This blog post was contributed by Cohort 19 Member SR.
Monday, May 20, 2019 special guest Karen Washington presented at Green City Academy (GCA). She spoke with Cohort 19 on the significance of healthy food options and farming, especially in the Black community. I, a cohort 19 team member, was especially moved and further motivated to pursue my newfound interest in farming.
Ms. Washington grew up in the Bronx which is notably one of the unhealthiest counties in NYS. She spent over 35 years working as a physical therapist. Her community and work helped to influence her interest in food sustainability. She realized we were in what she describes as a “food apartheid”. She explained to us the power of the food system and how it hinders minorities of lower income.
With solutions, such as ending the our “silence and complacency”, speaking at our resident/council meetings, and even becoming a farmer, she helped us to realize how we can better our communities. Silence and complacency is what Ms. Washington considers to be killing us. We need to request healthier food options and express our dismay for the prevalent placement of fast food restaurants. Us speaking up can better our community, lower health risks, and sustain our environment. If we become farmers it also helps, because we are putting ourselves in charge of what we eat.
Not only is encouraging more minorities to be farmers significant to Karen Washington, but so is its history. African people were forced to work the land as slaves and used farming techniques they already knew to operate on plantations. For this reason many young Black children may be discouraged to do farm work, but farming is in our history. Farming is not slave work it is African/ African- American culture. We can take back our culture when we understand our roots and its significance. This is what Ms. Washington helped me realize.
Serving under Green City Force and watching people like Ms. Washington speak I have a newfound passion. I enjoy working in gardens and on farms. I feel empowered. There is a lot we must do in a day, yet it doesn’t feel like work. It’s relaxing, enjoyable, and purposeful. Thank you Karen Washington for your strong words of wisdom. I hope you’ll return and encourage more of us.