At the London Freedom Seed Bank we stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and the protests that have swept the globe in the wake of the state-sanctioned killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and so many others. These are crucial times of protest and outrage, of education and learning about the systemic and structural racism* faced by the Black community across the globe and here in the UK which pervades every area of life.
It is therefore crucial that we see our work in the context of the systems of racism which control and block access to food, resources and the land itself. In our own area of work, the structural racism of the industrial food system is clear: from the exploitation of un(der)paid, un(der)valued work of marginalised workers in the agricultural and food sector to the fact that people of colour are disproportionately at risk of household food insecurity which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 lockdown. Black people alone are almost 1.5 times more likely than other ethnic groups to suffer from food poverty.
It is on us all to dismantle systemic racism in the structures we work in as well as within ourselves, which allow these inequities to continue. For us organising in food and seed sovereignty, the principle of food justice should have a central place in our organising:
Food justice recognizes the influence of race and class on the production, distribution and consumption of food in the food system. It seeks to address the structural causes and disparities by drawing from established social and environmental theoretical frameworks to effect policy change and practical solutions (Deirdre Woods)
As well as the disparities in distribution and access to food and crops, access to land for people of colour is further restricted due to the UK’s long history of colonialism which concentrated land ownership in the hands of a very small number of wealthy and white landowners, making access to land for food growing inaccessible to people of colour in particular.
In the UK many groups and networks are challenging these realities. Reparative justice approaches to food and seed sovereignty centre racial justice and work to disrupt the exploitative mindset of domination of the current food system under which marginalised communities and the Earth are made to suffer and bear the consequences of large-scale consumption and destructive industry. Land In Our Names is one example for an organisation that centres reparative land justice for marginalised communities and which promotes growing and agricultural practices that sustain life and honour the living Earth.
We strongly feel that racial justice must be more than an add-on to our work and must be centred in organising around food sovereignty and seed saving. This is a conversation that we need to have at the London Freedom Seed Bank as well. As Sam Siva from Land In Our Names (LION) eloquently states:
“We need you to recognise how our struggles are tied together, our liberation is bound together, and that dismantling racism is not just the work of Black people or something that is only remembered when one of our deaths is recorded and broadcast. It is work that we are doing everyday and it is work that we all need to do if we want real change.”
Below are just some resources that we have found useful on racial justice in the context of food and seed sovereignty:
– The Landworkers Alliance is hosting a webinar on Race and Farming in the UK on Wednesday 8th July, click here to register!
– Invisible Women: Hunger, Poverty, Racism and Gender in the UK by Deirdre Woods
Listen / Watch
– The Seeds of Our Ancestors: A Day at Soul Fire Farm, Chelsea Steinauer-Scudder
– Farming While Black: Uprooting Racism, Seeding Sovereignty by Leah Penniman
– Land In Our Names is a UK food and land justice organisation for people of colour.
– UBELE is a social enterprise supporting African diaspora social action and community projects. A particular focus at the moment is research into the disproportionate impact COVID has had on BAME people.
– Black Rootz is a black-led multigenerational project at Wolves Lane in north London where the older generation share their growing knowledge and support young people.
– The African Caribbean Food Heritage Network is a new social enterprise working towards Black food sovereignty and uplifting African and Caribbean heritage foodways through advocacy, research and the provision of services including education, training and educational resources that build equity in the food system.
– Black Lives Matter UK are working to dismantle the structures that disproportionately harm black people in the UK through advocating for change in legislation, distributing educational resources and healing practices, calling for justice for those killed by the British police, providing emergency relief for those facing the worst of the pandemic and more.
– Black Land and Spatial Justice Fundraiser : This fund has been developed to redistribute resources, including finance and knowledge on land and food justice and to strengthen collective organising to redefine people’s relationships to land and space.
– 21-Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge, daily prompts to deepen your understanding of & ability to confront racism in the food system.
– If you want to strengthen your understanding of racism and racial justice, consider starting a “White Affinity Group” or “White Caucus”. These are spaces in which white allies can explore their experiences and privileges of whiteness without burdening people of colour with the responsibility and the labour of educating you/us (which remains a big problem in anti-racist organising and has been called out by many anti-racist organisers). This is not meant to be a space without accountability to black people, rather it is a self-aware attempt of doing the emotional work of anti-racism and engaging in the rich material on anti-racism out there so that people of colour won’t have to continuously live through and speak about their experiences of racialisation and racism again and again – there is plenty of material out there! Read more about this idea here, here and here.
* when we speak about structural and systemic racism we mean the privileging of whiteness across our different systems of governance, our state and economic structures, policies, organisations.