Transcript: Eating the Other: Toward Food Sovereignty in Palestine and the U.S.

Released on November 28, 2020


Video, Audio and Text Transcript

Download and listen to the audio file of this conversation: Brit Reed, Laila El-Haddad, Maggie Schmitt, and Chung-Wha Hong, November 28, 2020 (Part I).

Transcript of the video:

Helena Cobban (00:00):

I'm Helena Cobban, the president of just world educational, a small, but feisty nonprofit that works to build the informed public that's needed if we want to build a more just and sustainable world. Welcome to our webinar, "Eating The Other: Towards Food Sovereignty in Palestine and the U.S., Which we are presenting jointly with Grassroots International. I greet you today from my home office in the town called Washington DC, located in the traditional lands of the Nacotchtanks and the Piscataways. Today's webinar is the first in our new series beyond survival, which looks at food sovereignty challenges in Palestine and worldwide. This is the fourth webinar series we've presented this year. The earlier ones were on Syria on the world after COVID and on U S China relations. You can see the very content rich resource pages we made as a result of those projects if you go to the resources tab on our website,, and we're also making an online resource page to collect and present the videos from the present series, so that the unique and informative conversation we present today and in the next session, December 12th, can be available for years to come to the people who weren't able to join us in real time at the webinars.

I'm delighted that in preparing today's webinar, I was able to work with some deeply valued friends and colleagues old and new the project as a whole was conceived and discussions with my longtime colleagues, Maggie Schmitt, and Laila El-Haddad, the authors of the groundbreaking Gaza kitchen cookbook as the publisher of this pathbreaking volume, which is very much more than just a collection of recipes. I do apologize that it has been out of print for a few months for these past few months of the pandemic, but the book's third edition, which contains some fascinating new material will be coming out in spring 2021. I have been very happy. That Grassroots International, an organization with deep experience on food sovereignty issues worldwide has worked closely with us on preparing this project. And indeed their executive director Chung-Wha Hong will be moderating today's conversation with her help.

We also secured the participation of the two other panelists whom you will meet today. Chef Brit Reed and Jonathan Wilson, food justice specialists, and practitioners, whom we are honored to have also headlining our conversation today. Chung-Wha will be introducing all the panelists properly in just a minute, but I want to remind all of you attending today's webinar, that my colleagues Amelle Zeroug and Charlotte Kates will be sharing full resumes and some useful background info in the webinars' chatbox as we go along. So it's probably a good idea to keep it open. And you should also use the chat box to submit the questions you have of the panelists. And now I'm going to formally hand over to Chung-Wha Hong. For over 25 years, Chung-Wha Hong has worked on a range of social justice issues locally and internationally through organizing, policy advocacy, coalition-building, and philanthropy. Named by New York magazine as one of the most influential people in politics before moving to Grassroots International, she spent years helping to build the political clout of New York state's immigrant communities through a comprehensive civic engagement program. And in the process, she helped to win numerous legal, social, and economic rights and benefits for those communities. So welcome to you Chung-Wha Hong and over to you.

Chung-Wha Hong (00:04):

Thank you so much. Good morning, good afternoon, good night for everyone joining us. And thank you, Helena, and your board member, Alice Rothchild for inviting me to moderate what I know will be an amazing panel discussion on food sovereignty. I would like to begin by acknowledging that I live and work on unseated land of the Massachusetts people also known as Boston. I pay my respects to the elders and to all Massachusetts people past and present. As Helena said, I work at Grassroots International and we're a public foundation that raises money from progressive donors in the U S to support social movements in the global South, including Palestine. Our focus is on defending land and territory, water, seeds, and food sovereignty. It's particularly fitting for us to be having this discussion the day before the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people, which is tomorrow and two days following the National Day of Mourning or what is known as Thanksgiving to many in the U S because both have to do with violent histories of colonization, racism, expulsion, and genocide, but at the same time, they also show us vibrant trajectories of resistance playing a central role in these struggles, as well as Black and people of color struggles for land and liberation is food. From the mass slaughter of Buffalo and the U.S. plains region in an attempt to starve the indigenous people

