In honor of May Day last Tuesday, Leah and Jonah joined an extraordinary panel of food justice activists on WBAI-99.5 NYC as part of The Brooklyn Food Coalition’s Conference promotion. We spent the hour on Ken Gale’s show, Eco-Logic, with Karen Washington, Kristin Reynolds, and guest host Jay Smith, a driving force of the BK Food Conference. Despite not all being in the studio together, our connection was profound as we all spoke truths pouring from our hearts about the work we do.
The show’s focus was on the environmental implications of sustainable, small-scale, and community based agriculture, and the challenges of food production in the context of climate change and depleting resources. With the diverse panel of guests the discussion was anything but straight forward. Leah reminded us that the biggest export in the US is topsoil as it washes out to sea from our rivers. This is the result of giant agribusiness practices. Karen spoke profoundly about her experience organizing and working in urban black communities, and her journey where she has found herself as central organizer of the Black Farmers Conference. Leah and Karen also shared staggering statistics about the historical and current experience of black farmers. Jonah spoke of the hope of the seed and the spiritual connection when one puts their hands in the soil. As Mahatma Ghandi inspires us: “To forget how to dig the earth and to tend the soil is to forget ourselves.” He spoke of the need to connect all of our work – urgan and rural – as a multifaceted approach to re-creating a people-centered system. One that meets the needs and feeds ALL people healthy food.
To try recount everything would not do justice to the solidarity and connection that was in the air. Broadcasting love, hope and commitment, from Grafton to the WBAI studio in Manhattan and back. We all had giant affirming smiles, and hearts full of hope. This is the message we want people to leave with. We have some ofl the answers, now our work is to build the world we want to see. You can listen to the full broadcast here.
Dr. Kristin Reynolds is Mellon Post-Doctoral Fellow in Sustainable Urban Food Systems at The New School for Public Engagement in Manhattan. Her work focuses on urban agriculture, women and gender issues in the food system, food justice, and action research.
Karen Washington is the founder of Black Urban Growers (BUGs), organizer of the Black Farmers Conference, educator, and food activist.
Jay Smith is a Food Activist with the Brooklyn Food Coalition; Community Gardener, Beekeeper, long-time conservationist.
Leah Penniman, of Soul Fire Farm, NY has been an organic grower for 16 years. She is also a high school science teacher and food justice activist with projects in Haiti and Ghana.
Jonah Vitale-Wolff, of Soul Fire Farm has been dedicated to food, land and justice for over 10 years. He has worked extensively in urban garden and youth farming programs, as well as solidarity work with the landless workers movement in Brazil. He also runs a natural building and education business, Hudson Valley Natural Building.Follow soulfirefarm