Reflections: The Justice 40 Initiative and Food Justice

Oct 10, 2021 | BM4F Spotlights, Events, Young, Gifted & Green Blog Series | 0 comments

By Dr. Patrick Thompson, M.Div., Th.M., N.D.

I had heard about the work that the Black Millennials 4 Flint was doing in Flint, MI regarding addressing the water crisis plaguing that area. In fact, I had been granted the opportunity to participate in a couple panels that were conversations of how communities of faith could be galvanized in the fight for environmental justice, a topic not readily talked about in faith communities. Little did I know, that the hegemony of BM4F reached beyond what I had heard about or experienced first hand. My mind was blown when I was informed about the Dinner with Friends event which included a conversations between persons involved in environmental justice from a variety of angles, perspective, and agency. I was excited to be invited and to be included in this conversation. I was even more enamored with being able to learn about the work that others were doing with environmental justice in their respective locales.

Touchdown in ATL

The Dinner with Friends event was held in an intimate and classy space in the Historic Auburn Avenue area in Atlanta, which I felt was apropos given its historicity in the black community of Atlanta. The dinner guests were all allies of BM4F and consisted of educators, elected officials, health care workers, public health experts, physicians, White House committee appointees, and recent college graduates. We were greeted with an elegant meal, wine, and music. The ensuing conversation was very endarkening and informative. As the floor was opened up, dinner guests began to introduce themselves and share about their work. There were a few things that I got from these conversations.

The first thing was that we have a long way to go to address environmental justice in our nation. There was such a wide range of specific issues that came to light. From water purification, healthcare access, renewable energy, sustainable farming practices, and much to my delight, food justice. To hear the accounts and descriptions suggested that environmental justice issues were much more dire than I had imagined. The accounts verified that many communities, especially communities of color, were in desperate need of environmental and climate intervention. I realized then just how inadequate the attention to these issues has been on a national level. In my view this highlights the importance and significance of the Justice 40 initiative.

The second thing that struck me was how much we need each other to address these issues. Represented at the dinner were professionals with a variety of skills, talent, and expertise. Some had influence to directly affect policy formation from state legislatures to the White House. Some were directly involved with agriculture and sustainable farming practices. Some were working towards illuminating debilitating toxin levels in communities and seeking accountability for large corporations responsible for the contamination. Still others were involved in grassroots work seeking advocacy for equality in maternal health practices. While we all by and large had a particular angle and ethos from which we viewed our work, we were all united in our passion for people and preservation of the world for equitable living for all people. There is no way we can all be knowledge of every issue everywhere, nor do we possess the skills necessary to do the work at every level. In order to do our work most effectively, we need each other. Connecting to each other and seeing the bigger picture as it relates to our own individual work, helps us all to move with a purpose that will be effective for our environmental work at large.

While we all by and large had a particular angle and ethos from which we viewed our work, we were all united in our passion for people and preservation of the world for equitable living for all people.

The third thing that I gleaned from this conversation is the importance of addressing environmental justice in communities from a local grassroots level. One of the dinner guests is from the “thriving metropolis” of Tuskegee, Alabama. Tuskegee is the home of the historic Tuskegee University (formerly the Tuskegee Institute, the crime scene for many of the groundbreaking discoveries of the inimitable George Carver Washington and the community influencing work of Booker Taliaferro Washington. I have been to Tuskegee a few times and am witness to its diminutive size that still bears historic depth and strong stature. Yet despite the profundity of its stature we were informed that Tuskegee currently has been no hospitals. That means that anyone with a health emergency such as a heart attack would have to travel 30 minutes minimum to get to the nearest emergency medical facility. That’s right, the ambulance would have to travel 30 minutes to arrive and then 30 minutes back to the hospital. This epitomizes the inequities in healthcare that many underserved communities are plagued with currently. When informed of this fact, there was an audible gasp as most of us could not have imagined that this inequity existed. Most of us would have never discovered this had it not been for someone there on the ground on there. We became painfully aware of the critical importance of grassroots organizations. If the work isn’t being engaged from a grassroots community level, many egregious environmental justice violations would go unrecognized. It is critical that we not allow even the smallest community fall by the way side.

Fellowshipping in The Heart Of Georgia

An example of the grassroots engagement was the Fish fry we all attended in Macon, GA. Every grassroots engagement does not occur in some classroom or board room. It’s about simply gathering the community to inform them of the issues that are directly affecting them. This galvanizing of the community partners empowers the community to assist in the action to ameliorate its own conditions. At this fish fry, the community was gathered to partake in fried fish, baked beans, salad, grilled corn, music, libations and an interactive photo booth. Vendors selling various products were also present. We were given an opportunity to inform the community about the Justice 40 initiative and why it is important for communities like theirs. Why are these gatherings important? They are important because there is something powerful about when the collective energies of the community are focused in a unified fashion in one direction. This force is one to be reckoned with. History has shown us that this is the type of energy it takes to fuel movements, to break down barriers, and to conquer any weapon formed against the community.

Georgia On My Mind

My experience in Atlanta and Macon has had a profound effect on me and my perspective on my own work. There have been moments as I have engaged my work with food justice that I have felt alone, overwhelmed, and misunderstood. It was comforting to know that I was not alone. It was also empowering to connect with others of like mind that gave me a larger perspective on the fight for environmental justice. But not only that, I also find myself with more tools and opportunity to engage in my work more effectively. I am excited to understand that “my” work is not just “my” work, but is ultimately “our” work and God’s work. We must go forward with this perspective, working together to gather the harvest, pursuing our passions and calling, to make this world a better place now and especially for those coming behind us.

Dr. Thompson is the Founder and Chief Healing Officer of Whole Kingdom Wellness, a concierge medical practice specializing in Holistic Health Solutions, with an emphasis on the intersections of faith and health.

Photo Credits: RTW Photography


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