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Why is PVGrows hosting a gathering focused on Racial Equity in the Food System?

This post was originally published as “Why is PVGrows Inviting Our Members to an Undoing Racism Training?” by Liz Wills O'Gilvie on February 14, 2014 on PVGrows’ blog.

Racial Equity in the Food System workshopI attended my first PVGrows Forum last Spring.  I had been hearing about PVGrows and its work from my friends and colleagues in the Food Justice movement in Springfield (MA) where I live.  I was not sure if it would be a good fit for me though.  As former PVGrows Intern Kamilah Weeks suggested in her last post, my image of the “people” of the food justice movement was mostly white people driving hybrids, wearing vegan shoes while shopping at farmers markets in more affluent neighborhoods and a grocery store that I often refer to as “whole paycheck”, and some fit that bill.  I wondered what I, a black mom with an emerging (generous term for struggling) food business, have in common with them? Surprisingly more than I realized.  I met farmers, and entrepreneurs, and food justice advocates who came from all walks of life.  Folks who shared my values around food and access to food and who seemed to care as much about food justice for folks living in the lower Pioneer Valley as in their own communities.

I also heard PVGrows members and staff talk about the importance of engaging and representing everyone living in the Pioneer Valley and the challenges attached to that goal.  Race and racism can be hard and scary to talk about. Sitting in a room full of people who were mostly white but still willing, eager even, to talk about how race and geography can so severely impact food access and choice was surprising and encouraging.  Food justice and equity in the food system are for me human rights issues. I was heartened to learn that the leadership and many of the members of PVGrows share my beliefs.  So I was hooked.  Now I am a member of the Steering Committee and the Racial Equity in the Food System working group. 

The Racial Equity in the Food System working group has a commitment to helping PVGrows to develop an understanding of what racism is, how it shows up in the food system; and why food justice and racial equity are at the core of a healthy food system.  We are also asking what would a racially just food system look like?  How will we know it when we see it?  At our steering committee retreat, we acknowledged that we can all point to injustices within the food system but we understand that it will take some work to frame out how a truly just, anti-racist system would work.  Our hope is that this working group will be a forum, a resource, a space where we can work together to identify and share individually and collectively ideas, strategies and resources that help move PVGrows forward in this goal. To meet that goal we need more PVGrows members working toward it with us. We hope that you will join us.

As a first step toward addressing racial equity in the food system, the PVGrows Steering Committee partnered with three organizations to host an anti-racism education/training workshop called Undoing Racism.  The workshop was held in May 2014 in Holyoke. 

I can tell you personally that going through this experience helped me to identify my own internalized oppression & biases.  It was not easy.  I have close friends and family members of other races and have a fairly high level of comfort with the discomfort that can come when talking about race.  The undoing racism workshop helped me to understand how bias can creep in even when we are conscious.  I believe that I am now able to show up more authentically in my personal and professional relationships and ensure that I don’t pass this stuff on to my young son. Racism is tough. Even in the midst of progress, I sometimes wonder if it will ever be gone.  Going through the undoing racism training and the deeper connections that I have made because of it, gave me hope.

Liz O'Gilvie is the owner of Urban Green Pantry, a board member of Gardening the Community, and a current member of the PVGrows Steering Committee.

The PVGrows Racial Equity in the Food System Working Group invites you to a Racial Equity in the Food System Gathering on Wednesday, November 5th, from 4:00 - 6:00 PM, at the Holyoke Health Center, 230 Maple Street, Holyoke, MA, in the 1st floor conference room. 

Click Here to RSVP

The PVGrows Racial Equity in the Food System Working Group gatherings provide a space for us to deepen our shared understanding of racism, how it shows up in the food system; and why food justice and racial equity are at the core of creating a healthy food system. Join us to hear about the Undoing Racism Workshop and think together about how we can continue this work. Light refreshments will be served. This event is open to anyone dedicated to creating a just and healthy food system in the Pioneer Valley. 

Background Reading: 

How well are you representing a vibrant a food movement for the 21st century? by Kamilah Weeks 

Reflections on Diversity and Inclusion in Western Mass by Andrew Morehouse

Liz O'Gilvie’s original post: Why is PVGrows inviting our members to an Undoing Racism Training?

PVGrows is a collaborative network dedicated to enhancing the ecological and economic sustainability and vitality of the Pioneer Valley food system.