We're so excited to introduce you to Merelis, Jazmin, and avery, this year’s Racial Justice Fellows!
This year's Fellows, chosen from a competitive pool of 54 applicants across the U.S., embody the vision, values and spirit of our Racial Justice Fellowship, the only Fellowship out there specifically deepening the leadership of young folks of color as they work towards community-centered food systems, racial justice, and our collective liberation. These Fellows exist and create in ways that only they can, radical acts in a world where simply being oneself is a dangerous project. And with the courage to bring their communities with them, they infinitely expand the possibilities for a safe, sustainable, and socially just world.
Our latest #UnlearningWithCoFED is about decolonization.
As a reminder, here’s how we define unlearning: a continuous process of questioning what and how we’ve been taught so that we can learn other ways of knowing, doing, and being that serve our collective liberation and help us dismantle all forms of oppression. Through our #UnlearningWithCoFED emails, we’ll be questioning and learning together how co-ops fit into the larger visions of food, racial, economic, gender and climate justice.
So, what is decolonization? Let’s start by sharing some definitions of colonization:
- the action or process of settling among and establishing control over the indigenous people of an area.
- the action of appropriating a place or domain for one's own use.
- a process by which a central system of power dominates the surrounding land and its components.
- and/or, as defined in Indian Country Today, “In the context of Indigenous Peoples, colonization has come to mean any kind of external control, and it is used as an expression for the subordination of Indian peoples and their rights since early contact with Europeans. In North America, colonization took the task of subordinating Indigenous Peoples to the political power of Christian European kings. In Spanish colonies, with the appearance of the colonists, the land was immediately considered under the control of the colonizing nations.” 
You are a valued member of our CoFED community. We need your input to craft a new strategic vision for CoFED, one that builds on our values around equity and inclusion as we forefront racial, economic, and gender justice at the core of cooperative development.
Do you have a few minutes to complete our survey?
Since 2011, we have developed 12 new cooperative projects, trained over 500 students on over 60 campuses, and cultivated a community of nearly 4,000 supporters.
Currently, CoFED is evolving to better reflect the leadership, vision, and needs of young people of color and poor people. Because our capitalist food system is racist and patriarchal, with roots in colonization here in the U.S. and abroad, we are engaging in a deep and ongoing process of decolonization, reflecting on difficult questions of what collective liberation looks like and how we will get there, and imagining new possibilities for how we relate to land, food, ourselves, and each other. This evolution is ongoing, dynamic, and includes you!
As a member of CoFED's community, your responses will go a long way in helping us in this organizational journey. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey here.
Happy #GivingTuesday! If all of us pitch in together in the next 24 hours to give $5000, we'll win an additional $5000 matching grant for food justice and co-ops! There's never been a better time to give!
Every dollar counts, and you can easily maximize the impact of your dollars by becoming a monthly donor. Make a recurring gift today and your total yearly gift amount (not the monthly dollar amount) will be matched! For example, a gift of $10 monthly will earn us $120 towards our $5000 goal. But you have to give today! Will you invest in a more joyful, just and sustainable food system by becoming a monthly donor right now?
Yes, I'll become a monthly donor right now! I want us to WIN.
For a taste of our #Unlearning emails and to unlearn Thanksgiving, a food-filled holiday that hides the racist and colonial history of US food culture and our food system behind a false origin story of Native-settler mutual cooperation and gratitude, check out this video featuring 6 Native American girls:
My CoFED Racial Justice Fellowship has been an incredible learning experience. Considering the sheer ridiculousness of the current state of the US and the World, I could not think of a more important time to be centering this work. To center food justice in our work is to center all justice; environmental, racial, sociocultural, economic; whoever we are and whatever we do, we all need to eat, and all need to eat well.
