Report on Community Food Security Coalition Policy Conference May 2011, Portland, Oregon
The big takeaways for me from the very conservative, I would say reactionary, Community Food Security Coalition Policy Conference, was grassroots organizing and inclusiveness to achieve our goals.
The resistance to these very needed activities was obvious in the conference itself, however..
The Coalition itself appeared to be very much struggling with inclusiveness as well as organizing the poor themselves or the people most affected by the policies on which they are focusing their attention, yet, the great need for this to be done swelled up in the conference, kicked off by a stunning, fiery plenary panel, hosted by Makani Themba, The ED of the Praxis Project, featuring Saru Jayaraman of ROC United, POWER of San Fransisco,Kolu Zigbi of the Jessie Smith Noyes Foundation and Rodrigo Rodriguez of Albuquerque Food the Hood.
Truly it was the rising leadership of oppressed peoples, of all colors, including white, which stole the Conference show.
Unfortunately, the more establishment leaders seemed to feel threatened by this work and a t a loss for how to connect their visions and experience with this work.
Perhaps too, these social activists too were not sure how to connect with thestablishment, which was largely white and working from a more "charitable" rather than actual theory of change.
Perhaps, it was the microcosm of the power struggle going on in our own country between an establishment and current people in power versus those identifying and being at the leadership of a rising need for change, not just charity, and organizing for justice, not simply sustainability.
The primary model of socioeconomic development promoted or touted at the conference was a top-down model where upper middle class professionals lead and reach down to pull up the poor, rather than a grassroots, organizing model where the poor are supported to organize themselves and take direct action to seek policies that will benefit them or true democracy. This model too was presented at this conference with energy and vigor and swept the participants to their feet and the whole conference to the much-needed left.
I deeply believe that there a re some of us who can help bridge this gap and build a food and other movements that include everyone and change not just charity and justice not just sustainability.
I believe there is a role for what these establishment groups have to bring and for them; all lives matter; we are all needed in this fight for truly healthy, just, fair and sustainable societies from the local to the global levels.