community-led health and safety initiatives. They have assembled an extensive digital toolkit to help communities in all cities and states advocate for divestiture from police. You can support them via donations or by signing their petition encouraging the Minneapolis City Council to redirect police department funding toward resources for Black and Indigenous communities.
16. Soil Generation
Based in Philadelphia, Soil Generation is a Black- and Brown-led coalition with a vision for "a people's agroecology"—a combination of environmental and food justice with a focus on community self-representation, anti-racism training, education, and advocacy. Soil Generation has successfully worked with the city council to amend a bill that would have put urban gardens at risk and continues to actively campaign for rights to vacant lots.
17. Tanya Fields of the Black Feminist Project
As founder and executive director of The Black Feminist Project, Tanya Fields is a food justice activist and educator. Fields started the Libertad Urban Farm, an organic urban garden in the Bronx, as an effort to address the lack of nutritious food and food education accessible to low-income people, specifically underserved women of color. Additionally, Fields works closely with The Hunts Point Farm Share, connecting city residents to high-quality local produce through community-supported agriculture.
Toni Tipton-Martin, based in Baltimore, Maryland, works on a series of endeavors to promote food justice. She has written two James Beard Award-winning books that trace Black cuisine, Jubilee and The Jemima Code: Two Centuries of African American Cookbook. Martin served as the president of Southern Foodways Alliance board of directors and was the first Black food editor at the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Additionally, Martin founded the SANDE Youth Project, a nonprofit organization that works with children to combat obesity while supporting Black food culture.
The Urban Growers Collective operates eight urban farms on 11 acres of land in Chicago's South Side and works with more than 33 partner organizations to create economic opportunity and boost healthy food access. Each farm uses organic methods and integrates education, leadership training, and food production. The organization was co-founded by Laurell Sims and Erika Allen, a visual artist and food advocate who works to use creativity for social change.
Reposted with permission from Food Tank.
By Victoria Masterson
Using one of the world's problems to solve another is the philosophy behind a Norwegian start-up's mission to develop affordable housing from 100% recycled plastic.
Sustainable Homes<p>UN-Habitat says an <a href="https://unhabitat.org/un-habitat-aims-to-use-plastic-waste-to-support-housing-for-all" target="_blank">estimated 60% of people living in urban areas of Africa are in informal settlements</a>. At the same time, between 1990 and 2017, African countries imported around 230 metric tonnes of plastic, "which mostly ended up in dump sites creating a massive environmental challenge," the agency adds.</p><p>UN-Habitat deputy executive director, Victor Kisob, said the aim of the partnership with Othalo was to "promote adequate, sustainable and affordable housing for all."</p>
Artist's impression of an Othalo community, imagined by architect Julien De Smedt. Othalo<p>Othalo's process involves shredding plastic waste and mixing it with other elements, including non-flammable materials. Components are used to build up to four floors, with a home of 60 square metres using eight tons of recycled plastic. A factory with one production line can produce 2,800 housing units annually.</p><p>Following successful laboratory tests, Othalo's factory in Estonia has started producing components to build three demonstration homes for Kenya's capital, Nairobi; Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon and Dakar, the capital of Senegal.</p><p>Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti has been developing and testing the technology since 2016 in partnership with <a href="https://www.sintef.no/en/" target="_blank">SINTEF</a>, a 70-year-old independent research organization in Trondheim, Norway, and experts at Norway's <a href="https://en.uit.no/startsida" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">University of Tromsø</a>.</p>
Othalo founder Frank Cato Lahti. Othalo<p>Almost <a href="https://www.un.org/development/desa/publications/2018-revision-of-world-urbanization-prospects.html" target="_blank">seven out of every 10 people in the world are expected to live in urban areas by 2050</a>. More than 90% of this growth will take place in Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Caribbean.</p><p>"In the absence of effective urban planning, the consequences of this rapid urbanization will be dramatic," UN-Habitat warns.</p><p>Lack of proper housing and growth of slums, inadequate and outdated infrastructure, escalating poverty and unemployment, and pollution and health issues, are just some of the effects.</p><p>Mindsets, policies, and approaches towards urbanization need to change for the growth of cities and urban areas to be turned into opportunities that will leave nobody behind, UN-Habitat says.</p>
Pioneers of Change<p>Reimagining cities and communities for greater resilience and sustainability was a key topic at the<a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020" target="_blank"> World Economic Forum's Pioneers of Change Summit 2020</a>.</p><p>The digital event brought together innovators and stakeholders from around the world to explore solutions to the challenges facing enterprises, governments and society.</p><p>Opening the summit, <a href="https://www.weforum.org/events/pioneers-of-change-summit-2020/sessions/opening-plenary-8f731cbc65" target="_blank">Stephan Mergenthaler, the Forum's Head of Strategic Intelligence and a member of the Executive Committee</a>, said: "We need to change the way we produce, the way we live and interact in our cities to make this transition to net-zero emissions a reality…</p><p>"And as this year has illustrated so dramatically, we need to make every effort that we keep populations healthy, if we want to avoid jeopardizing all this progress."</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2020/11/un-africa-recycled-plastic-housing/" target="_blank">World Economic Forum</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649069252#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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By Dolf Gielen and Morgan Bazilian
John Kerry helped bring the world into the Paris climate agreement and expanded America's reputation as a climate leader. That reputation is now in tatters, and President-elect Joe Biden is asking Kerry to rebuild it again – this time as U.S. climate envoy.
