"Every hand and every piece of soil working together for food justice"
(Reverend Mutima Imani of The Urban Healing Temple and East Bay Church of Religious Science)
On Saturday February 1st, 2014, People's Grocery launched the celebration of African-American History month with a heartfelt, homegrown event commemorating the myriad contributions of Oakland's Black and Brown Farmers. The celebration took place in the California Hotel Garden, a thriving, multi-faceted project of The People’s Grocery.
The tribute commenced promptly at 10:00 AM, with soil libation and an appreciation of Mother Earth. Gratitude was offered for honorees and other attending contributors to food justice, who lend daily time, heart, energy, imagination, innovation and love to planting and tending seeds for a bright, beautiful future here in Oakland. "This whole idea came from our wanting to pay homage to our beloved lemon tree, which we lost this winter. We wanted to gather the community and plant more trees, we also needed to pay respect to all the Black and Brown Farmers who have contributed to this soil and to this garden and to food justice in Oakland," remarked Lissa Vanderbeck, Garden Co-Coordinator. She and Larry Davis, Manager at Cal Hotel Garden, successfully co-hosted about 125 members of the community in a beautiful setting where everyone including little ones, teens, grown folks, elders, farmers, politicians, artists, teachers, scientists, community folks, activists and more mingled and participated happily in the programming of the day.
Amidst ample sunshine and bees buzzing, folks enjoyed the urban oasis at The Cal Hotel Garden, which exists as an incubator for wellness, community building and learning space for the key programs of People's Grocery. "The garden is here to support leadership development; diversity in West Oakland for resident food choices and to continue our work of promoting often difficult but necessary conversations across class, race and culture, and just give people in the community a place of their own that's a real resource." remarked Jumoke Hodge, Program Director at People's Grocery. The joyous, eclectic celebration included the planting of 12 trees, a reading of each honoree's plaque (which will live beside the trees dedicated to each of them planted on that day), good music, poetry, lots of great food, laughter, workshops and networking amongst people concerned with enjoying and promoting fresh air, earth, sunshine, healthy soil and food justice in West Oakland and the world community at large.
People's Grocery is delighted to share the following list of honorees whose pioneering work is bringing economic sustainability and food justice to Oakland...a model for the world.
Click here to check out more photos taken throughout the day on our Facebook page!
Honored Farmer’s Bios
Gail Myers is both a highly respected anthropological researcher and a member of the Freedom Farmer’s Market Cooperative. Gail draws upon her connection with African American farmers and her work with the organization she founded, Farms to Grow, Inc, to support the future of sustainable farming by increasing the capacity of underserved farmers to keep their farming operations and establish farming as a viable career alternative for future generations. Farms to Grow, Inc, also runs community nutrition and cooking programs, garden programs in the Bay Area, and offers many other services to farmers of color, women farmers, disabled farmers, and other underserved farming communities. We love and appreciate Gail for her relentless dedication to delivering the voice and messages of African American and underserved farmers.
Will Scott is the president of the African American Farmers of California and owns a family-run, third generation organic farm in Fresno, California. The AAFC facilitates many programs aimed toward supporting the African American farming community, including a training program carried out on the organization’s Central Valley Farm. Scott Family Farms sells produce throughout California, specializing in Southern crops in an intentional effort to reintroduce a traditional African American diet and help combat the high rates obesity, diabetes, and other diet related diseases in black communities. We love and appreciate Mr. Will Scott for his dedication to feeding our community and training the next generation of African American farmers in California.
Check out more about the work Will Scott does at: http://scottfamilyfarms.net/
Hank Herrera is CEO of the Center for Popular Research, a non-profit community based organization that serves vulnerable communities through action research, training and technical assistance, and policy development through the lenses of food justice and community resilience. He recently co-founded and manages Dig Deep Farms & Produce, a project designed to grow as well as sell healthy, affordable and local foods to residents of underserved communities in the East Bay. DDF&P’s commitment to the East Bay revolves around creating sustainable, living wage jobs for community residents in order to cultivate the social, economic, and community benefits of a local food enterprise network. We love and appreciate Hank for his commitment to community and his faith in the prevailing nature of justice.
