Workshop combines Practicing Inclusivity and conscious relaxation


As part of its Women of Color Convening series, Our Kitchen Table offers “Setting Intention for Inclusivity,” 6 to 9 p.m. March 16, 23 and 30. OKT staff member, Stelle Slootmaker, a trained Yoga Nidra facilitator, will lead the three-part workshop. She has also completed training in Practicing Inclusivity. Each session will combine Yoga Nidra guided relaxation and dialogue based on the principles of Practicing Inclusivity, a paradigm shift in how we, as change agents, can create a better world for all.

“Virtually everyone knows about Inclusivity … We all have a common need to be connected to others for our own wellbeing. However, our differences and viewpoints get in the way. It’s only by being aware of and practicing Inclusivity that we can overcome our current situation and satisfy this common need … We can actually transform our complex societal problems through Inclusivity – but only if we practice it,” says Shariff Abdullah , consultant, author and founder of Commonway Institute for Societal Transformation.

Yoga Nidra does not involve exercise — anyone can take part. The practice turns one’s attention inward where the consciousness can function at a much deeper level of awareness. In this deep state, you can achieve deep rest, inspire creativity and set your intentions deep within the subconscious where they may more easily take root and grow. This workshop will help you set a successful intention that guides you in your work for change and powerfully unites you with others holding the same intention.

OKT invites its constituents, community members and all those working for social justice and inclusivity to attend. Space is limited to 20 participants. The cost of $60 to $175 (sliding scale) includes workbook, “Practicing Inclusivity.” OKT constituents currently involved in OKT programming attend for free. For information, email

Gov. Snyder Appoints EJ Work Group Absent of Impacted EJ Community Members

unnamedMichigan Environmental Justice Coalition
Statement on Gov. Snyder’s EJ Work Group

In December 2016, the Environmental Justice community caught wind of Governor Rick Snyder’s plan to create an Environmental Justice Work Group. With optimism that the Governor was finally responding to the environmental and public health concerns of Michigan’s most vulnerable communities, the EJ community hoped that this action would be a step in the right direction. After all, the creation of an EJ Work Group was a direct recommendation from the Governor’s own Flint Water Advisory Task Force in response to the still-existing Flint Water Crisis. However, it became clear this week that the Governor’s plan to remedy environmental injustice is shaping up to be yet another government sanctioned, private industry-heavy fiasco.

On Wednesday February 15th, Governor Snyder quietly released his list of the Environmental Justice Work Group members on the State’s website. Most glaring about this list is that the Governor did not reserve a single appointment for a resident of an actual EJ community who is directly impacted by environmental injustice. While the Governor states that “ensuring every Michigander has the same protections from environmental and health hazards is of the utmost importance,” the overwhelming majority of his appointments to this EJ Work Group would suggest otherwise. This 19-person Work Group consists primarily of private industry executives and state government agency representatives. This is an unmistaken brush-off and knowing dismissal of the residents and organizations who wrote letters, made phone calls, and sent emails asking the Governor to ensure that EJ communities were represented on the Work Group.

As it stands, the very makeup of the Governor’s  Environmental Justice Work Group runs counter to every rule of the widely accepted Principles of Environmental Justice -in particular, the principle that “Environmental Justice demands the right [of impacted communities] to participate as equal partners at every level of decision-making, including needs assessment, planning, implementation, enforcement and evaluation.” However, the Governor’s transgressions do not have to persist. Standing in solidarity with EJ communities around Michigan, the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition is calling on Governor Snyder to not only reconsider his appointments with the Principles of Environmental Justice in mind, but to also make appointments of EJ community members who suffer the impacts of unfair environmental decision-making on a daily basis.

To view the Environmental Justice Workgroup members click here. To connect with the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, please visit us online or contact us (313) 577-1687.

Food Policy for Food Justice: Animal Rights

This is the eleventh in a series of weekly posts highlighting OKT’s Food Justice series. You can download series handouts here for free.

cows-skipping“A measure of a society can be how well its people treat its animals.”
— Mahatmas Ghandi

Among the many unethical practices that comprise the current industrial food system, the brutalization of livestock animals is an ever present atrocity. During our trips to the supermarket, we rarely consider the price animals pay so that the food industry can profit. This is not a judgment on the grocery-buying public. The industry has manipulated our spending habits with messaging that convinces us that not only are the cows happy, but eating fast-foods, junk foods and convenience foods will bring us happiness, as well.