Who relied on them. To the deprivation of food as a form of punishment and control under slavery, to the ongoing bulldozing of Palestinian olive groves cultivated over generations. There are countless examples of how food has used as a tool of oppression. But, food has also been central to emancipatory efforts from the reclaiming of traditional foods and culinary practices, preserving of heirloom seeds over generations to struggles over defensive territory. And this is what we're here to discuss today, focused on the theme of food sovereignty. Now, what is food sovereignty? This was one of the concepts that, that, that really blew my mind when I first learned of it. The most common definition coming from global social movements is "the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produce through ecologically sound and sustainable methods. And those people's right to define their own food and agricultural systems at its essence."

Food sovereignty is about power. Ultimately putting power back into the hands of those who grow our food and stored the land and water and all of us who eat. Raj Patel has made the point that you could technically have food security while in prison or under dictatorship. In contrast, food sovereignty involves deeper questions of power agency, ecology, culture, and identity. This concept of food sovereignty was first launched on the world stage by the global peasant movement La Via Campesina in 1996, outside of the food world, food summit in Rome. The context was a rise of the world trade organization and an onslaught of neoliberal policies of the 1990s. These were increasingly handing control of food system over to multinational corporations while further disenfranchising the peasant indigenous and Afro-descendant communities responsible for producing the majority of the world's food. As world leaders met in Rome to discuss food security La Via Campesina took to the streets, asserting that there could be no food security without food sovereignty.

So, food sovereignty has since continued to evolve as a concept and movement with diverse manifestations all over the globe. So today we'll explore food sovereignty in distinct yet deeply interconnected contexts from the Palestinian struggle to indigenous resistance in Turtle Island to local farming gardening projects in New York city. It is now an honor for me to introduce our amazing speakers who will lead us through the rest of the discussion. First we have Laila El-Haddad, co-editor of numerous books, "Gaza Unsilenced," also author of "Gaza Mom: Palestine, Politics, Parenting, and Everything Else in Between," and of course, coauthor of "The Gaza kitchen: A Palestinian Culinary Journey," which was named Arab cuisine book of the year in 2012 by Gourmand magazine Laila is a powerful public speaker as you will hear, and accomplished writer, political analyst, social activist, parent of three, and a policy advisor for Al-Shabaka, the Palestinian policy network.

And we have Maggie Schmitt, who is a co-author of the Gaza kitchen, along with Laila. She's a writer, researcher, translator, educator, and social activist. She holds a BA in literature from Harvard University and has conducted advanced graduate studies in social anthropology and Mediterranean studies at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. Next we have Brit Reed. Brit is a chef and a Choctaw member currently living in coast Salish, a reservation in Washington state. She has been a pioneer in the food sovereignty is a tribal sovereignty movement in the United States. Chef Brit is a member of the i-Collective, which stands for four principles of indigenous inspired, innovative, and independent. And she is all those things. She's a graduate of the Seattle Culinary Academy. Finally, Jon Wilson is the director of Rogue and Vigor, which provides farm consulting services to various impactful projects along the U.S. East coast.

Before that, he served as director of agriculture at Snug Harbor Cultural Center and Botanical Garden in Staten Island, New York, he's a multi-racial farmer rooted in abolition, and he creates farms that connect what traditions and practices of our ancestors while building a future where world many worlds fit. So that's, if this were a real in-person event, we would all be giving a rousing round of applause. But I'm sure that everyone is just as excited I am to hear from our speakers. So this is going to be very conversational and informal and, you know, please, save your questions and comments for later on. I'd like to open with an opening question for each of our speakers, which is, can you tell us your personal and political journey that brought you to seeing food and food sovereignty as a central part of your work? And I'd like to start with Laila.

