Food + Justice = Democracy: LaDonna Redmond at TEDxManhattan 2013

Food + Justice = Democracy: LaDonna Redmond at TEDxManhattan 2013


Well, I stand strong on those that come
before me; I have to call on my ancestors and let them know that I have not forgotten
them. I stand strong because I stand on the
shoulders of your ancestors as well. I want them to know that I have not forgotten them. I am an activist. I’ve always been an activist and I
always will be an activist. And I became a food activist because my son, Wade, developed food allergies at a very early
age. He’s allergic to all dairy products,
shellfish, eggs and peanuts and I wanted to get the healthiest food
that I could for him. I wanted food that was free from
genetically modified organisms; I wanted food that was free from pesticides; I
wanted food basically that was grown healthy, organically. I really wasn’t any different than any
other mother and in my community I wanted the best for
my son. I want the best for both of my children; but that food – the best food – was not available in my neighborhood on
the west side of Chicago. So to change that situation I got involved with what I really didn’t know
at the time was food justice. We started converting vacant lots to urban farm sites; lots that had not been used in decades. To grow food on them, we started
to hire people from the community and we started to build what we thought
would be a local food system that responded to urban concerns. And so for me to food system looks
something like this It’s very simple not too complicated but that was what I
understood the food system to be. And then I was introduced to this larger food movement, the one that says, you know, you have to eat
well but don’t eat too much. Eat mostly plants. i’m like, yes, i got that. I’m
with that a hundred percent. But where’s my food? And I live in a community where I can get
a semi-automatic weapon quicker than I can get a tomato. Now a lot of people have tried to make
this statement cute; they said that you can get ketchup quicker than you can get a
tomato. I want us to really appreciate the public health message that I’m
trying to get across here. And it’s that the public health issue of violence is
connected to the public health issue of chronic diet-related diseases. It’s not about cute phrases or cute terms. It is about life and death, and my community
is about living or dying. You can die by the gun or die from
a lack of the proper food. But still the food system is not
changed. We’ve done all this work; we know all these things but the food system,
still, my idea of the food system, still remained like that. And then I started to think, you know, I
really have to step this up a notch. What is food justice 2.0? Well, for me, food justice 2.0 is really about the narratives of people of
color and beginning to understand that the
story that we tell ourselves in the food
movement is as important as the stories that
we’ve left out. So, for me, the food justice movement tells the story of colonialism and the impact in historical trauma on
communities of color. Food justice talks about manifest destiny. It talks about settling the land in the west; the
nineteenth century philosophy is that we’re gonna go west. We’re going to settle the land but in food justice we know that the Native American people were there. We know that they were pushed off of
that land and many of them killed so that others might be able to live. Now we know that that’s not the fault of the arriving European immigrants, but we must understand that the land that we stand on we stand on it because
someone else’s blood is also on it. We understand that food has been used as a weapon. Food used as a weapon during that period of time was used to
push people off of the land. We understand that the movement of people for the
purposes of exploitation is a part of our food justice movement. We understand that the importation of African slaves into the United States; the enslavement of the Africans provided the
labor for what we now call our industrial food system. At the very beginning folk were forced to work the land and they had no choice in the conversation. They were not paid. At the core of what I believe to be the problems in our community,
particularly when we start to talk about the accumulation of wealth or the lack of health is really the conversation around
slavery that has not been had in the United States. We have not reconciled the event of slavery or its impact. We have to understand that those
Africans that were in the South after slavery were pretty much still enslaved after
the signing of the emancipation proclamation. We also want to recognize in the food
