Food justice and urban farming 501(c)(3)s EAT while Detroit remains hungry

By Atieno Nyar Kasagam

Yesterday,
A Homrich truck pulled up on Newport,
at the house across the street from me,
where a black elder lives,
and an older white man,
with a long slender pole in hand,
casually turned the water off,
and it didn’t storm,
the Detroit river didn’t rage,
and the city didn’t miss a beat.

But my heart did.

We moved into a new homestead,
and we are fighting for a different dream.
We couldn’t afford land any other way,
but by the benevolence of a friend,
who had farmed here for 5 years,
and had gotten worn out and fed up,
of all the trouble,
it has been,
to grow some food,
raise some birds,
and pay some bills,

Detroit,

For whom is the food justice movement?

For those whose pockets are padded by thousands of dollars in grant moneys, who can afford to have health insurance, paid leave and vacation time?

Detroit,

For whom are you writing all these verbose declarations on food security and sovereignty?

For my elder across the street?

For my father in law who just had a kidney transplant,
stuck with a million red white and blue pills,
and only about a decade of his life left secure?

Detroit,

Which community are you building with,
building for,
building on top of,
with a tray of transplants and a couple of packets of seeds,
to be sown in lead-ridden soils,
owned by the white woman living in Grosse Pointe,
Boston Edison,
Indian village,
Midtown,
Grandmont rosedale,
Ferndale,
Farmington,
Birmingham,
Bingham,
My lord,

Detroit,

How does a half a million dollar budget trickle down into the pockets of the residents of Detroit,
Black and brown urban farmers juggling three jobs,
children,
parents,
unaffordable levies and taxes
on our lives?

How does your $400 CSA mediate our struggle?

How does your basket of winter squash,

your fresh cut bouquets of sunflowers,

sprigs of thyme,

basil,

lemon grass,

freshen the stench of
my moldy basement,
flavor my pot of canned pulled pork
served over some stale trader-joes bread
I picked up from the food pantry last Tuesday,

Detroit,
Where can I get the time,
to do this agriculture thing,
in between my morning job, my midday job, my late-night job,
picking my baby from daycare,
cooking,
cleaning,
cleaning,
cooking,
watching another video,
another Carnell Snell Jr-
another Alfred Olang’o-
another Keith Lamont Scott-
another Juan Manuel Barajas Torres-

Detroit,
will you not see us dying until we are dead?

will you not stop werking the very
same systems
that have worked us dead?

will you not stop feigning revolution,
when you are still courting and propagating,
corporate-style,
capitalist cultured,
solutions,

Detroit,

Black Mecca,

Detroit,

Black Bottom,

Detroit,

In the name of our ancestors,

Detroit,

In the name of your ancestors,

Detroit,

In the name of our lovers,

Detroit,

In the name of your lovers,

Detroit,

In the name of our children,

Detroit,

In the name of your children,

Detroit,

may we tear down the window dressings on this movement,
challenge the hypocrisies,
challenge the mountainous historic and ongoing injustices,
and work for material, substantial, reparations and remediations,
for brothers and sisters, elders on the blocks where the gentries are too afraid to run they dogs.
for human rights,
Detroit-
not for grant moneys,
for interviews and bylines,
for speaking engagements,
for accolades and affirmations

Detroit-

Amandla!

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