OGS is a historically white-led organization, comprised of mostly white leaders and constituents. We are currently doing racial equity and social justice training, examining how white supremacy culture shows up in our work, and acknowledging the impact of dominant culture on our organization. We recognize that we have made mistakes in the past and will continue to make mistakes; there is a lot of work ahead of us.
Due to this internal work, and requests from CRAFT members, we decided to host a CRAFT twilight talk on “Social Justice and Agriculture.” We hosted the talk at The Wedge Brewery, and we had over 30 CRAFT members in attendance for an engaged conversation! As the discussion progressed, it became clear that we had not set proper ground rules, created baseline language, or defined the topic of Social Justice and Agriculture adequately for the group to have a productive conversation.
While our intentions are to educate and dialogue, we are coming to realize that our impact is different; whenever we attempt to facilitate conversations about racism (even with our ‘learned language’) we make a multitude of mistakes that ultimately lead to more hurt in our community and specifically for our community members of color. We see also that this is not unique to our organization, and is in fact a pattern in many organizations attempting to do social justice work in the nonprofit sector. Our mistakes this time included not defining the topic properly, not setting ground rules, and not properly supporting the farmer facilitator in guiding the discussion so it remained a safe space for all participants.
We at OGS need more relatedness and training to be able to hold, host, and facilitate these conversations in an effective way. As most of us are still in the learning stage regarding these issues, we have been shown by our community that it is too soon for us to be leading these conversations. It’s important to us to be advocates and co-conspirators; however, we, as a historically white organization, have much more unlearning to do before attempting to engage as spokespeople for these injustices.
We’d like to refer folks to the resources in our community who are trained and skilled that we have also found helpful in our own learning, that will enable you to continue to have these tough conversations and examine how social injustice shows up in your personal and farm life. We also encourage you to meet up independently and have these conversations on your farms and in your spheres of influence.
- Building Bridges: a 9-week class held in Asheville, ask to be added to the email list to be able to register.
- Racial Equity Institute, hosted by the Racial Equity Collective based here in WNC. Email email@example.com to get on the list.
- Showing up for Racial Justice (SURJ), connect with Asheville’s Chapter here.
- 21 Day Racial equity habit building challenge in 2020
- Farming While Black by Leah Penniman
- Dismantling Racism in the Food System Published by Food First
- Why we can’t talk about race in food? Published By Civil Eats
- Video – Soul Fire Farm: Feeding the Soul, Growing Community (8:30 minutes)
- Video – Malik Yakini: Food, Race and Justice (24 minutes)
- Video – Robin Diangelo: Why ‘I’m not Racist’ is Only Part of the Story (6:34 minutes)
At OGS, we will continue to be committed to the ongoing work of Social Justice and Racial Equity through training, relationship building, partnerships, and program development, to dismantle social injustice in OGS and in the food system for the ultimate goal of food justice for all. Thank you to the CRAFT network for sparking such important internal dialog for us and for your interest in this topic!
Author: Sera Deva
Sera Deva has a B.S. in Microbiology & Agroecology from The Evergreen State College. She works with OGS as the Director of Programs & Systems Design, is the President of the Southern Sustainable Agriculture Working Group (SSAWG) Board of Directors, and is the Administrative Director for The Firefly Gathering. When she’s not geeking out over genetics, systems theory or soil hydrology, she spends her time growing and eating food in the South Toe Valley in Burnsville, NC.