This summer marked the beginning of a two-fold journey; on a personal and political level, I learned the importance (and the difficulty) of putting your money where your mouth is. For all my love of urban foraging and horizontal, non-hierarchal learning, in the past 23 years I had never once truly attempted to teach myself the skills I was hoping to gain over the course of these 10 weeks. I had read the books and the articles, had the proper role models, and knew all the right words to say, but too much of my personal shit got in the way of putting theory into practice. From mental health crises and emotional abuse to a jam-packed academic schedule, to helping my friends through their shit and refusing to healthily prioritize myself, I never felt I had the time. My life has been a series of reactions, of following through on plans others have made for me and doing my best to roll with the punches and refusing to take a stand for myself, up until graduation day of 2016. Having followed through on the preconceived plan of “poor brown kid makes it to private top tier college and graduates in 4 years”, I really had no clue what to do with myself. I had “made it”; albeit as a Theatre major, but still. I had made it. There was no plan for after.
My name is Dorian, and I've been working as an activist and ally of the food justice movement since I first started working at the Maryland Food Collective, which is a modest sandwich shop and coffee spot on a university campus. When I first began my work there, I didn't understand the politics around the food that we purchase, cook, and consume. I came to my local food co-op because, like many college students (both undergrad and post-grad), I was in search of a way to earn resources that I could use to sustain myself, and because I needed to be fed.
When I was growing up, my passion for cooking (and for food itself) was almost as large as my hunger for new stories to process and tell. I spent my free time spinning stories in crudely made booklets of printer paper and staples, trying to create space for histories sprouted in my mind’s eye. I created physical subjects from cloth and thread, formed stories of revival and revolution for spaces I hadn’t entered into yet yet, and imagined worlds outside my reach. As I entered organizing spaces in my late teens and early twenties, I clutched my rolling imagination for better ways of working together and coexisting as tightly as I held my own lived experiences as a person of color.
Let's be clear. An attack on DACAmented youth is a cruel attack on all immigrant families. Having arrived in the US as a child, even with the privilege of "having papers," I know that being a young immigrant often means being your family's interpreter, their lifeline to mainstream society, the person who has to negotiate everything from basic cable to basic human rights.
Last Tuesday, when the Trump administration announced the end of DACA (Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals), a program that protected 800,000 immigrant youth from deportation and allowed them to work in the US, the administration also challenged Congress "to address immigration reform in a way that puts hardworking citizens of our country first." The truth, however, is that the US immigration system is racist and has always put (white and wealthy) citizens first. From the first immigration law passed by Congress (the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882) to today's Dream Act (which has not been passed yet), the overwhelmingly white political and economic elite have attempted to draw divide-and-conquer lines to maintain a racialized class hierarchy.
As an organization that seeks to build new culture and a new economy by supporting young people to develop food co-ops, we stand strong for immigrant justice. We reject the racialized divide-and-conquer narratives that pit citizens against immigrants, "legal" immigrants against "illegal" immigrants, and childhood arrivals "who committed no crime” against their parents who made "poor choices". Now more than ever, we must cooperate for our collective liberation.
In a capitalist system that seeks to reduce immigrant families to paper -- the ones we own and the ones we make -- co-ops are surprisingly one of the few ways that undocumented immigrants can earn a dignified living. Yet, our racist immigration system forces DACAmented students seeking to learn about food co-ops to choose between risking their safety to travel and attend CoFED's Summer Co-op Academy and staying home. With DACA protections phasing out and immigration reform unlikely to deliver justice for all 11 million undocumented immigrants under this current administration, the co-op movement -- our best chance at self-determination and economic democracy -- is set up to fail. Immigrants, many undocumented, literally build and feed America. We simply cannot build a new economy when the people who built and continue to build this country -- immigrants, Black folx, indigenous peoples, people of color, and poor people -- are living under a police state that criminalizes us for daring to be a part of US society and contributing to our country's successes.
So when immigrants are under attack, what do we do?
Stand up! Fight back! Call Congress to pass permanent protection for all immigrants.
To win economic justice, we have to build movements that are multiracial, multiclass, multicultural, and unflinchingly committed to destroying white supremacy. Co-ops are a critical part of this work. To build sustainable food co-ops that allow communities to survive, thrive, and push back against the corporate colonization of our food system, co-op teams -- especially white people -- have to practice anti-racism in our personal and professional lives.
It’s not easy. As white people, we are conditioned to not even notice white supremacy, even though it’s omnipresent and foundational to the U.S., our entire political system, and economy. We benefit from it, too, every single day. That’s why a commitment to unlearning racism, especially anti-black racism, and white supremacy is both daily and lifelong.