justice movement that the homestead act and the
emancipation proclamation were signed at the same time, but the Africans could not take advantage of the homestead act so they were forced
to stay in the south and stay in a version of slavery – share cropping – through the black codes and then be forced out of the south through the jim crow laws and up into
the North to a different version of racism in slavery. The food justice movement understands that in the nineteen sixties there were lots of things going on but in the nineteen sixties for us
that’s where civil rights meets food justice, right at the Woolworth lunch counter, in nineteen sixty three, when those students sat down and demanded the right to be treated as a human being. So, for us, food justice is not just about the nutrition – that’s important – It’s not just about growing the food. It’s
about dignity. It’s about being visible. The nineteen sixties also represent a time where the Black Panther Party started the free breakfast program in Oakland. We called these things into being
because sometimes on the merits of the larger food movement it gets lost. In the
nineteen sixties we talk about the hippie generation and the back to the land movement and the beginnings of
organic food and all of that is true and wonderful and we like those stories too. “Both” “and” have to exist and so we have to begin to tell a
narrative or tell a story and develop a
narrative that’s much more robust then the narrative we tell ourselves
today. We must also include in this narrative modern-day slavery. We cannot forget that our food system today
is still based on the exploitation of the labor of immigrants in this country. While we’re talking about access to free
range chickens and grass fed beef, we need to also be talking about
immigration reform, fair wages for those farm workers, and, in the entire food chain, workers also. The people who serve us; the people who fix our food also should be paid fairly. We have to say no to food deserts. I don’t live in a food desert; I never
have. Food desert, as a phrase, is another one of
those cute terms masking the harm of the food system in my community. It really is the trojan horse of
increased corporate control of the food system. I was not digging in the dirt on the
west side of Chicago thinking – I sure will be glad when
that walmart comes and builds that store there. That was not my thought, and yet there’s still people who are
hungry. And many of us would say, you know, let’s
build a 501(c)3 let’s get one of those 501(c)3’s; let’s
get some more grants; let’s get the foundation thing here; let’s fix the
problem. That’s fine. But the food justice movement is calling
for jobs – economic justice. Let’s pay people – not just raise the minimum wage.
Let’s pay people a living wage so that they are not
hungry. Let’s address really the core issue
appalled poverty. and, so, we try to say, you know – well,
maybe there’s some period of time where we could go back and we could find the fair just and healthy food system that we’re looking for. If we could just go
back to the time where the food system is lit by the sun and driven by the energy of
the sun; we will just be great if we could just go back and turn back time. And the food justice movement will tell you
that that time does not exist. There has never been a fair, just or
healthy food system in the United States of America. And, so, what we have is a global food industrial complex. This is what we have to dismantle. This is what we have to address. And there’s a way to address it. We can be successful if we are able to
really recognize that we have never ever had a food system, and we must join
together, create a narrative where all of us can
sit around a table and create the food system that we need. We have to return to the kitchens of our ancestors, the
tables of our ancestors. Reclaim your kitchens; claim your stove, your table, your grill – reclaim it. Cook your food. Make your food. Know where your food comes from. But we must organize. We have to come together across this
country and turn our non-profit will into
political will to change the food system because we absolutely have to go beyond
the farm bill. We can’t keep talking about the farm
bill and thinking that the farm bill is the vehicle that can change our food system.
Clearly, it is not. So, what’s the vision? My vision is that we have President Obama sign an executive order mandating food justice for the United States of America, much like the environmental justice
executive order. It’s my hope and my dream that you will join me in the journey to change our food system.

