2021 Week 5: Environment & Food Access
I hosted the membership drive launch on Saturday, and it feels like it was a success! I had a very long and stressful week preparing for it because I have felt a lot of pressure to make it a success. We have a very lofty goal of getting the buying club up 50 more members, since the start of the drive we are up 5. I am unsure how reasonable the goal is, but I am happy that I have been able to contribute what I have. Lately I have been questioning if we are going about this in the wrong order. In the Black co-opnomics course we are talk, they have been strongly emphasizing the need to first have a unified vision and values. I know all my team members share a similar idea of what the buying club should look like, but I am worried that when it comes down to it and we are challenged we will have nothing to stand on.
It is not as hard as I expected to get people to sign on to it if they are drawn by the community element and not the financial element. To some when I explained the membership fees they were taken aback. Others were happily surprised. Based on my conversations with these people before the pitch, I gleaned their reason for being attracted to the club and I will use this community element in my future pitches. I think it is also important to emphasize that in our values and vision. The prime incentive is not to provide inexpensive food. It is to create a community dedicated to the cause of ending food apartheid TOGETHER.
Life post-grad has been a smorgasbord of job applications — cover letters that I can never quite perfect, tweaks on my resume, hours scrolling on Indeed and LinkedIn. Often times, I had felt that applying to jobs felt a little bit empty, not simply because it was a little bit mindless, but also in a greater existential sense: what did I actually want to do with my life? And how did anything I did in the past really contribute to that? I had experiences, internships, extracurricular activities, leadership positions. But none of that felt really real to me — it seemed distant, confined to a Hopkins bubble. Looking back at my work with continuing Bikemore is the first time I really felt like there was something real and full there; I was actually learning useful skills, applicable skills, skills that I wanted to take with me going forward.
It is often hard to measure progress, but somehow my cover letters became that mark for me. As I applied to jobs over the course of the summer, I found my applications became more directed, stronger, more specific. I had projects, campaigns, and skills I could solidly back up with my experiences at Bikemore. I found jobs that more directly connected with the work I was doing, organizations that had the values I was looking for. With Bikemore, I found a passion for communications, a place where I was able to combine my passion for policy and advocacy with my skill in writing. With CIIP, I found my values in community-based engagement and advocacy. And I was able to combine these two realizations to refine my job search. It no longer feels misguided or empty — now I have a specific vision of what I want my life and job to look like. Of course, this is subject to change, as my professional life is in its infancy. But CIIP put me on that right path by providing me with my first internship that actually felt impactful, that actually changed the way I approached companies, that refined and gave me new skills that I want to carry forward.
Every Tuesday, members of the Black Church Food Security Network engage in Popular Education. “Popular” in this sense does not mean “well-known” or “well-‘liked,” but instead “of the people.” Popular education is a tool of critical pedagogy that is grounded in political struggle and social transformation. Most importantly, it stresses that education should be a dialect between the educator and their student. The role of the educator is as a facilitator. This concept is introduced and explained in Paulo Freire’s best-known work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
In this past Tuesday’s Popular Education, we read an excerpt of this seminal work, which I will reproduce here: “Students, as they are increasingly posed with problems relating to themselves in the world and with the world, will feel increasingly challenged and obliged to respond to that challenge. Because they comprehend the challenge as interrelated to other problems within a total context, not as a theoretical question, the resulting comprehension tends to be increasingly critical and thus constantly less alienated. Their response to the challenge evokes new challenges, followed by new understandings; and gradually the students come to regard themselves as committed.”
Here, Freire is saying that students who are posed with problems that they can relate to are more likely to engage and think critically about them. This engagement, for Freire, is the way that new challenges or dimensions of a problem that had never been thought of before can surface. With this in mind, we undertook a problem-solving session in which we thought of the issues facing our Black Church Supported Agriculture program. Our BCSA program’s biweekly distribution was cancelled, for we did not receive enough orders. It has been difficult in keeping the program afloat, but the insights from all of our members helped us gain a clearer understanding of the reasons why our current approach may not be working and ways we can improve.
By starting with a problem that our BCSA program faces, and hearing everyone’s thoughts, we were able to come up with a cohesive plan of action moving forward. While this seems simple, this mode of discussion in which everyone’s perspectives are valued is in fact revolutionary and embodies the kind of pedagogy that Freire envisioned when he wrote his thesis on the way education should be.
