‘When children learn to count they naturally add and multiply. Subtraction and division are harder to teach them, perhaps because reducing the world is an adult skill.’ Jeanette Winterson
We cannot talk about food without first talking about division.
Atlanta is the most segregated city I have ever lived in. It is divided by race and class. It is divided socially as well as geographically. It is divided into areas where you can thrive and areas where everything is conspiring to kill you or keep you uneducated and unhealthy. It is divided by school systems where your kids are lucky if they get books and private schools where your kids get everything. It is divided by barriers that were erected specifically for the purpose of separation. It is divided by areas where banks will lend to you to improve or buy your property and areas where banks tell you, good luck with a pat on the back and a walk to the door.
And it was executed entirely by plan, followed through, and left unchecked decade after decade. In fact, the crystallization of division and separation has been so imprinted upon the ethos of this particular city that even today, in the 21st century, I can look at a redlining HOLC map from 1935, overlay it with a food access map of the city today and see that very little has changed.
The substantive barriers that exist here were mapped into existence, yet, when we talk about food access and nutritional barriers to success in life, no one talks about how this came to be.
I am bringing this up not out of anger but out of the fact that if you can’t see the territory, traversing it to reach the goal will be harder and potentially more treacherous. Holistic methods that address city planning, educational opportunities, and food distribution are all needed to create brand new cities that are inclusive and harmonious to the environment as well as to every individual body.
Creating more systems of dependency where people remain corralled into areas that lack the basic resources for life but have a truck drop produce once a week is not the answer. It is cruel to think you can build a dirty pond that is rarely maintained and constantly polluted and, after dropping a few seaweed flakes into it once a week, be upset with the fish when they continue to get sick.
When food people get together to change this system, it is still amazing to me that only food people are in the room when food access is not really a food problem but a community development problem.
Our concern with changing the urban landscape’s relationship to health runs deeper than just selling food at Boxcar Grocer. It is a concern borne from a belief in equality that has, in the past, contrasted so vividly with manufactured landscapes where life has been made to appear unequal.
Whole neighborhoods continue to be rooted in the specter of jim crow laws and the myth of racial superiority that have fostered a climate of fear, insecurity, mistrust, separation and alienation within the very souls of all people.
‘The healthy man does not torture others – generally it is the tortured who turn into torturers.’ ~Carl Jung
Humanity has shown to have already become incompatible with the natural pattern of this Earth. We know people are worth saving, but the only way for humanity to survive is to make certain we continue to resonate with a healthy Earth and not bring forth more disease and destruction and division between our selves and the rest of the natural world.
For our bodies to be proper stewards of our own souls, we must act in harmony with each other as well as the Earth. To change the unhealthy systems we have allowed to prosper we must talk not of more division and abstraction, instead we must grow to add the elements and people and experiences that drive the change we need to happen that will enable everybody to thrive.
‘Our day-to-day actions, words, and thoughts continuously affect our sense of harmony with the universe.’
‘We are connected via our souls to the source of creation, and we can transform the flow of creation.’
If you want to know why we care, we care because we are human. We care because we are Black and we see faces like ours disproportionately impacted by the health of our cities. We care because we are alive and know that the health of one rests on the health of many. We care because our history dictates that we care.
We are not supposed to be alive, Alphonzo and I. We are physically not supposed to exist, and yet we do.
If the terror attacks perpetrated across at least two recent generations of our mother’s family had been successful, my maternal grandmother (the product of a white man raping our great-grandmother) would not have been the only survivor of a later brutal Klan murder that resulted in the violently premature death of her entire family.
There is purpose to all of our interconnected lives. If only to remind others that the impossible change that we fear so much can and should happen, then that is what we will work towards.