Dismantling Racism in the Food System Community Event

Leonor Hurtado | 05.27.2016

We can’t wait for Whole Foods or University of California; they aren’t going to do the right thing. They’ll do what is best for them, and that does not necessarily serve our interest. We cannot follow the path that the colonizers wish us to follow, we cannot work within that paradigm. That paradigm doesn’t work for us – it destroys us. To combat our current food system, we have to create our own system.

-Hank Herrera

Hank Herrera, Food First board member and C-PREP President, joined a panel of activists at Food First’s monthly community event at La Peña Cultural Center.

Development Officer Alyshia Silva moderated and opened the event by exclaiming, “Dismantling racism and transforming our food system are one and the same thing.” She continued by quoting the recent Dismantling Racism in the Food System backgrounder:

“Recognizing racism as foundational in today’s capitalist food system helps explain why people of color suffer disproportionately from its environmental externalities, labor abuses, resource inequities and diet related diseases. It also helps explain why many of the promising alternatives such as land trusts, farmers’ markets, and community supported agriculture tend to be dominated by people who are privileged by whiteness. Making these alternatives readily accessible to people of color requires a social commitment to racial equity and a fearless commitment to social justice.”

Panelists for the event included three prominent activists:

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Aunti Frances is the visionary of the Self Help Hunger Program in North Oakland and South Berkeley. She joined the Black Panther Party in 1970 and is carrying on the tradition of the Free Breakfast Program with her work today.

Max Cadji is a member of the Oakland Climate Action Committee’s Edible Parks Task Force, a founding member of the North Oakland Restorative Justice Council and an organizer with the Phat Beets Produce, a food justice collective in North Oakland.

Hank Herrera is President & CEO of the Center for Popular Research, Education & Policy (C-PREP), serving vulnerable communities with participatory action research, training, technical assistance and policy. His work specifically focuses on food justice and building community resilience.

In the video below you will hear each panelist’s main ideas. After the panelists spoke, the floor was opened for dialogue. One of the attendees asked how non-profit organizations can better serve a community. The three speakers were unanimous in suggesting that they talk to the people. Herrera added that before you’re able to teach, you must learn from the community and the people with whom you’re working with – which takes time.