I keep waking up with the intention of blogging and instead find myself working outside, working on a craft, tending animals, or helping the kids with something they need to do. As I keep taking longer and longer to blog, I have more and more to say and less and less of a clue of how to begin. The world doesn’t stop because you can’t handle your shit – true story. So, what’s there to do but just dive in? Story of my life.
So, we begin at the beginning…of this year at least.
I graduated with my Master’s in Anthropology last December. I floundered for a while after that. I have no clue how to do this food activism thing, that is the honest truth. I just have a good idea of what is wrong with the system, and I have a few different ideas on how to make things start to go differently and an ability to research with groups to help them figure out how to accomplish what they want to do. I decided after a lot of thought that I would pursue creating and teaching an undergraduate course at UNT (where I graduated) focused on the anthropology of food in North Texas, using both research and history.
At the same time, I started this year as my first year of flower farming. The tulips that we planted last fall really grew, to my utter surprise. As I was watching them come up, I was also developing relationships with area florists and thinking up different pop-up ideas. The problem with tulips in Texas is none of the Farmers’ Markets are even open to set up a booth and sell them in February, so you have to be a little creative when the flowers start to bloom. By March, I had 2 florists lined up and was starting to build relationships with coffee shops and restaurants in Denton.
Everything was moving right along, and going pretty well if I might add, and then we were all collectively taken off guard by the pandemic. My flower sales became all online and porch delivery. We made it through the tulip sales by being flexible and willing to flip on a dime to make things work. It was hard and fairly exhausting work.
The first few weeks of the pandemic mark for me the time when a part of my work into studying food and farming started to show more direction. In the US, we saw access turned on its head when people could no longer buy the groceries they wanted in stores, not because they could not afford to, but because the stores did not have the food and goods. For the first time, the problem of scale and supply chains that are not local has become a lot more obvious to the average consumer.
As grocery stores ran out of bread, I thought a great idea would be to try and sell bread to people who were in need. I started a small weekly baking system. I have had my cottage food license for years, so I thought I could put my baking skills to some good use for the community. I tried designing my pricing system so that I baked goods like cookies and pretzels at competitive prices so that I could also offer basic sandwich bread at a lower price. As many people found out in those weeks, bread doesn’t seem all that important until you don’t have any. My idea didn’t really work though. What ended up happening is that the people who ordered were only really interested in the cookies and pretzels and I quickly dropped the bread off the weekly list to be able to have more time for baking the other products.
And then George Floyd was murdered.
I keep wondering how we will refer to this summer, and this year. How will all this be remembered in 50 years? I wonder if the names of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean, Eric Garner, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice, or anyone else who has been murdered by the hands of the state in recent years will be memorialized and remembered in a way that helps make healing possible. I wonder not only how we can change the system so that the murders stop but also how can we find a path forward and find ways to create the opportunity for collective healing.
I also wonder so many times throughout the day that it makes my head spin whether the people who claim that they do not see racism in our society really do not see it. It really is hard for me to understand how you can look at something so obvious and not see it. But then, I think of the difference that actively pursuing and doing antiracist work has made in my life in these recent months and I wonder how many times I have been walking around thinking things are completely different than they actually are just because I too was oblivious.
While I made my stance known back in June about being an antiracist and standing with Black Lives Matter, I also started to pursue a better understanding of antiracism and really do the work. Soon after I made my stance known, the American Anthropological Association and the anthropology department at UNT came out in support of Black Lives Matter. Slow Food, an organization I belong to that stands for all the same food justice values that I do, also came out in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. As all of this unfolded it became more obvious to me where I sit. As an anthropologist focusing on access in food, the truth is I am focusing on food equity and justice and antiracism is a big part of that.
It is a sad fact that police brutality is just one of the most obvious symptoms of the underlying problem we have. There are many ways to look at and understand the other symptoms of the underlying racism in our society. In college, I learned about the social determinants of health, institutional racism, systemic racism, settler colonialism, the patriarchy, microaggressions, power balance, ingroup and outgroup behaviors, and so on. Even though I had learned all these ways to see and understand how racism is still apparent in our society, I realized earlier this summer as I started to do the work in earnest that there is a whole lot that I do not know very much about. Things like white fragility, white silence, performativity, tokenism, and white exceptionalism were words that I knew but not concepts I really understood.
So, to intentionally learn more, I started to read and listen to books by ladies like Layla F. Saad (Me and White Supremacy) and Brittney Cooper (Eloquent Rage). I listen to podcasts like Black History Bootcamp (which is amazing) by Morgan Dixon and Vanessa Garrison. I now know to look to leaders who have spent their lives’ work to better explain the underlying racism and how the hell we got here. I started following educators on my preferred social media platforms, mainly Instagram. Educators like Luvvie Ajayi Jones (luvvie), Vera Ahiyya (thetututeacher), Ericka Hart (ihartericka), Rachel Elizabeth Cargle (rachel.cargle), Patrisse Cullors-Brignac (osopatrisse), Toi Smith (toimarie) and Monique Melton (moemotivate). These are all educators who can explain not only this underlying racism but also interaction and relationship and history and perception of this underlying racism in ways I have never imagined. Many of these ladies explain things in a way that makes you realize that you should be looking at yourself first and learning to be a better person before figuring out how to help make change outside.
