At Khafra, we approach community building through an intersectional lens.
Intersectionality, coined by Dr. Kimberle Williams Crenshaw, describes overlapping or intersecting social identities and related systems of oppression, domination, or discrimination.
In our case, intersectionality forces us to acknowledge the complicated presence of food at our brunch and within the Black community. So, our newest community project, Hella Black Brunch, is focused on creating an intentional space for Black folks to gather, connect and build community with one another, over a delicious meal.
While our intention with the upcoming iteration of Hella Black Brunch: Libertad is to celebrate transcultural modes of freedom within community, we still acknowledge that:
- Food lives at the meeting place of Black joy and Black struggle. There’s no denying that thousands of Black people across Oakland regularly go without access to adequate, healthy, and sustainable foods.
- This deficit is often a product of discriminatory policy ignoring the needs of economically vulnerable communities.
In fact, in the flatlands of Oakland, where the median household income is $32,000, there’s an average of one supermarket per 93,126 residents. In 2008, Oakland residents spent an estimated $230 million outside of Oakland on groceries. Additionally, in a 2009 community survey, 33% of East Oakland residents shared that there was not a full-service, affordable supermarket near their house. Unfortunately, much of this data remains the same today.
This is why we jumped at the opportunity to partner with Oakland Food Policy Council (OFPC) for Hella Black Brunch: Libertad.
Led by Shaniece Alexander -- a Black woman determined to ensure Black folks’ voices are present in food policy decisions directly affecting their lives -- OFPC’s mission is to build an equitable and sustainable food system for the city of Oakland.
Shaniece and I talked gardening with her mom, what makes her proud about working with OFPC, and how food justice truly impacts us all. You can read our interview below.
Shaniece Alexander took on her title as Executive Director of Oakland Food Policy Council in April 2016, with a goal of transitioning from direct-service non-profit work to a role with potential for making long-term impact within Black and Brown communities. Before joining OFPC, she admittedly undervalued the power of food in social justice spaces.
"Until I started in this role I didn’t recognize how centered food was in my social justice experience. …
I’m committed to learning more about our food system and as a tool to break down the barriers in the social justice movement. …
We can all connect through food. I’m focused on the intersections between every social justice movement."
Shaniece’s expansive approach to food justice directly aligns with the incredibly important work that OFPC is doing within the city. Last fall, they were active proponents of the successful passage of ballot measure HH (aka the soda tax) which raised taxes on sugar-sweetened beverages by one penny per ounce, with the promise of allocating new funds to programs that counteract the poor health impacts caused by overconsumption of sugar, especially in communities of color.
Still, Shaniece’s pride in the achievements of OFPC is coupled with an ongoing frustration with the lack of presence of Black voices at food policy tables, deeply impacting her approach to the work.
“As a Black woman in this role ... there is a lot of pressure for representing Black people and what we feel about food, which isn’t fair.
The food justice movement has been a white middle class space forever and this isn’t to say that Black people aren’t doing food justice work. It’s just that the narrative that we experience is from a privileged white middle class lens.
My role is to uplift black people’s [voices] within the food justice movement and convince folks that our experiences with food are important.”
When thinking about what makes OFPC unique in the food space, the recipe lies within their inclusive understanding of food justice and how it impacts all of us.
“OFPC sees food as a human right. No matter what you look like you deserve access to good food. And you should be able to choose what types of food you eat and consume.
[In] a lot of our neighborhoods, we have food forced upon us. It should be a human right to have access to fresh food without poison and [we should be able to] grow our own food. That’s how we see food justice.”
OFPC doesn’t only advocate for policy affecting food consumption. It is also a proponent of expanding opportunities for mobile food vendors and urban agriculture, a cause that hits home for Shaniece.
“I grew up in Detroit and my mom has always had a garden. When I was 7 or 8 she would have me out there turning the soil and weeding the greens. And now that I’m an adult I so appreciate that access to healthy foods which I took for granted when I was younger. [...] We had corn and tomatoes, squash and greens. That’s such a privilege to have especially as an adult without my own growing space.”
Currently, OFPC is focused on building its network and collaborating with a variety of organizations to deepen the impact of the work.
“We do a lot of collaboration with organizations doing direct services and ground work, and we work closely with city council to hold them accountable. We want to make sure the voices of the folks impacted by implementation of this policy are brought to the table, so that we can transform the system that has oppressed marginalized groups forever.”
We ended our conversation with Shaniece sharing deep gratitude for this opportunity for OFPC to join the Hella Black Brunch family and help propel this powerful message of food sovereignty within the Black community.
“I value the platform that Hella Black Brunch is opening for OFPC. Community engagement and building is hard work and takes lots of people power. I really appreciate that and being able to connect with folks who may not be connected to OFPC right now but would love to support. We’re all working toward the same thing at the end of the day which is try[ing] to be healthy and happy, and live our best lives.”
Oakland Food Policy Council holds full council meetings on the third Thursday of each month. Learn more about them HERE.
There’s still a few tickets left for Hella Black Brunch: Libertad THIS SATURDAY, JULY 29 from 1- 4 pm.