Our Kitchen Table to host Press Conference for Paid Sick Days Campaign

imagesWhen: 10:30 a.m. Monday March 2
Where: Garfield Park Lodge, 334 Burton St. SE 49507

On Monday, along with several other organizations from across the state, Our Kitchen Table will hold a press conference to support the Michigan’s Paid Sick Days campaign in conjunction with Mothering Justice and Progress Michigan.

The campaign specifically addresses Michigan workers’ need for paid sick days. According to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, more than 1.5 million Michigan workers — about 46 percent of the state’s private-sector workforce — are not allowed to take a paid sick day when they are ill.

Legislation was introduced earlier this month in both the State House and Senate. The organizations represented at the press conference are among those fighting for this basic worker right. Our Kitchen Table sees this issue as directly connected to its work with Food Justice, since the lack of paid sick days impacts the health of working class families and their ability to resist poverty. OKT has written about how workers within the food system are some of the lowest paid in the country.

Our Kitchen Table joins this fight as one more step in the battle for worker rights and economic justice. We know that standing in solidarity with others fighting for justice is essential, as laid out in our principles of Food Justice, where we state that need for an intersectional analysis of all justice issues.

As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. noted, “no one is free while others are oppressed.”

5th Annual Detroit Food Summit March 31 – April 2

Focus: HOPE Conference Center
1400 Oakman Blvd.
Detroit, MI 

Join us for the 5th Annual Detroit Food Summit as we highlight new collaborations and celebrate local food. Each year the Detroit Food Policy Council hosts an annual conference to bring together community members, organizations and public sector leaders to develop strategies for building a healthier food system and in Detroit. Detroit Food 2015 is hosted by Detroit Food Policy Council and the Detroit Food and Fitness Collaborative. Detroit Food 2015 will emphasize Reclaiming the food system for the betterment of the city’s citizens, Redefining our needs and Rebuilding our food system so that it works for all in the short, near and long terms.

The registration fee is $150 for all three days; $50 for Day 2, Day 3 or both; and $50 for youth. Scholarships are available for students and others who might not otherwise have the financial means to attend. Registration and scholarship requests will be available on our website March 3. To find more information on Detroit Food 2015 visit www.detroitfoodpc.org or call313.833.0396

Detroit’s William Copeland: From Climate Oppression to 21st-Century Leadership. What Will the New Black Economy Look Like?

HURRICANE KATRINA AFRICAN AMERICANI still remember the shock when Kanye West blurted “George Bush don’t like Black people” during the nationwide Red Cross fundraiser. Even more, images of Black people stranded, swimming, struggling on roofs are still branded onto my memory. I remember how our people were packed into the Superdome and labelled refugees. Churches and organizations as far away as Detroit opened up their doors for survivors.

Later, I heard stories of Black survivors being turned away from majority white Gulf towns. I learned later about previous flooding incidents, that many folks to this day think were intentional. Years later I found out how the Katrina super storm was influenced by human impact on weather patterns — “global warming” is not just higher temperatures but erratic extremes in a variety of climate conditions. Furthermore, unsustainable development along the gulf stripped away the natural buffer zones and made the storm’s damage much worse than it had to be.

Hurricane Katrina was the “perfect storm” for climate injustice: extreme weather patterns made worse by development and pollution. Climate injustice affects folks disproportionately based on socio-economic status and value within society. For Black folk in the United States, that usually means we face the blunt end. For working class and poor folks that don’t have the money to pay their way to safety, it’s the rough side of the blunt end.

Climate injustice is more than one-time events and calamities. The same development pressures that add greenhouse gases to our environment which cause chaotic weather patterns have stripped away protective wetlands and naturally occurring barriers. These economic trends and political rationales place polluting, dirty facilities too often in our neighborhoods.

“Environmental racism” is the term describing the fact that communities of color are disproportionately chosen as sites for toxic facilities — even considering income. This aggravates health conditions in our communities from allergies and asthma to cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Detroit does not fight climate change in the abstract. It’s a daily struggle because the oil refinery and trash incinerator are literally in our backyards. Climate injustice is not just a “one day it will happen” event; we feel it when we bury and mourn our sons and daughters. Detroit’s asthma deaths are three to five times higher than Michigan’s average.

The East Michigan Environmental Action Council (EMEAC) has joined with Climate Justice Alliance, a nationwide coalition that seeks to advance leadership of communities of color and other communities that have been historically dumped upon. Frontline communities such as Detroit have been located in the proximity of environmental pollution, industrial waste, toxic spills, explosions, and other harmful byproducts of the energy, waste, and production system we live under.