An unexpected thing happened when I started to do all this…I started to work through some things in my life differently than I ever have. Things that I have never understood, things that have shamed me, and things that I thought were unique to my existence. I have started to ask different questions that have led me to understand myself and this world in both a broader and a more detailed perspective. It is no lie that working to be an antiracist is hard. It is difficult because it takes a lot of self-evaluation and a true desire to understand the world and your reactions to it. But it is also extremely fulfilling to start to understand these things.
Antiracism work requires you to be very honest about your own life and your past interactions that have built your understanding of race and belonging. As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I have always felt that sharing my experience did me more harm than good. Not only what I experienced, but my growth thereafter. I constantly think about how I cope with it and how that has changed with time, and how it has intricately shaped how I look at the world today. Although it is something that I constantly deal with in my head, it is something that I rarely discuss with others. Up until now, I have actively worked to tell my story with vague hints at my past trauma to somehow keep shame at bay. Although since #metoo I have learned new ways to discuss this trauma more openly. Over these past few months, I have come to understand that without speaking the truth to power, this struggle with shame will always get the best of me because of how it holds power over me. There is a lot about my own life and struggle that I must stare in the face to make sense of it, and by hiding the truth of my past from my story, I can never be my whole self. It is both extremely taxing and extremely liberating to finally learn how to deal with this shame, although I know it is only a step in the healing process.
So, back to the story…as I started to learn about these antiracist concepts, I found that the Slow Food board that I am a member of was interested in increasing their understanding as well. While they already had plans to attend several antiracism webinars for the next four weeks, we decided that after that I would lead some group discussions on antiracism and how it fits into our understanding of food justice and food history. This led to me diving deeper still because of my want to do things right...basically I became immersed in learning. The discussions also ended up being more like presentations, with quite a bit more than I ever imagined sharing about myself to help explain the points I was trying to make.
There is a lot that I need to figure out when it comes to my own emotional cost of sharing. Often, leading these discussions would keep me up several nights before and after the actual discussion due to anxiety. The anxiety about introducing ideas and subjects that are controversial and uncomfortable for people to discuss on top of my normal anxiety from fear of public speaking was intense. I felt myself withdrawing more and more from socializing elsewhere because the introvert in me was at a negative charge from it.
The Slow Food discussions were about how to make organizational change in order to increase equity – many of the resources were taken from this Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion site developed by Tuskegee University and the USDA ( dei.extension.org ). The discussions were about evaluating power, implicit bias, microaggressions, white privilege, cultural competency, civic discussion, and white silence. At the same time, we looked at the history of Black farmers in the US through a critical lens, we evaluated how access to food works in terms of food insecurity and beyond, and we learned how access to land works for Native American groups. We stopped after four of these weekly discussions because Slow Food USA was supposed to lead a book club reading How to Be an Antiracist by Ibram X Kendi. Slow Food USA ended up cancelling that book club until October though, so I will be reading it on my own and see where I am at when it rolls back around.
After the discussions ended, I also gave a presentation to a dietitian group in Dallas. It was on the value of learning about cultural humility to better focus on equity in the community. That presentation sort of served as a summary of the presentations that I had given for the Slow Food discussions, but I talked about a few different ideas like the Social Determinants of Health and cultural humility (of course). After I finished this presentation, I decided to withdraw and regroup and practice some self-care.
School started for my children the next day, and I don't think I was fully prepared. As a parent of a 2nd grader, these remote classes take a lot more supervision than older kids. My 2nd grader cannot do the work herself without direction, she cannot self-manage yet. So I have been knee-deep in English, Math, Science, and Reading for the past week and a half now. The advantage here is that the school schedule is forcing us to keep a home schedule again, which is helping me to get more done (as in writing this blog post finally). It is most definitely not an ideal situation, but I’m glad that my 9th grader has her classes under control, and I am working hard to be sure they all get the education that they should. I’m even attempting to teach my 3 year old a little Pre-K stuff.
The baking orders were put on hold for the summer due to high temperatures and gardens needing attention. We did one last order of Baker’s Boxes to join in a Baker’s Against Racism event back in June. We donated the proceeds to the Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network (SAAFON) because of their commitment to growing a network of Black farmers who use sustainable practices for the health of their communities and the environment. I liked participating in that and hope to gain a little more control over our schedules to start baking again soon. We want to participate in more events like that.
All our animals are doing well. Lady gave us a scare the other day, she got sick pretty quickly. We treated her for worms and she seems to be doing better now, she is almost back to her normal goaty self. I have been tending a veggie garden for our family all summer and that has been keeping us in fresh veggies, we have surplus sometimes but I usually give that away or preserve it. I have been tending the cut flower garden all summer, too, and waiting for those late summer and fall blooms to start coming in with a flourish. Hopefully one day soon we will have enough to make a lot of bouquets, but I think I may have planted too few plants. At least I know better for next summer.
I hope and plan to write more blogs in a more regular manner. As history shows, this is pretty hard for me. I have an idea of what I want to write about next so I think that might keep me going. I hope you're all doing OK - I know life is hard right now for many people and I hope that you're making it through these tough times. Take care 💕