Queering Food Justice

by Toi Scott

foodpowergreenIf you’re a person of color with a low income it’s important for you to know that conversations about your ability to access foods, yes, conversations about your very well-being are happening behind your back. Even if you make a living wage, you might want to know that here in Austin (and in many other metropolitan and even rural cities), policy affecting your community’s food sovereignty is being shaped largely without your input or consent.

Basically, our community, considered the “target population” of many mainstream “food movement” efforts has had little say in if we’d like farmer’s markets, supermarkets, community gardens and access to the knowledge and skills that will help us sustain ourselves.

I’m not saying we’ve never been asked. I’m saying that it’s rare. There are a lot of “allies” who tend to want to take the lead in this movement. They think they have the solutions and know what we want and need. The problem with this is the food movement operates under a few hurtful assumptions. Some are completely detrimental to the way we view ourselves as a community and as a People. Some are damaging to how we see our identity.

So, why is this important to us as QPOC? Because a large percentage of us have a lower socioeconomic status and are therefore more likely to be food insecure. Where we sit at the intersections of race, gender, class and sexuality makes us highly vulnerable and subject to the policing of our food and economic system. Our lack of resources, especially TIME, allows for outsiders (and sometimes even well-meaning allies) to come in and make decisions FOR us – maybe even AS us – based on their assumptions and their own personal beliefs about what will make our community better. Many of these solutions are not culturally appropriate or relevant. Since colonization, those in power have been operating under a “one size fits all” model complete with assumed assimilation. We are being recolonized.

It’s hard to stay on top of decolonizing the various systems that wreak havoc on our communities. How are we supposed to do this when we’re barely surviving? We have to get back to the old ways; the ways of our ancestors. We have to support each other in ways that are sustainable to our own families and communities. It’s time to get back to community kitchens where neighborhoods come together and cook for/eat with each other. It’s time to pay ourselves for growing our own food. It’s time to establish our own black and brown-owned cooperatives where we decide what goods belong in those stores while creating our own jobs and opportunities. No, this isn’t new- it was taken from us. Then denied and withheld from us.

In the colonizer’s model and their capitalism we POC are to continue to have less and less resources yet devote more and more time to supporting these very broken systems that don’t benefit us. All the while we assimilate, losing ties to our cultures while decimating the environment and surrendering our emotional, social and spiritual well-being.

So how do we resist? No..how do we do *more than resist?

Depending on our skills and resources this may look like you as a single parent feeding healthy food to your children. Yes, this is radical! This may look like participating in healthy potlucks with a group of friends. It’s bartering your services. It’s establishing collectives and co-operatives and therefore creating an alternative economy in which money continues to circulate within our community. It’s demanding policy change that deters development that displaces our community and exacerbates food deserts. It’s demanding fair wages and supporting black and brown business owners. There are so many ways we can resist and co-create change.

Transformation is occurring as you read this. The revolution is already under way. There are people like Toni Tipton-Martin, founding member of Foodways Texas and author of The Jemima Code, who are committed to reclaiming our foodways and celebrating our cultural and culinary heritage. There are organizations like Food for Black Thought who are committed to supporting local grassroots efforts in black and brown communities in organizing around food related issues in East Austin. There are also alliances forming in East Austin and in Dove Springs to co-create solutions for the lack of access to healthy and affordable foods.

People's Grocery Mural

People’s Grocery Mural

There are also efforts happening across the nation. (And across the world for that matter). Check out efforts in the East Bay, like People’s Grocery, the Mandela Food Cooperative, Phat Beets Produce, the Oakland Food Connection. There are efforts in Detroit like the Black Community Food Security Network, D-town Farms, and the Ujamaa cooperative food buying club. Will Allen’s Growing Power, Inc. urban farms are located in Madison, Milwaukee, and Chicago. In NYC there are Just Food, Farming Concrete, La Familia Verde Garden Coalition, and Black Urban Growers. These are just a small number of the community efforts for food justice led by people of color.

As QPOC living at the intersections we should be aware of what is happening to address access to food because issues of food insecurity affect everyone, whether we want to believe it or not. What can we do as a community to assist in the transformation of our food system? What can we do as a community to better our economic situation? Let’s share some food and exchange some dialogue. We already have the answers.

This article originally appeared at Genderqueer Street Philosophactivist. Reposted with permission.

Related Videos on Decolonizing Yoga:

Bryant Terry: Food Discrimination

About Toi

toi2Toi is a gender non-conforming playwright, author, journalist, and spoken word artist. They are also a herbalist/ medicine-maker, health and food justice activist, anti-oppression organizer, and a Q/POC community builder.

Toi blogs about the intersections of race and gender and QPOC/POC organizing and movement building at philosophactivist.blogspot.com and can be emailed at: gqstreetpoet@gmail.com.

You can find out more about their writing at www.afrogenderqueer.com and more about their healing work at queerherbalism.blogspot.com.

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