Detroit RBO Exchange Trip : Post #1

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Movement Generation is on a learning exchange tour in Detroit, with our partners PODER and Urban Tilth!  As a co-hort, we are exploring and exchanging ideas, strategies, and stories with grassroots organizations in Detroit, in the common quest to build resilience-based organizing in our communities!  This is the first blog report from the trip, and there will be more to come throughout the week! Stay tuned at movementgeneration.org, on Facebook, and on Twitter!

Remembering Story and Restoring Seeds: Black Community Food Security Network and D-Town Farm

By Michelle Mascarenhas-Swan

To kick off our week of exchanges with groups fostering Resilience & Resistance, we headed to the Black Community Food Security Network to meet with some of the most grounded, visionary, heart-inspired leaders I’ve ever met.

MG, PODER and Urban Tilth visiting the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network at D-Town Farm!

We learned of their African-centered organizing and leadership development model to pass on ancestral wisdom and bring forth the glowing spirits of young folks like Kadiri Sennefer, BB Whitney, and Ras Andrew through food sovereignty work.

We were inspired by how BCFSN is reframing agriculture as honorable work. Malik Yakini, founding member and ED, talked about how “many people of African descent in the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean have a negative view of agriculture because of our experiences with slavery, sharecropping, and tenant farming.”

In this vein, Mama Hanifa shares her insights with youngsters through the Food Warriors program in schools. “White folks did not steal us from Africa because of our stupidity but because of our brilliance in ability to develop productive agricultural systems.”

Baba Malik shared a saying from a Malian farmer: “It’s those who work in the sun that make it possible for those that work in the shade.” And so BCFSN is reframing what it means to work the land in service to one’s self and one’s people.

Kadiri Sennefer, site coordinator of Food Warriors and proud new father, shared, “When you look in the movement, women hold a powerful place and they should. And brothers are a minority in this work. I am a brother who is secure in his masculinity who is doing the work. Sometimes ‘gardening’ is seen as feminine work. I am showing that as men, we can do this work too.” Kadiri also encourages young people to develop their voice and share their knowledge through hip hop.

In the summer internship program, Ras Andrew shared that each day, the interns would start off reading an African proverb and reflecting on its relevance in their work and lives. They would then work through the morning doing planting, weeding, harvesting, etc. before having lunch and an afternoon of agroecology—learning the science and art of food production. 

Bibi Whitney, a young woman who is working with 7-9 year olds in the Food Warriors program shared how her determination got these kids onto a panel at a youth conference of mostly high-school aged youth. The organizers did not think these youngsters would be old enough to share wisdom on a panel but they proved otherwise. Loud and clear, they shared about their experience connecting with their roots and the land while learning about healthy feeding of body and spirit.

BCFSN is remembering story and restoring seed to reclaim land and life—for people of African descent and for all of humanity.

To learn more about the BCFSN visit their website here.

To learn more about MG’s Resilience-Based Organizing work, click here.