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24 thoughts on “Food + Justice = Democracy: LaDonna Redmond at TEDxManhattan 2013

  1. The speaker should drop her hate of America. At least for the sake of her poor kid who is stuck with the madness. There was nothing wrong with the "food system". The only problems are caused by people like her wanting the government involved in the system.
    You work – you buy your food and eat it and thank God for it. Simple
    Looks like she's getting plenty.

  2. Looks like you didn't listen to what she had to say, sounds like you know nothing about America or the food system, & can't stomach their history.If you think there's nothing wrong with a system of food production that was built on the backs of slave labor & stands today on the same model, look to the word of your God, read what he has to say about slavery.If you think food comes from the store, enough money to eat from hard work, ask your grocery clerk if (s)he can afford to eat healthily.

  3. Money isn't as simple as work=money–luck, inheritance, the country your born in, the neighborhood your born in and too many variables to list are all factors. Slaves worked hard for $0. Farmworkers work hard for pennies a bushel (e.g.,tomato pickers make 48c/38lb bucket they pick; 4500lbs=min. wage).The difficulty of your work and the number of hours you work rarely translate into equivalent compensation in this country, let alone in others.People working 80hrs/wk in this country often starve.

  4. Don't people break the law to get into this country just to be "farm workers" ? How could they starve working 80 hours a week ?
    If you have no income you can get food stamps like 49 million people in this country.
    Why do you hate this country and freedom and capitalism so much you carry around such poison ?

  5. REPEAT: The public health issue of VIOLENCE is CONNECTED to the public health issue of CHRONIC DIET-RELATED DISEASES.
    Amen, LaDonna

  6. in this country, the problem is it comes from corporate control who only give you as much money as they feel like. If minimum wage had increased from the time it had been initiated with inflation, it would be over $20. Meat packing industry workers are getting paid over 50% less than they were 20 years ago. I wish the world was as simple as you seem to think it is. It would be much better.

  7. The world IS that simple. It's the liberals and unions who made it difficult. If you don't FEEL LIKE buying a car then you don't and if you don't FEEL LIKE working for someone then you don't have to. It's called freedom. The government has no business setting wages. If the gangster unions got the meat wages up through their extortion and now they can't get it anymore – so what!

  8. The meat packers could get more money if they enforced the law like every other country on earth and sent the 20 million illegals packing. The world IS THAT simple.
    Nobody has to take any job they don't want (so far, who knows what madness the libs will come up with).
    If you are not satisfied with your pay then quit.
    It's called freedom.

  9. LaDonna this was the most enlightening speech about food I have ever heard. May God continue to bless the works of your hands in promoting His vision for people of color and ALL communities in which they dwell.

  10. I am in a Ethics class for internet college and have to watch videos as part of my coursework.  Your video is the most enlightening videos I have ever seen.  It is not just about racism but poverty.  I raised three kids, working whatever low wage crappy job I could.  It isn't that we don't want to enjoy healthy foods but the prices are so high.  I think what you are doing is wonderful and I hope you are blessed everyday.

  11. sounds like modern society needs to get back into that Indigenous way of life. a way of life that they tried so hard to destroy. :p great info presentation too, but there was a time when food system worked and life was good …. but everything changed when the fire nation attacked, and due to colonization and 'westward-genocidal-expansion' the land was burned, of course I'm referring to the 'scorch earth policy' and or 'manifest destiny'. where food supplies of the indigenous population was cut down, burned, and poisoned.

  12. This beautiful and well thought out presentation ends on a pathetic note, urging you to beg your politicians to do their jobs. -_-

    Let's ask the most corporate funded politician in human history to support an initiative that goes against corporate interests. Good one.

    Apparently she forgot how the year before her man Rham (backed by Romney) waged a war against Chicago's teachers or the fact that Obama is too busy bombing Africa.

    CHOOSE YOUR FRIENDS AND POINT OUT YOUR ENEMIES AND STOP CONFUSING THE PEOPLE!!! Corporates pay high dollar to confuse people, why are you doing it for free?!

  13. The problem with this talk is that it's not coherent. The speaker just mentions phenomena without tracing they're actual causes or proposing realistic solutions.

  14. There is much that is unjust about our food system, but we need to look at a couple of hard facts before we try to address this problem: (1) Property that is used to grow food in an urban environment is always much more valuable as commercial real estate than it is for growing food, and as such it will be very hard to keep land used for food from being displaced by commercial concerns. (2) Businesses don't go to the trouble and expense of putting bullet proof windows in their stores for no reason. They do it because they know they are likely to be robbed. The violence and predation on businesses make it very hard to do business in areas where there is a "food dessert". If there are profits to be made in an area businesses are likely to come in and get on with the task of providing the goods and services that make life better for everyone.

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