CoFED partners with young people of color from poor and working-class backgrounds to build food and land co-ops.

Why We're Running with CoFED: An Interview with Mother and Daughter

Why We're Running with CoFED: An Interview with Mother and Daughter

The Oakland Running Festival takes place March 20th, and is a notoriously good time. Two runners on #TeamCoFED, Kalima and her daughter Orissa, spoke with us about why they are running with CoFED and what inspires them to continue working toward food justice.

CoFED: Why did you decide to run in the Oakland Running Festival?

Orissa (daughter): I decided to run in Oakland Running Festival and fund raise because I’m an Oakland resident, and I’m a passionate runner in my spare time. Fundraising for CoFED [last year] was unique because so many people were there and it felt like we were able to share the experience with a variety of people. It’s also easier to run harder and faster when you know someone is supporting you.

Kalima (mother): One reason is because Rachel Vernon (CoFED’s Operations Director) is a longtime friend of our family and the most awesome grassroots fundraiser, and she encouraged me to raise money from family and friends. CoFED creates more just economies through working with college students. The CoFED running team is so much fun! They range from young people to those growing into their 5th and 6th decades, like Irene Vernon (Rachel’s mom) and myself.

CoFED: Why are you part of the food justice movement?

Orissa: As somebody who extensively studies history and works in affordable housing, I recognize the importance of access to healthy food, and observe all-too prevalent realities of isolated communities that don’t have access to medical facilities and other resources that are also in food deserts. We always look to food to see how people in communities can thrive.

CoFED connects to the work I’m trying to advance because people in college now will continue to shine a spotlight on this issue. Everyone eats and knows differences in quality, and needs access to food. I feel that food justice is integral to sustainable, equitable communities.

Kalima: CoFED addresses structural and root causes of disparity in the United States, especially racial disparity. People without access to quality food and people in the food system exposed to poverty, unfair labor conditions and pesticides are primarily people of color, and food helps address structural inequities in the U.S. One way I’ve been involved with this work is through Policy Link. We advanced the Healthy Food Financing Initiative, another important step in ending disparities. I hope students who graduate from CoFED will go on to work in the food justice movement for the rest of their careers.

CoFED: This newsletter’s theme is love. How has your mother/daughter influenced your activism?

Orissa: My choices are all shaped by my mother and the values she taught to me. She has consistently demonstrated to my brother and me the importance of recognizing our privilege, and responsibility of understanding the dynamics of our communities. She continues to demonstrate that when I’m living in Oakland and enjoying public spaces, that they exist because people have invested time and money to make sure they’re accessible to a wide variety of people. You can continue to fight for what’s right. That’s a big part of why I do what I do. We’re so grateful for Rachel and Farzana and want to enrich CoFED’s visibility.

Kalima: My daughter has influenced my activism by helping me see how systems of privilege for white people and how her classmates and teammates through the education system have disparate opportunities. I didn’t want that to be true or diminish her reality so I wanted to fight for a more just world where race disparities are ended. The first time I consciously fought for social justice was in my middle school, which was undergoing integration through busing. I felt like white kids were taunting the black kids and calling them names. Teachers weren’t playing an active role and I was really mad, and I started to use my voice for social justice. That was 45 years ago.

I’m going to be on a relay team with her because I feel like I’m literally passing the torch as I hand over the baton. It’s so gratifying to see the next generation taking on the next challenges.

CoFED: Considering everything you’ve seen occur in that time, are you hopeful about the path we are on?

Kalima: I’m really inspired by movements taking place, especially Black Lives Matter. I recently heard Steve Phillips speak, who wrote Brown is the New White, and one part that stuck out is that we already have a voting majority of progressive people, if we would vote. I am hopeful and motivated that we will make structural change.

Orissa: We have to be hopeful to continue moving through these hard movements. I’m excited about the future of folks I see involved and hope others get engaged during this critical turning point. Bay Area has gotten so much more expensive. People have experienced the challenges of that; to not get food nearby is becoming more common to people of different class, race, age levels, so there is more impetus now to creative positive change.

Thank you to Kalima and Orissa for sharing with us!

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