Check out more about Hanks work and the Center for Popular Research here: http://c-prep.org/
Herman Bell is an activist, former Black Panther, political prisoner, father, grandfather, and freedom fighter. During his younger years, he fought for community self-determination as a member of the Black Panther Party, working with the survival programs to educate, protect, and organize his community. He has been imprisoned for over 40 years for his activism, and at a prison in New York State for the past 35 years. In 1995, he co-founded the Victory Gardens Project with environmental activist farmers in Maine, while incarcerated in New York State. Its primary goal was to effect radical social change and economic independence through organizing around food production. VGP reached out to disenfranchised people in both urban and rural communities to help them develop their own source of wholesome organic food. While teaching farming and food skills through living on and working the land, the VGP tried to create a political consciousness that would ultimately lead to the restoration of our natural lands and community self-sufficiency. This life-giving project enjoyed eight successful seasons distributing food in Maine, Boston, New Jersey, Brooklyn, Harlem, and the Bronx. In addition, Herman is co-founder and a part of the collective that creates the Certain Days calendar, a fundraising project that raises awareness about political prisoners.
You can learn more about Herman and read some of his writings here: www.freehermanbell.org.
Joseph Davis is one of the urban farmers on the City Slicker Farms staff who manages multiple urban garden sites that were once empty lots, but are now abundant sources of produce, providing food at various farm stands around West Oakland and sold on a sliding scale. He also promotes community self-determinism around food, mentoring Backyard Gardeners in growing their own food. Joseph is inspired by the positive reactions he encounters at farm stands and passing by as well as the experience community members have when their hands become dirty from the soil in their own backyards. We love and appreciate Joseph for his enthusiasm and spiritual connection to the land, and his deep belief in the bonding power of positive natural energies.
Check out more about the work Joseph is involved in at the City Slicker Farms Website: http://www.cityslickerfarms.org/
Bo Faulkner is a long time farmer and member of Dig Deep Farms & Produce, managing multiple plots, a total of 8 acres. The produce he and his team grow is distributed in affordable CSAs throughout Oakland in an effort to provide fresh, seasonal, and affordable foods to residents of the East Bay. Bo is a young farmer, serving as a role model to aspiring farmers by producing food on a large scale and building up the next generation of young farmers of color in the East Bay area. We love and appreciate Bo for his commitment and persistence in growing food to feed our community in Oakland and his role in inspiring the next generation of African American farmers in California and beyond.
Check out more about Bo’s work through the Dig Deep Farms & Produce website: http://www.digdeepcsa.com/index.html
Ale’ah Bashir-Baaqee, Adralyn Zulu, Ayana Edgerly, Malcom McAroy, Senay Alkebu-lan, Terrell Shavers, and Tory Shavers are a group of seven young farmers working with City Slicker Farms in order to promote a healthier Oakland. These young farmers and leaders grow fruits and vegetables both for their families and for the larger West Oakland community at City Slicker Farms’ urban farms. For the past three years these young activists have planted, tended, harvested, and prepared produce for West Oakland, cultivating community and wellness. We love and appreciate each of these young farmers so much for their commitment to community and health and we are tremendously proud of their accomplishments and growth as individuals.
Look into the work these youth are involved in at the City Slicker Farms website: http://www.cityslickerfarms.org/
Planting Justice, Julius Jones and Eric Davis. Planting Justice collaborates with the Insight Garden Program and in 2013 helped create the first prison vegetable garden in the state, allowing prisoners to engage with food justice while completing their sentences. This program trains men in re-entry from San Quentin State Prison’s H unit and provides them with opportunities to complete garden classes taught by the Insight Garden Program, focusing on tending their inner gardens as well as the native garden planted on the prison grounds. Once they are released, they are offered employment on Planting Justice’s permaculture landscaping team where they have the opportunity to continue their developing their gardening, leadership, and team building skills. As of 2014, all participants have been African American men whose hard work, dedication, and commitment to building a more positive and connected life for themselves and their communities is a true inspiration. We love and appreciate Planting Justice and the participants of their re-entry green jobs program, specifically Julius Jones and Eric Davis, two recent graduates of the program who received awards and Anthony Forrest, Kevin Williams, and Vernon Daily, participants of the PJ staff who helped us celebrate, for their commitment to transformation through cultivation, paving the way for all who will join in the future.
Check out more about Planting Justice and the diverse garden projects they have facilitated: http://plantingjustice.org/
Kelly Carlisle is the founder and executive director of Acta Non Verba Youth Urban Food Project, an organization that helps schools and community spaces create gardens and inspire children to confidently move through their young lives through the cultivation of land. Acta Non Verba farming elevates life in the inner city by challenging oppressive dynamics and environments through urban farming. Kelly works with young people to use garden space as a classroom to grow leaders and young farmers, using all of the proceeds from their farm stand to fund a savings account for the youth. We love and appreciate Kelly for her dedication to helping build the future of our youth and her investment in the community at large.
