The US agricultural system and therefore the entire national economy was established on a foundation of stolen labor working stolen lands. And the impacts, oppression, and inequitable outcomes derived from that starting point are still felt, and in many cases still perpetuated, even today. That was the message on May 16, when CFF partnered with Soul Fire Farm and Philanthropy New York’s Committee for Equitable and Inclusive Philanthropy to host a workshop titled Funding a Racially Just Food System. Leah Penniman, Co-Director of Soul Fire Farm, and Amani Olugbala, Assistant Director of Programs, guided over 30 funders through a history of racism and resistance in the food system followed by a workshop to help identify concrete next steps. This event was the CFF Champions Award briefing, designed and created by our 2017 Award recipient, Soul Fire Farm.
The meeting kicked off with a powerful historical look back at the key moments and policies impacting the food system throughout our nation’s history, concluding with a strong argument in favor of approaching food systems funding through a reparations framework. After the presentation, participants broke into small groups to continue the conversation. Soul Fire Farm has been collaborating with frontline groups over the past few years, and those ongoing discussions informed a handout that Soul Fire distributed outlining specific strategies for funding a racially just food system and resources to help guide that work. After reviewing this handout in small groups, participants went through the corresponding reflection questions to create our own personal paths for incorporating this approach in our work, and then shared our learning and new commitments with each other. The strategies offered are broken into sections for: reparations to POC-led projects, how to distribute funding, alliances and relationships with communities, and internal organizational transformation. (Note: Please adhere to Soul Fire Farm’s integrity guidelines when viewing and sharing these materials, and they request that you reach out to them at firstname.lastname@example.org before sharing the handout as they like to know where it is being used and viewed).
As part of the workshop, we were treated to a scrumptious plant-based lunch by Woke Foods, a women of color catering cooperative, and a moving spoken word poem titled Black Gold, by Naima Penniman of Climbing Poetree.
The slides from Soul Fire’s presentation are visible in the video below, but you can also download their presentation here to follow along. The following time markers can be used to jump around to different sections of the video
- Start – An intro and welcome by CFF Director Adam Liebowitz
- 4:00 – Soul Fire Farm presentation
- 42:30 – Naima’s performance of Black Gold
- 46:35 – Introduction of handouts and small group work
- 48:05 – Closing comments
Below are some additional resources related to this workshop:
- Soul Fire Farm and partners have created a reparations map where individuals can give directly to POC-led food and agriculture projects in need of funding, which was covered recently by In These Times.
- Leah Penniman’s book, Farming While Black, is available for pre-order on Amazon
- To do an even deeper dive into all things Soul Fire, sign up for their newsletter, and see their Champion Award update emails from fall, winter, and spring
- Related to the conversation on transforming philanthropy, there’s an article in SSIR on moving from charity to justice, this post by Justice Funders on Liberating Philanthropy, and the current #DisruptPhilanthropyNow campaign and blog series.
- Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Case for Reparations, from 2014