When I take a couple of steps back, I am in awe of what we accomplished. In July 2017, a group of Black Buddhists, Quakers, and Unitarian Universalists—forming an African Diaspora Earthcare Coalition—held space for Black organizers, cooks, and growers to chip away at these questions:
What would it take to mount a concerted move toward re-localization of food production and sovereignty among marginalized people of African descent as climate disruptions become the norm?
What would it take to feed all the Black people in the world and make sure they had access to clean water?
We planned around these questions for months. Growing our team from all over the diaspora, we sought out the wisdom of what’s already happening. We asked the folks we met: “How have you already been feeding yourselves?” This felt natural to me because I believe in the spirit that says, “We have all our medicine right here.” Of course, before the questions even formed in our hearts, we have been working it out with our hands. Still, this did not make the journey easy.
My work, beneath the phone calls and strategy, was the work of interrogating my various privileges. Although we were all Black and although I am a queer, southern woman, I felt my USAmerican identity, more than anything, attempting to weigh me down consistently. The thoughts that were bubbling up only functioned to keep me disconnected and too afraid to listen. It would have been crippling if I had only let it occupy more space. In Kenya, the Red Cross is responsible for feeding whole villages. I thought, at first, “how horrible!” From there, my brain quickly raced into a mess of an analysis about global aid. Luckily, I caught myself in time to name the feelings coming up for me before the call ended, but it would take me days to process what exactly happened. It wasn’t that the analysis was bad; it was that it wasn’t helpful. Factually, there was some truth in what I believe global aid organizations to be, but those facts didn’t help me listen to someone who had gifted me with precious stories about her community.
I tried my best to carry that lesson through the rest of our phone calls and into our event during the United Nations High Level Policy Forum. I was asked to listen again the day before our event. We gathered at Pamela Boyce-Simms’ house to go over the agenda. It was overwhelming and invigorating at the same time. All of a sudden, we were meeting each other, making last minute changes and tired—all at the same time. I took it as an opportunity to listen to the brilliance in the room that appeared in words and in between them. When the day came, we made quick adjustments, practiced our best hospitality skills, and improvised often. Not everything that we intended for happened. We didn’t figure out the perfect solution for feeding all the Black folks in the diaspora. But we created a space to listen to one another. We made room for possible solutions, stories, and critiques. If we believe that we have everything we need, then it is our task to make space for continued listening and iterative stories.