Energy Is at the Center of the Climate Challenge<p>The <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/1/" target="_blank">effects of climate change</a> are already evident across the globe, from <a href="https://theconversation.com/100-degrees-in-siberia-5-ways-the-extreme-arctic-heat-wave-follows-a-disturbing-pattern-141442" target="_blank">extreme heat waves</a> to <a href="https://science2017.globalchange.gov/chapter/12/" target="_blank">sea level rise</a>. But while the challenge is daunting, there is hope. Solar and wind power have become the <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2020/Jun/Renewable-Power-Costs-in-2019" target="_blank">cheapest forms of power generation globally</a>, and technology progress and innovation continue apace to support a transition to clean energy.</p><p>In the U.S. under a Biden administration, long-term national climate legislation will depend on who controls the Senate, and that won't be clear until after two run-off elections in Georgia in January.</p><p>But there is no shortage of <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/features/2020-biden-climate-change-advice/" target="_blank">ideas for ways Biden</a> could still take action even if his proposals are blocked in Congress. For example, he could use executive orders and direct government agencies to tighten regulations on greenhouse gas emissions; increase research and development in clean energy technologies; and empower states to exceed national standards, <a href="https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-california/defying-trump-california-locks-in-vehicle-emission-deals-with-major-automakers-idUSKCN25D2CH" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">as California did in the past with auto emission standards</a>. A focus on a just and equitable transition for communities and people affected by the decline of fossil fuels will also be key to creating a sustainable transition.</p><p>The U.S. position as the world's largest oil and gas producer and consumer creates political challenges for any administration. U.S. forays into European energy security are often treated with suspicion. Recently, France blocked <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/frances-engie-backs-out-of-u-s-lng-deal-11604435609" target="_blank">a multi-billion dollar contract</a> to buy U.S. liquefied natural gas because of concerns about limited emissions regulations in Texas.</p><p>Strengthening cooperation and partnerships with like-minded countries will be critical to bring about a transition to cleaner energy as well as sustainability in agriculture, forestry, water and other sectors of the global economy.</p>
Creating a Global Sustainable Transition<p>How the world recovers from COVID-19's economic damage could help drive a lasting shift in the global energy mix.</p><p>Nearly one-third of Europe's US$2 trillion economic relief package <a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-07-21/eu-approves-biggest-green-stimulus-in-history-with-572-billion-plan" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">involves investments that are also good for the climate</a>. The European Union is also strengthening its 2030 climate targets, though each country's energy and climate plans will be critical for successfully implementing them. The <a href="https://joebiden.com/clean-energy/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Biden plan</a> – including a $2 trillion commitment to developing sustainable energy and infrastructure – is aligned with a global energy transition, but its implementation is also uncertain.</p><p>Once Biden takes office, Kerry will be joining ongoing <a href="https://www.un.org/en/conferences/energy2021/about#:%7E:text=The%20overarching%20goal%20of%20the,2030%20Agenda%20for%20Sustainable%20Development.&text=Accelerate%20delivery%20of%20United%20Nations,related%20issues%20at%20all%20levels." target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high-level discussions on the energy transition</a> at the U.N. General Assembly and other gatherings of international leaders. With the U.S. no longer obstructing work on climate issues, the G-7 and G-20 have more potential for progress on energy and climate.</p><p>Lots of technical details still need to be worked out, including international trade frameworks and standards that can help countries lower greenhouse gas emissions enough to keep global warming in check. <a href="https://www.carbonpricingleadership.org/what" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Carbon pricing</a> and <a href="https://www.csis.org/analysis/how-can-europe-get-carbon-border-adjustment-right" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">carbon border adjustment taxes</a>, which create incentive for companies to reduce emissions, may be part of it. A consistent and comprehensive set of national energy transition plans will also be needed.</p><p>The global shift to <a href="https://www.irena.org/publications/2019/Jan/A-New-World-The-Geopolitics-of-the-Energy-Transformation" target="_blank">clean energy will also have geopolitical implications for countries and regions</a>, and this will have a profound impact on wider international relations. Kerry, with his experience as secretary of state in the Obama administration, and Biden's plan to make the climate envoy position part of the National Security Council, may help mend these relations. In doing so, the U.S. may again join the wider community of countries willing to lead.</p>
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By Maria Caffrey
As we approach the holidays I, like most people, have been reflecting on everything 2020 has given us (or taken away) while starting to look ahead to 2021.