The CAFO: Concentrated Animal Feed Operation. In 2011, factory farms raised 99.9% of our chickens for meat, 97% of laying hens, 99% of turkeys, 95% of pigs and 78%  of cattle sold in the US. Industrial agriculture is one of the biggest contributors to global climate change; CAFOs are a major factor. According to Sierra Club of Michigan, “CAFOs produce huge amounts of animal sewage and other pollutants. CAFO owners and operators spend millions of dollars on technologies that make it possible to produce massive quantities of milk, eggs, and meat, yet they resist investing in technologies and practices to proper


View this 4-minute animated film to about CAFOs. Also check out The Meatrix 2 and The Meatrix Relaunched.

ly treat the wastes that are by-products of this industry … The sheer amount of wastes produced … often overwhelms the ability of the land and crops to absorb CAFO wastes.” 


Animals raised inhumanely provide meat, milk and eggs that are less nutritious and even harmful. When cattle graze freely on grass rather than eating grains in CAFOs, the meat has less fat and more heart-healthy nutrients that can reduce heart disease and cancer. Eggs from free-range chickens offer similar benefits. (Beware the term “cage-free.” This is not free-range.)

When it comes to milk and cheese, cows who ingest hormones and antibiotics pass these along to the consumer. The growth hormones found in milk are one factor in girls reaching puberty at a younger age. (Others include pesticides in produce, obesity and phthalates in plastics and cosmetics.) CAFO’s overuse of antibiotics contributes to the rise of deadly, drug resistant bacteria.

Livestock animals on CAFOs suffer terribly. Crammed together by the thousands, shoulder to shoulder, in pens that don’t allow them to move, they endure excruciating pain, debilitating illness and absolutely no opportunity to enjoy what was once every animal’s birthright: sunshine, fresh air and socializing with others of its kind. Mother animals are not even allowed to instinctively care for their suckling young.

Pigs grazing on the grass field.Hormones that increase milk production cause dairy cows to live every day in pain as they are over-engorged with milk. Growth hormones cause chickens to put meat on so rapidly that their bones break because they cannot support their own weight. Until the FDA intervened in 2015, US poultry factories routinely fed their birds arsenic-based drugs to promote weight gain. Because much of our chicken comes from China (and origin labeling is not required), it’s difficult to know if it contains arsenic.

How can you stand for livestock animal rights? OKT offers these options for reducing the pain, misery, pollution and disease caused by the industrial food system’s inhumane treatment of animals.

  • Consider a vegetarian diet. Another option, the pescatarian diet includes fish (avoid CAFO fish farmed fish). Pregnant women need 80 to 100 grams of protein a day so a vegan diet may not be advisable. OKT does not endorse “lab meats” being developed as we believe these Franken-foods may be shown to be harmful. Check out chef Bryant Terry’s cookbook, Afro-Vegan.
  • Buy meat, milk, cheese and eggs that have been humanely produced. Local sources of free-range meat, milk and eggs are your best bet. These products will cost more so eat a little less. Add more fruits and vegetables to your plate – and be healthier for it.
  • Reduce meat consumption. The food industry has brain-washed us into thinking meat makes the meal. Our bodies do not need large amounts of meat – or meat every day. Eat legumes for protein, e.g. refried beans, hummus, black eyed peas, peanut butter.  If possible, ask your mothers and grandmothers how they ate before the ‘60s and ‘70s. They most likely have a long list of meatless meals.
  • Use cosmetics labeled “Cruelty Free/Not Tested on Animals.”
  • Join the Food Justice Movement. Learn about the issues. Get involved with local groups making a difference. Let your commissioners, representatives and senators know how you feel about CAFOs, product testing on animals and other food justice issues. Help OKT build a just and sustainable  alternative to the current food system.


Congress to Defund Fair Housing Act Data on Racial Disparities in Housing

unnamedThe Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition just issued this statement:

Statement on H.R. 482 & S.B. 103

On January 11th and 12th, Senate Bill S.B. 103 and House Bill H.R. 482 (the “Bills”) were introduced respectively by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) in the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee and the House Financial Services Committee. Being mirror images of one another, both Bills are an outright attempt to disempower the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) by rolling back necessary protections of the Federal Fair Housing Act (“FHA”) by “nullify[ing] certain regulations and notices of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and for other purposes.”