CJA’s Just Transition framework acknowledges that there are economic and political incentives beyond environmental racism that must be restructured. We must transition from being frontline communities and dumping grounds to leaders in this 21st century movement towards economic, environmental, and social justice. Each community will have to decide what institutions it will need to destroy, what must be transformed, and what should be built up in the future. From what I see in Detroit, our Just Transition must include:

  • Recognizing and Challenging Extreme Energy — Coal burning, trash incineration, oil refining is killing us in the short-term and harming the planet in the foreseeable future. Workers in these facilities, especially those from our communities- should be included in widespread planning for decentralized energy and reduced individual consumption.
  • Challenging Economic Exclusion — As communities we must fight the gentrification and destruction of our communities taking place nationwide. Let’s link with indigenous struggles against displacement and resource theft. Foreclosures represent a historic loss of our homes and community wealth. Katrina showed the vulnerability of our poor and working-class community. We must create collective care through institution building for quality of life.
  • De-Silo our Organizing — We can’t look at issues in isolation. We definitely can’t afford to think that some issues are more important than others. The anti-Blackness of this world uses myriad means and tactics against us. We must stay rooted in our vision, yet committed to syncretic thinking.
  • Healing our Culture — Our culture is a multi-billion dollar industry because it is powerful and it has the ability to change lives. Let’s reclaim our culture from being a profit extracting mechanism for others to being our channel for healing, expression, and institution building.
  • Reclaiming the Commons — Public infrastructure such as tap water, education, and roads has been built up with our collective investment. These systems should not be privatized, chartered, or sold off to corporate owners. The answer is more community responsiveness and accountability. The answer is NOT selling off to companies whose (only) concern is their return for shareholders.

In this land where our individual survival is not a given, we assert our highest self. We work towards collective well-being, respect for this planet that has birthed us, and our own ways of being full of dignity and self-awareness. No, we aren’t there yet but we are making this Transition with our arms wide open for our allies and our eyes wide open for any obstacles in our path.

This essay is dedicated to my friend David Blair, poet, activist, artist, and a local casualty of climate injustice who passed in the heat wave of 2011 when his home did not have air conditioning. This essay is also dedicated to Nicole Cannon, a water warrior who recently passed from health related conditions from her water being shut off at home. Her children are fundraising burial expenses here.

This post is part of the “Black Future Month” series produced by The Huffington Post and Black Lives Matter for Black History Month. Each day in February, this series will look at one of 28 different cultural and political issues affecting Black lives, from education to criminal-justice reform. To follow the conversation on Twitter, view #BlackFutureMonth — and to see all the posts as part of our Black History Month coverage, read here.

Weightwatchers Superbowl Commercial and Food Justice

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 1.46.46 AMSuperbowl commercials get lots of attention. This is in part because of the amount of money it costs to air one during the big game, but also because of all the “creative energy” invested in tapping into public sentiment. One commercial caught our eye this year, a commercial that focused on current food system and how hard it is to resist all the bad food that is available to us.

The Weighwatchers 2015 Superbowl commercial used a series of images that reflected the unhealthy nature of the current food system, with an emphasis on fast food, junk food and highly processed foods. The voiceover even empresses sympathy for how hard it is to resist eating foods that are unhealthy for us. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvUO_jU8XlI

The weightwatchers commercial then transitions to an empty plate with the text that states, “It’s time to take back control.”

Up until this point, the Superbowl spot had potential to get us all to think about the forces behind the food system which both imposes an unhealthy food system on all of us, but also profits from it. However, instead of giving viewers some clarity about what we can do, we are all admonished to join the largest diet-driven company on the planet.

Lets face it, Weightwatchers International is a huge multinational corporation that is not really about promoting public health, rather a company that uses our collective dietary struggle to promote their own products.

Weightwatchers has dozens of its own products and promotes other brands they endorse. The company does not encourage us to think about the food system in any substantial way, instead they prey on our dietary insecurities and convince us that WE CAN BE IN CONTROL.

While OKT certainly acknowledges that personal responsibility is necessary to practice a healthy food system, we also recognize that we cannot resist it by ourselves–and many simply do not have access to healthy foods. More importantly, we cannot change the current food system by simply purchasing slightly less unhealthy food products.

We believe that there has to be a radical transformation of the current food system, where food justice and food sovereignty are central to how we relate to food. https://oktable.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/what-is-food-justice-o.pdf We cannot continue to have a food system that is controlled by a small percentage of people, where exploitation of people and the land is the norm and where the public subsidizes this unhealthy food system to the tune of billions of dollars in public tax dollars supporting the Farm Bill. https://oktable.files.wordpress.com/2014/08/the-farm-bill-o.pdf.

For our Kitchen Table it is important that we not only understand how unhealthy and unjust the current food system is, we want to promote and practice food justice in the West Michigan community. We provide information and resources to work with people wanting to grow some of their own food. We work with people living in food insecure communities and offer opportunities for people to become more food independent with workshops, garden coaches, a small farmers market and opportunities for people to share food with others wanting to eat healthy and promote a just food system.

Don’t be seduced by companies who can pay millions to run a 30-second ad during the Superbowl. We invite you to join us and be part of a movement that values food justice over food brands.