My Rant…

Yes, I’m angry…again…and given what folks so freely share across social media platforms there’s no rational reason for me as a 60 year-old black woman to feel squeamish about acknowledging my anger. My social media feeds have been flooded with comments, shares, likes, tweets and retweets about Rachel Dolezal.  Why are we talking (so much!) about her instead of Dajerra Becton, the young girl terrorized and brutalized by the police in McKinney, or Marilyn Mosby, the black prosecutor in Baltimore besieged by aggressive efforts to wrest the trial from her jurisdiction? Why do we feed into the trivia when we should be leveraging economic sanctions? After the Zimmerman verdict in 2013 we posted about economic sanctions and continued to do so for over a year, The social media response? ***crickets***

But what angers me most is the unacknowledged intersection between the predictably rigid, narrowly focused “fundamentalists” in churches and in colleges. And I stipulate I may be morphing into my cranky, paternal grandfather who ranted incessantly about the demagoguery of both. I just don’t get highlighting ancillary issues while giving short shrift to live-and-death issues well within our purview to impact immediately and directly. Einstein was right, everything is relative and relative to the issues of militarized policing of black and brown people and communities, food insecurity and food deserts, the numbers of people directly affected by those issues and the impact of that affect, this tomfoolery that we promote by “sharing” is infuriating! And yes, controlling our capital and urban food deserts are my “things” but unlike hawking my books and my business the benefits of promoting them doesn’t flow to me directly, so I’m good.

According to the USDA Economic Research Service, 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts and more than half of those Americans are low income. And bringing it down to the local level, the zip code 43219 where we’re working is coded “low income, low access.” Specifically the 166 households within that zip code are at least 1 mile from a supermarket, 33% of those households or 500 people are low income and 13.2% or 154 people are without a car. As is the case with most food deserts, in the 43219 zip code the distance to a supermarket is twice as far as the distance to a fast food option. Dairy Queen, McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Subway and a number of corner stores are all within 1 mile of our garden. The closest supermarkets? Giant Eagle is 4.6 miles, Kroger is 4.1 miles and Meijers is 10.6 miles. Trader Joe’s is 5.3 miles and when the new Whole Foods opens it will be just 5.1 miles away. But the distance to Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods is moot in economically distressed neighborhoods. In zip code 43219, the income level for a four-person household defined as “Low” is $56,800.

Telos Training, Inc. manages the 3,850 sq.ft. Charles Madison Nabrit Memorial Garden in the midst of that urban food desert in zip code 43219. We hold a weekly, onsite Farmer’s Market there where we sell whole, live fruits and veggies at $1.00 a pound. We hold FREE classes for the community on composting, seed starting, transplanting, garden chemistry, water conservation, canning, pickling and preserving, etc. all important, functional, pragmatic, life changing stuff ‘cause Ron Finley is right-”growing your own food IS like printing your own money!” Yet we have to BEG folks to click “Like” or “Share” on many of our postings!!! What’s up with that?! Almost 24 million Americans, including many children, are literally DYING because of food scarcity and poor nutritional choices and the diseases appertaining thereunto-including childhood obesity leading to diabetes, but my  “fundamentalist” brethern and sistern, both academic and religious, are blowing up the internet with arguments about Rachel Dolezal, Caitlyn Jenner, “Columbusing”, cis hetero patriarchy and sin.

The phrase “the new civil rights issue” has become so ubiquitous as to be almost meaningless but please allow me to point out that access to affordable, whole, live food is a human as well as civil rights issue. And as for my religious siblings panting in distress over particular sins and spiritual misalignments, let me point to the words of Jesus in Matthew 25: 41-46 regarding compassionate care. “Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat…Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred… and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.” See. We don’t have to extrapolate from the Old Testament to the New Testament to uncover God’s views about our responsibilities vis-à-vis hunger.

Okay, end of rant. I just ask that the next time you see a social media post about food deserts and urban gardening you click “Like”, “Share”, tweet and retweet with the quickness usually reserved for bigger, sexier, hotter, less prosaic issues. Everything need not and cannot rise to the level of spectacle. It cannot be all bread and circus…some of it is about doing the work, so please celebrate the non-spectacle work of functional gardens in urban food deserts. Who knows maybe somebody is waiting for your singular endorsement to decide to help with that work. C’mon, don’t be modest, you know you got mad influence!