Written by Kriss Mincey, 2019 CoFED Racial Justice Fellow
When I applied for the CoFED Racial Justice Fellowship, I wrote that racial justice is about making the case for belonging, and that belonging is about “who gets to imagine themselves here.” I proposed a Universal Design Sensory Food Garden™ (UDSFG) accessible to people using wheelchairs and with otherwise variant mobility. I think this work is incredibly important because it can heal the effects of gendered racial trauma, ableism, and other experiences that are symptomatic of being marginalized as “other” in proximity to whiteness (1).
But the lesson that meant the most over the course of this fellowship was being reminded, to no avail, frankly, that I could finally stop making the case for my belonging.
By indulging the reflex I think we all experience to get the go-ahead of approval from “allies,” potential funders--writing endlessly, emoting endlessly, explaining and defining and naming endlessly--we reinforce the notion that we have to exist in their imagination, not ours, in order to be real, valid and worth loving.
Who am I in my own mind? Do I belong yet? Can I stretch my imagination big enough to hold and accept myself when I have nothing to show [in terms of a product/deliverable]?
Written by Dallas Robinson, 2019 CoFED Racial Justice Fellow
The past six months as a CoFED Racial Justice Fellow have been one of my favorite experiences in this hectic, exciting year. In 2019, I completed a 12-month farm school program, worked several jobs, completed two years of farm apprenticeship work, and began my own farm business while working on my Racial Justice Fellowship project. This year has been tiring, trying, and often upsetting. The fellowship amplified valuable lessons that I will not forget. My understanding has grown in the areas of cooperative economics as well as soft skills like honoring rest. Self-doubt and an adherence to “deadlines” do not impede my growth anymore. Coming on the close of this fellowship, I am closer to some amazing people dreaming up a new economy and world, and I trust myself even more deeply.
Our 2019 Summer Co-op Academy centered and amplified the leadership and wisdom of young BIPOC solutionaries from Canada and the US. We gathered at Earthseed Land Cooperative in Durham, NC -- on land that was once stewarded by the Occaneechi band of the Saponi nation-- to remember how cooperation is truly about who we are and how we can be. This year’s select cohort of 13 magic-makers, representing 8 different co-ops and food justice projects, built deep connections with the earth and each other that continue to thrive.
While white tech bros continue to receive billions of dollars in venture capital to build apps we don't need, Black visionaries are systematically denied the resources to build the community-owned, regenerative food economies we do need. CoFED's Racial Justice Fellowship offers a meaningful stipend, leadership coaching, political education and technical assistance for Black and other cooperators of color doing the work that matters most: growing food, feeding our communities, and keeping us in harmony with the Earth.
Meet Dallas and Kriss, this year's Racial Justice Fellows! Here's who they are and how they're transforming systemic injustice to feed their communities in their own words.
For far too long, co-ops have been coopted by (mostly white and wealthier) folx who champion cooperatives as a better business strategy within capitalism, with little regard for racial or economic equity. Our first ever all-POC Summer Co-op Academy cohort is telling a better story -- one where cooperation is who we are and how we work together to meet all our communities' needs.
Last year, CoFED announced our new mission to center young folx of color as the cooperative leaders we need to grow a cooperative food economy. This year, for the first time ever, every extraordinary person selected to join our Summer Co-op Academy is a person of color (POC) advancing food, land, and racial justice! Expanding beyond traditional food co-ops, they are innovating a range of cooperative solutions to meet broad community needs for health and healing, joy and justice, wealth and well-being. Let the beauty of that fact sink in...
Meet the cooperators from this year's cohort who are telling a new story about the future of co-ops.
In June of this year, we announced our 2018 Racial Justice Fellows with tremendous hope for the cooperative visions of food and land justice about to born. We were excited for the dreams created, the seeds planted, and the growth that would result. We began with three Fellows: Merelis, Jazmin, and avery. We ended with two after parting ways with avery and the Gangstas to Growers project; their work is incredible, and we wish them the best. Now that the Fellowships have wrapped up, we invite y’all to reflect with us and harvest our lessons learned. Here are our top 5 stories/lessons from our 2018 Racial Justice Fellowship:
1. Connect in person. Your spirit will thank you.
The world we live in is deeply unjust. If you feel like you’re alone in moving towards love and liberation, reach out! You are not alone. This Fellowship brings together young cooperators of color across the U.S. who might not otherwise have the chance to connect with one another. As Fellows, not only did Merelis and Jazmin connection with their communities - as well as to each other and to us - but also with folks who were interested in building relationships based on showing up, committing to the process, and visioning together. There were some beautiful results, and some difficult trials. But as we leveraged our resources towards local community impact and coalition-building, our journey of solidarity with Merelis and Jazmin continued to encourage and feed us.
Happy Indigenous People’s Day! Today, we celebrate as resistance.
We have much to resist: Brett Kavanaugh, a white man and attempted rapist who has a track record of gutting indigenous rights, environmental protections, and voting rights for people of color, was recently sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice . Sen. Lisa Murkowski, the only Republican to not vote yes on his confirmation, comes from a state with the highest number of reported rapes in the U.S., where just last month a white man was given a free pass after pleading guilty to kidnapping, strangling, and sexually assaulting a Native Alaskan woman . And Columbus Day is still a federally recognized holiday that honors another white man who did not “discover” America and whose atrocious legacy instead includes colonization, enslaving, raping, and killing hundreds of thousands of indigenous people (namely the Taíno) and initiating the African slave trade [3, 4].
We have even more to celebrate. This 9th installment of our #UnlearningWithCoFED series is about Indigenous People’s Day — a holiday that honors Indigenous peoples and cultures and was created to replace Columbus Day.
In these times, it’s important to know who your people are. At the 2018 Summer Co-op Academy (SCA), held in the historic South on the still-living land of the Occoneechee people, stewarded by the incredible Earthseed Land Cooperative, this year’s cohort of powerful, visionary young people created community with each other.
Children are being separated from their parents at the Mexico-U.S. border and kept in cages. The U.S. Supreme Court's Janus decision against union dues is a fatal blow to one of the last remaining mechanisms working-class communities have against unscrupulous employers. Although the State violence implemented by this administration is repugnant and overwhelming, it isn’t new. It is a consequence of the growing power of unchecked white supremacist capitalism that puts money at all costs before humans, animals, and the planet.
At CoFED, we believe that co-ops are both an ancient and visionary way to create new realities and challenge the systemic injustices of a corrupt, colonial, and capitalist State. Especially during what feels like moments of heightened violence and despair, we hope to create space to be energized by all the ways we are already taking care of each other, other creatures, and our planet.
That's why for this #UnlearningWithCoFED post, we’re bringing it back to the basics. What makes a food co-op a co-op?
We're so excited for you to meet the 13 young cooperators from across the U.S. and Canada who have been selected to join our 2018 Summer Co-op Academy!
When so many of us and our communities are under attack, these young cooperators give us hope and much to celebrate. Looking beyond traditional food co-ops, they are innovating cooperative solutions to address holistic community needs such as food sovereignty, healing, land access, cultural expression, and safety from state, economic, racial, religious, environmental and gender violence. In short, they are leading the way and showing us what the future of co-ops could and should be.