ELLY REN | FARM ALLIANCE OF BALTIMORE
This week, I want to discuss how I approach a situation where my beliefs do not align with my internship work. I’m sure others have or will run into this same problem, whether related to differences in religion, cultural norms, or other beliefs. For me, I’ve had to navigate being vegan while supporting farms that raise animals for human consumption. For those who do not know, veganism is not a diet but an ethical stance that seeks to exclude and end all kinds of oppression of nonhuman animals as far as possible and practicable. A few of the farms of the Farm Alliance do rear chickens, goats, bees, and other nonhuman animals. While in my version of a perfect world, urban agriculture would abstain from raising animals for their meat, milk, eggs, and honey, I am not too conflicted about the use of animals at these few farms. I’ve always understood that as a CIIP intern, I am an outsider entering communities that are doing what they believe to be best for themselves. I have no right to impose my personal beliefs, especially when I am not facing the same issues around lack of food access and education that some communities are. I’ve had the privilege and time to learn extensively about the atrocities of the animal agriculture industry, unlearn notions that animal flesh and products are necessary parts of one’s diet, and seek out fresh plant-based foods to eat. Another reason why I’m not too pressed is that the animals being raised on member farms live similar to animals at sanctuaries which is way different from the lives of animals on factory farms. The animals at urban community gardens usually have ample space to roam, live much longer and less miserable lives, and are seen as individuals with names and unique personalities. In the grand scheme of things, the urban agriculture movement is fighting against the same enemy that vegans are also fighting – “Big Ag” with its monocultures of corn and soy, which then props up Big Animal Ag and their factory farms. Viewing these issues in a larger context has helped me come to terms with my values clashing, and I hope sharing this thought process was helpful and enlightening.
ROMINA ROJAS | JOY WELLNESS CENTER
In the future, I hope to go to medical school and become a doctor that works with diverse communities, specifically those that are underserved. Interning at Joy Wellness this summer has brought me a new perspective on healthcare through the lens of alternative medicine. Learning about alternative medicine is typically not a requirement for students applying to medical school, which may send the message that it is less important than traditional clinical medicine. However, my work at Joy Wellness has shown me first hand the impact that alternative medicine programming has on communities. Through my patient outreach work, I’ve listened to community members tell me how much our yoga and meditation classes help them relax after a stressful week or about the times they’ve tried the healthy recipes presented at our nutrition class on their own at home. In addition, seeing the same faces each week proves to me that several patients have already felt the benefits of these alternative medicine practices and have integrated them into their routine as an essential part of healthcare.
Something else I’ve learned is that the wellness classes at Joy Wellness don’t just provide another form of healthcare, but they also help build a community within the center. I’ve heard stories from patients who would come to the center each week for nutrition classes in our kitchen (pre-covid) and stay after the class to catch up with the other regular attendees while enjoying a healthy home-cooked meal. Even now in the virtual setting, the nutrition classes still host lots of lively discussions centered on food, cooking, and overall nutrition. A similar sense of community can be seen in smaller classes, such as gardening and meditation, when both instructors and patients notice when a regular attendee is not present that week.
Overall through this summer experience, I have gained more insight and experiences surrounding the benefits of alternative medicine on physical health, mental health, and community. Not only do I think this is a beneficial perspective to have as a future health professional, but my work at Joy Wellness has also inspired me to continue prioritizing the alternative medicine practices I have recently adopted into my life such as yoga, meditation, and healthy nutrition.
LAÍS SANTORO | WHITELOCK COMMUNITY FARM
I’ve learned a lot about people and community in this internship. It’s interesting, in college we spend so much time learning about social issues especially if we take those kinds of classes, right. And you read articles about injustice or watch videos or the news or testimonials, but it’s different to hear it from folks in person and their responses to it and also what happens in their everyday life.
Conflict amidst community: not everyone’s going to agree, but apart of community engagement is making sure that all sides are heard and that there’s as much input as possible from everyone rather than just having one main decision maker.
The collective work that needs to be done for food justice and food sovereignty work: there is so much to be done, it’s overwhelming at times, but there are so many people working for that, cultivating food and community at the same time, at Whitelock, at other farms, within other spaces, and collaborating on that effort is so important
How to talk to people and advocating WITH people
Taking the time to really learn from folks and be there everyday: my friend at the farm who lives right down the street from Whitelock, Rahma, was telling me that she really appreciates that I’m out at the farm basically everyday, learning and asking questions and just really being there, because not everyone in the past or currently even does that and doesn’t show commitment in that way. I wish I could maintain the same amount of engagement as we head into the school year, but I’ve already mentioned to them that I will not be leaving, I will just be coming less often. My hope with CIIP was to start something new that I could sustain and that would honor my goals of fighting food injustices, and that’s not going to stop just because CIIP itself ends in August.
Show commitment beyond the in-person work: what else am I going to do to keep learning and educating myself? The systemic issues? What other meetings or organizing can be done that I can partake in?
What a good work environment is: being in any administrative position is powerful and holds lots of power that can turn really harmful and toxic for employees so it’s important to think about what each person might need, that they make space for rest, that they feel comfortable bringing up certain issues
I’ve been thinking of environmental health law as a potential career, and say I decide to open my own firm. I’d want to do the best I could to make it as positive of a work environment as I’ve experienced so far this summer- lots of breaks, making sure there’s time for outside, time to talk with all the people at the firm and check-in and make sure that we can all bring our best forward. Also being good about communicating with each other and within a workspace where we all have shared goals.
Being super open and accepting about new ideas!! Ms. Kim does this a lot and makes the time to listen to different ideas that we all have and discuss them before they are implemented.
Constantly valuing BIPOC farmers especially and various forms of knowledge, not always “book-smart” knowledge but knowledge from people’s lives. Some things you can’t read about in a book or learn in a classroom. Listening and being present is really crucial for this and I’ve definitely grown in that over the past few weeks, and it’s something that anyone in any field will need to be able to do to be successful.