May 21 event inspired and equipped.

IMG_1637On Saturday May 21, Shane Bernardo came to facilitate a workshop on uprooting racism in the food system for Our Kitchen Table. A long-life resident of Detroit involved in social justice and primarily food justice issues, Shane currently serves as outreach coordinator for Earthworks Urban Farm, a program of the Capuchin Soup Kitchen. Food grown on the farm helps the soup kitchen feed 400 people two times a day, five days a week. Shane is also a member of Detroit Asian Youth Project, The Detroit Food Justice Task Force, Uprooting Racism: Planting Justice, The People’s Platform Detroit and Equitable Detroit Coalition.

After OKT framed the conversation as a means of introducing participants to each other and to basic food justice terminology, Shane stepped forward to bring everyone in the room on a spiritual hike into sacred spaces where true food justice might find its way. He called upon his ancestors for wisdom and encouraged participants to consider that they each were the fruition of their own ancestors’ intention. He spoke of the importance of self-love, self-work and of healing one’s own hurts so that each can bring only positivity to the movement. And, he engaged the group to come up with agreements for the space, so that it could nurture our conversations and connect us in the work.

Shane then shared his own story and how he came to be a food justice activist. Having been born a few years after the rebellion of 1967, Shane grew up working in his family’s small, ethnic grocery store on the west side of Detroit.  For 13 years, Shane’s family helped cultivate a safe, nurturing environment for the Asian, African and Afro-Caribbean community to purchase culturally relevant foods and share recipes, traditions and rituals linked to these foods.  As a result, Shane developed a heightened awareness of social and economic conditions within the context of a racially, ethnically and culturally stratified community.

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Of Filipino ancestry, Shane’s family still struggles with the legacy of settler colonialism even far away from home. In addition to being displaced from their ancestral lands, becoming wage earners in cities, and needing to go abroad to find work to survive, his family was able to connect with the struggles of people of West African and Afro Caribbean descent through rich food traditions and culture shaped by a common history of oppression

Ironically, the event, held at Sherman Street Church, took place on the same day that the mobile food pantry truck was scheduled to be there. As event guests began to gather, so did people outside begin to form the line that they would wait in for several hours. Some of the people waiting found their way to the event and, for an hour or two, blessed OKT’s guests with not only their presence but also their common-sense wisdom, which they had gathered up close and personal.

As a final activity, Shane led the group in a power mapping exercise. The goal was to provide participants with a tool for assessing food justice issues within their own community, clarifying where power was held and developing effective strategies to create a desired change. Many in the group commented that they planned on using the tool in their own work.

OKT thanks Shane and all those who attended for creating such a very enriching experience! Guests included Food Not Bombs folks from Providence, Rhode Island as well as growers, food activists, community members, staff from WMEAC, Access West Michigan, Healthy Homes Coalition, Grand Rapids Community Foundation Encore program and OKT team members. Everyone attending left feeling the load had been lightened and that change is not only possible, but right within their own grasp.