So, we’ve compiled a few resources from white anti-racist organizations and activists to get you started on your path to showing up for racial justice. The anti-racist organizations listed emphasize the importance of white people listening to, following the lead of, and being accountable to people of color in the fight for racial justice.
Showing Up For Racial Justice (SURJ)
SURJ is a national network of groups and individuals organizing White people for racial justice. Through community organizing, mobilizing, and education, SURJ moves White people to act as part of a multiracial majority for justice with passion and accountability. They work to connect people across the country while supporting and collaborating with local and national racial justice organizing efforts. SURJ provides a space to build relationships, skills and political analysis to act for change.
SURJ has chapters all over the U.S. Check them out here.
Catalyst Project is a center for political education and movement building based in the San Francisco Bay Area. They are committed to anti-racist work in majority white sections of left social movements with the goal of deepening anti-racist commitment in white communities and building multiracial left movements for liberation. They are committed to creating spaces for activists and organizers to collectively develop relevant theory, vision, and strategy to build our movements. Catalyst programs prioritize leadership development, supporting grassroots fighting organizations and multiracial alliance building.
Check out Catalyst’s latest video about their work here.
In the aftermath of Charlottesville and the death of Heather Heyer, ‘white supremacy’ and ‘anti-racist’ showed up in media coverage probably more frequently and consistently than ever before, magnifying a white anti-racist taking direct action to challenge white nationalists and the alt-right. This is a major opportunity to bring white folks into anti-racist practice -- the above list is just a place to get started. It’d be great for you to start some of these readings in a group or with friends and family. But, as Heather’s cousin Diana Ratcliff asked in an op-ed in USA Today, "Why is it that the death of a white woman at the hands of a white supremacist group has finally gotten the attention of white folk?" The answer is that a white supremacist culture reinforces white supremacy in more insidious ways than direct, public displays of racial violence, like the alt-right marching through campus. It’s when white liberals are consistently silent on state-sanctioned violence against and murder of Black people and people of color, but feel compelled to churn out a press statement condemning the actions of white nationalists in Charlottesville when a white woman dies. It’s when Democrats champion diversity commitments from businesses, but support austerity policies and allow corporations to gut regulations and safety standards so that when economic and environmental disaster hits, poor and working class communities of color are hit first and worst.
To challenge white supremacy in all its forms, white people need to take action in solidarity with communities of color. Hopefully, Heather Heyer’s actions -- counter-protesting with a multiracial crew of folks -- galvanize more of us to drop the ‘colorblind-ness,’ neutrality, or passive claims of ‘not being racist’ and instead pick up our responsibility of being actively anti-racist and destroying white supremacy. A death should never be what it takes to push people into reflection and action. But white supremacy will continue to claim more lives, overwhelmingly from Black folks and people of color, until our multiracial, multiclass, multicultural movement for economic, racial, and social justice wins.
The news headlines are constantly changing -- White Supremacists Rally in Charlottesville, homeowners of color lack financial resources to rebuild after Hurricane Harvey, Trump administration ends Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) -- but the larger story we are living traces the same threads of racism and exploitation.
My personal journey brought me to cooperatives because I dreamed of a more democratic and equitable world, where communities can hold power and wealth through their ownership of the structures that they live in: food, educational, political systems and more. However, this journey has also taught me that I and other white people must own up to the ways we have benefited from the historic and current ownership structures that are neither democratic nor equitable, and only further the concentration of power and wealth among the white upper class. As a white person with many generations of family living in the south, I know that I am a direct descendant of people who owned enslaved Black people. Now is not the time for white people--especially those of us within the solidarity economy movement--to distance ourselves from the roots or the current manifestations of racial and economic disparities that we live within, but to face them boldly. Yes, in this moment white people may want to distance ourselves from the reality of white supremacy because we feel guilt and shame, or perhaps it is painful to break rank and we fear being ostracized, or we even may resist change and be in denial of the reality. We might look for quick fixes, or strive to have the 'best' analysis without taking any action, or claim that the problem exists somewhere else. But if you too dream of a more democratic and equitable world, we must own up to the reality and our relation to it.