Protest around the Bay Area. (Amelia Clute / Sun Contributor)

June 5, 2020

Oakland Farms Deliver Food to Activists Amidst Protests and Political Unrest

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When I jumped onto The Sun’s crew about a month ago, I fantasized about the wide range of topics which I could tackle within my first article. Maybe a bit naively, I imagined a stunning debut piece: Would I spend my time writing about modern diets, analyzing their benefits but also their downfalls? Or how about a piece exploring fusion foods and their prevalence in American society? Maybe it could have been as simple as a chef interview.

I find myself in a very different place now.

Black America is crying; their tears are doing little to quell the flames of the racial injustice which has suffocated them for years. Yet with each passing year, as overt segregation becomes less obvious, hidden racism becomes increasingly common. It is true, yes, that buses no longer section off their riders by skin color. But even more importantly, the abolition of segregation has made it that much easier for white Americans to deny instances of racism in modern society. “The US isn’t racist anymore,” one might claim, “we got rid of segregation years ago!” And they would be partially right. We did get rid of segregated drinking fountains and entrances — some very visible forms of racism in American society at the time. But the problem arises when we assume that prejudice has disappeared in America just because it is now easier to ignore; Our narrow definition of racism blinds us from seeing the subtler, more nuanced ways in which it occurs today.

Amelia Clute / Sun Contributor

Amelia Clute / Sun Contributor

In Oakland, California, there is unrest. Yet amidst the confusion and chaos, activists are stepping forward to use food to fight. Two organizations, Black Earth Farms and Raised Roots, have taken it upon themselves to provide free meals and produce to “black folks [in Oakland] that have been arrested and bailed, injured or traumatized during Oakland uprisings,” as well as to “black folks that are organizing bail funds and medical resources for protestors.”

The importance of food during a time of political unrest cannot be emphasized enough: Without access to nutritious food, a population cannot strive for change. Starving citizens are easily silenced with hunger, yet to fuel these protesters with food is to fuel the revolution itself. Food, additionally, is a powerful communicator of friendship and belonging. As these local farms dole out healthy meals, the food itself tells the activists that their community stands behind them in support.

We commonly use food to show others how much we care about them. Our mother’s cooking may invoke peaceful memories of family dinners during which we felt truly loved. Soul food in particular is famous for how it embraces the consumer with blankets of warm macaroni and cheese, tender ribs and flaky pies. We all have different comfort foods which we turn to when we need it, but the fact remains that food is a powerful tool for making us feel welcomed and safe.

Jamil Burns, founder of Raised Roots, gives us all a call to action. “Wherever you are right now, it’s time to take the reins and understand your role in designing a new world — a world in which people come first, where strangers turn to neighbors and neighbors turn to family.” Now, more than ever, it is essential to aid our black neighbors through continuous support of programs like Raised Roots and Black Earth Farms. Though not everyone may be able to physically protest in solidarity because of health reasons or otherwise, these collectives provide alternative ways for us to participate in forwarding the revolution. After all, we are currently sitting at a crossroads in history. When protesters receive life-sustaining food, they are in turn sustained to create a lifetime of change.

To donate to Raised Roots, venmo @Jamil-Burns. To donate to Black Earth Farms, venmo @BlackEarthFarms.

 

Amelia Clute is a sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at ajc368@cornell.edu.