Among the numerous detrimental provisions, the Bills call for the defunding of Federal programs that provide access to housing data for States, local governments, and public housing agencies regarding “community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing.” The specific language is as follows:

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no Federal funds may be used to design, build, maintain, utilize, or provide access to a Federal database of geospatial information on community racial disparities or disparities in access to affordable housing.”

While the Bills purport “to further the purposes and policies of the Fair Housing Act,” by giving State and local officials more control over housing decisions, this assertion couldn’t be further from the truth. Sen. Lee and Rep. Gosar make walking-contradictions of themselves and an oxymoron of their proposed Bills by implying that the best way to enforce the Fair Housing Act is to actually create financial barriers to accessing data that clearly informs whether housing decisions are in fact “fair.”

States, local governments, and public housing agencies in the U.S. have a long, well documented history of housing discrimination when it comes to racial minorities. This is the very reason why the FHA exists today. Yet, the Bills would strip housing officials of Federal resources and then turn the reigns back over to them –suggesting that they are now better equipped to enforce the FHA. This simply cannot happen.

As fair, affordable housing is an essential component of Environmental Justice, we are calling on our representatives in the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives to reject the notion that States’ sovereign powers are somehow boosted by defunding Federal housing databases that are meant to protect vulnerable citizens and communities. Reject this notion by voting no when the Bills come up in Committee and making sure that they never reach the chamber floors.

To view the H.R. 482 and S.B. 103 click on the hyperlinks. To connect with the Michigan Environmental Justice Coalition, please visit us online or contact us (313) 577-1687.

Food Policy for Food Justice: Food Justice & Farmers’ Market

13882561_1253537447998287_2460462587423020698_nThis is the tenth in a series of weekly posts highlighting OKT’s Food Justice series. You can download series handouts here for free.

According to the US Department of Agriculture, the number of farmers’ markets in the US increased from 1,700 in 1994 to more than 8,200 in 2014.This increase demonstrates the growing public interest in eating more fresh produce and supporting local growers. Farmers’ markets also provide people an opportunity to have regular interaction with local farmers, develop relationships and have a greater appreciation for what it takes to grow food, especially outside of  current agribusiness models.

However, having more farmers’ markets doesn’t necessarily result in a more just food system. In some ways, they can perpetuate the current food system’s
inequalities. For example, a farmers’ market that is part of a larger urban development plan often benefits those with economic and racial privilege. These markets charge more for produce and other food items use public dollars without public input and often contribute to urban gentrification.

When looking at farmers’ markets through a food justice lens, the market should not contribute to further inequity or sustain the current food system, which creates and perpetuates food insecurity. A farmers’ market that practices food justice would deliberately make it a priority to serve the nutritional needs of those most negatively impacted by the current food system. It would target communities of color, working class communities and communities experiencing poverty.

fullsizerender_2These communities consist of people receiving government food assistance like SNAP, WIC and the Double Up Food Bucks programs. The food justice movement and public health sectors have been pushing for more food assistance for purchasing fresh produce and even vegetable plants for those who want to grow their own food.

While such programs are subsidized by public money, the dollars spent on government food assistance programs pales in comparison to the public dollars supporting large corporate agribusiness. While neither subsidy is sustainable, Our Kitchen Table supports subsidizing communities experiencing poverty until our food system is truly democratic.

In addition to supporting people experiencing food insecurity, farmers’ markets that practice food justice should also make it a priority to have local growers and vendors who practice ecologically sound growing practices and fair labor practices. A farmers’ market practicing food justice should be transparent about these dynamics and exhibit signage that makes the practice of food justice highly visible.

Last, farmers’ markets should not end up being niche markets, but rather venues for both transforming the current food system and creating new food system models. In addition to providing more fresh food purchasing options, a farmers’ market that practices food justice should also educate the community about the food system and share resources and skills that empower people to collectively become more food independent, for example, cooking resources, food preservation workshops, seed exchanges, information of food policy challenges and even the development of food cooperatives. In other words, a farmers’ market that practices food justice should not only be a means to resist the current agribusiness food model, but also provide a venue for people to create truly democratic food systems that ultimately lead to food sovereignty.

For more information about Our Kitchen Table’s farmers’ market, the Southeast Area Farmers Market, contact or  on the Southeast Area Farmers Market  Facebook page.