Natasha Bowens’ keynote address at the 2015 Food Justice Fair gave us all a lot to think about. The author of The Color of Food, Bowens talked about the legacy of discrimination and land loss among black farmers, but also about the continuing legacy of innovation, cooperation, and earth stewardship among today’s farmers of color.
Bowens asked us to “dig deeper” into the reasons why so many White-led organizations struggle to “engage” people of color in their agendas. And her answer, in part, is that we too often fail to recognize and honor the existing leadership of farmers and activists of color.
At the post-Fair Community Dinner & Conversation that night, Natasha and a panel of local food justice activists challenged those of us who have access to resources — like leadership positions, fulfilling jobs, land, business ownership, government grants — to“dig deeper” into the reasons why we have access to these resources and others do not.
And in digging deeper, we have to confront the historical and systemic disadvantages that entire groups of people have endured, and that still place them at a significant disadvantage. We need to acknowledge the many advantages that other groups have enjoyed, and that continue to smooth their pathway to leadership and “success.”
This little graphic has helped us to think about equity vs equality:
“Equity involves trying to understand and give people what they need to enjoy full, healthy lives. Equality, in contrast, aims to ensure that everyone gets the same things in order to enjoy full, healthy lives. Like equity, equality aims to promote fairness and justice, but it can only work if everyone starts from the same place and needs the same things. (From Embracing Equity: 7 Steps to Advance and Embed Race Equity and Inclusion within Your Organization, by the Annie E. Casey Foundation)
At Groundswell we are beginning to teach ourselves to think about equity in our programs and in our organization in terms of questions like: What resources and supports do various groups in our community need in order to have the opportunity to farm, and how can we assist them in getting access to those resources? What do they need in order to develop leadership within our own organization, and how can we assist them in that process?
This will be an ongoing learning process, and we invite you to share your own insights and experiences with us as we go forward.