Check out more about Kelly’s work at Acta Non Verba’s website: http://www.anvfarm.org/our-mission
David Roach also goes by Hotep, which means peace, and is the founder of Mo Better Foods. Mo Better Foods is a program aimed at connecting African American farmers to urban communities. He also co-founded the Familyhood Connection, Inc, an organization that supports programs aimed toward bringing generations together to improve communities. David is inspired by the belief that we can build sustainable communities locally and globally through technology. We love and appreciate David for his commitment to building healthy, sustainable communities through what he called “healthy economics” and in the spirit of “familyhood.”
Larry Davis is excited to have joined the People’s Grocery team as our garden coordinator. After twenty years in the music industry, he changed professions and began landscaping and independent promotions. After moving from San Francisco to West Oakland, Larry entered the Backyard Gardeners program at City Slicker Farms and solidified his love for working the earth. Larry manages the California Hotel Greenhouse program, coordinating weekly programs and helping to provide a space for wellness, fresh produce, and community gathering around health, nutrition, cooking, and tradition. We love and appreciate Larry for his commitment to and enthusiasm for farming and his infectiously positive attitude.
Nicole Steele is a member of the Social Justice Learning Institute, an organization dedicated to health and education equity and community empowerment. Nicole created the 100 Seeds of Change initiative, a comprehensive, city wide plan to end food insecurity where it prevails through the creation of urban gardens in schools and other public spaces as well as in homes, partnering with cities to funnel the excess produce grown through suitable distribution channels in order to facilitate affordable retail and create local jobs. In Inglewood, the goal of this initiative is to transform the city into a healthy living community through empowering residents to collectively act and collaborate in growing their own food in a local network. We love and appreciate Nicole for her role in inspiring community action and education, and for serving as a role model of someone who was able to affect change by standing up for a just cause.
Check out more about Nicole’s work here: http://www.sjli.org/
Kemba Shakur, fondly referred to as the “Tree Lady,” is the Founder and Director of Urban Releaf, an urban forestry nonprofit organization responsible for the planting and caring of an estimated 16,000 trees in low-income East Bay communities. A pivotal moment for Kemba occurred in the 1990s, when she moved to West Oakland and was struck by the lack of greenery in the area. Rather than packing up and leaving, Kemba was empowered to start planting trees. She founded Urban Releaf 14 years ago, guiding the organization to success with two principles: creating a more beautiful community in which residents take pride in where they live and offering opportunities for at risk youth and unemployed adults to gain marketable skills. We love and appreciate Kemba for her commitment to spreading knowledge about the importance of trees on both a local and national level, and for helping to create a green, abundant West Oakland.
Check out more about Kemba’s work and how you can get involved here: http://www.urbanreleaf.org/
Malik Yakini is a member of the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, an organization that was formed in 2006 to address the shortage in availability of fresh foods in Detroit’s black community. The Detroit Community Food Security Network has set up an urban agriculture project, focuses on shifting public policy around food in Detroit through the formation of and participation in the Detroit Food Policy council, and has created the Ujamaa Food Co-op Buying Club that offers organic and healthy food at discount prices by purchasing in bulk. Malik is also one of many farmers at the Detroit Community Food Security Network’s two acre farm, D-Town Farm. Malik and his fellow farmers use D-Town as a model urban agriculture project, building community self reliance and facilitating a change in consciousness around food. We love and appreciate Malik for his consistent commitment to fostering self-determinism within the African American community and for always thinking big. Through the various projects he is involved in, Malik is activating large scale systemic change in the Detroit food system, serving as a role model for equitable development nation-wide.
Check out more about the DCFSN and Malik’s work here: http://detroitblackfoodsecurity.org/
Kanchan Dawn Hunter is currently working with Spiral Gardens Community Food Security Project, an organization that works toward the building of a local, sustainable food system right here in the East Bay. As the community outreach coordinator, she reaches out to community members-- mostly people of color who might benefit strongly from Spiral offerings. Kanchan shares information in the community on how to get involved, organizing community farm workdays and free community classes, giving tours to anyone who wants to see the site, as well as interfacing with individual and local student and community groups interested in volunteering. Additionally, she plans and co-hosts events and fundraisers. Kanchan is also a co-visionary behind Soil Sistahs, a monthly gathering that exists to empower and connect black and brown women of all ages with one another, themselves and their communities by engaging the soil beneath their collective feet. We appreciate and love Kanchan for her vision to find us all connected with each other in service to life, love and mother nature who nourishes us all.
Check out more about Kanchan’s work here: http://www.spiralgardens.org/harvest.htm