Laila El-Haddad (00:11):

Yeah. Sorry that you might hear my three-year-old in the background. So I'll try my best to speak over her, but if it's too distracting, I might have to defer to the next person. So that's you know, a question we get asked a lot and I don't think I have a super clear answer, but I think most people don't, it's not like, you know, at least for me speaking as a Palestinian who grew up in different parts of diaspora initially, and you know, in the Gulf States and then going back occasionally in the summers to Palestine, it was really a feeling of kind of this disconnection from my own sort of history and peoples and land that led me to want to further explore. And one of the, I think I found the most tangible ways to do so and effective, you know, central ways to do so was through food.

It was something that, you know, was, I like to say it was real and tangible. I could feel it, I could touch it, I could smell it. And it was kind of like this, you know, key to opening up all sorts of doors and pathways, you know, food ways, if you will to histories and peoples and lens that I felt completely divorced from and alien too. And so that was sort of the initial, I don't want to spend too much time because I know we have a large list of panelists, but that was my initial kind of foray into that world. And it really did help me, you know, and we'll talk more about how, you know, at the heart and the root of sort of settler colonialism is, is control. And this sort of seems to be the theme.

We'll mention it over and over control over land and resources and people and sort of forcibly disconnecting them from those land and resources. And so for me, one way to be able to reconnect and reestablish those connections is, was through initially through food. And it was not something that necessarily came naturally. My family, they were both, both parents were busy and working professionals, et cetera, like many Palestinians in the seventies and eighties. And so it was something that I had to kind of actively work and study and explore. And a lot of this information was not recorded, right. It was mainly sort of oral transmitted in that way. And when, when Palestinian, the Palestinian nation got sort of scattered that knowledge went in all sorts of places. And so that's, that's kind of how it started for me.

Maggie Schmitt (00:14):

Like Laila, I don't have a sort of obvious or packageable answer thinking about this. In my case, as a sort of multi background hybrid white person from, with a highly sort of uprooted and mobile family in the United States growing up, I've always been really interested in how we make place and how we, how we questioned, what, what we inherit as place and what we, and the places we can make. And I felt like the places I inherited were not acceptable to me in a lot of different ways. And, and so I think I spent a lot of, I spent, you know, my first few decades really traveling around a lot, living and working in very different places. And, and I think spending a lot of time listening and trying to understand how place gets made, how, how places are made meaningful by the people that inhabit them and, and, and, and the integrity of place kind of, and never feeling like I understood, like I've always been a frustrated farmer.

I've always wished I could farm, but I didn't feel like there was a piece of a place to go. Like there's no place to go back to. That would be that, that has a legitimacy, a validity that would make sense. And so I, I feel like I floated around for a very long time trying to just listen to how that works. And, and one of the things that along the way I discovered about, about myself and about others was that like the best stories happen in, in the kitchens. And so always as you sort of try to humbly approach places and, and people and learn about, you know, how do I, I'm not sure how to live, how do you live? Let's see if you can help me figure out a, an okay way to live. And, and the best story has happened in the kitchen and the real where meaning gets constructed, happens in the kitchen and also, and also on, on farms because of the sort of total materiality and the commitment to like perpetuating life that you find in those two places.

So I guess I've always been really attracted to those two places. And then as, as this journey unfolds, I mean, I've spent a lot of time doing community building and different places where, you know, food and cooking proves like a real glue for sticking people together. And for, and for building a sense of community where maybe community isn't an obvious or a natural or a given thing like it has to get made. And also as a, as a feminist, the, the, the daily practical, immediate materiality of food and cooking and agriculture are really compelling to me. And, and as, you know studying and researching and this and that, it one gets tired of sort of more abstract and theoretical approaches to like how to think about politics and, and, and more and more attracted with time to really material concrete alternatives of like, how can you make the soil alive? How can we foster life in place? And, and, and anyway, so, so I could go on and on, on this, but I'm, I'm now living in a rural area in Spain and sort of trying to on the one hand continue documenting how food and, and how food and how farmers make place work in meaningful ways. And at the same time, trying to, trying to do it myself.

Chung-Wha Hong (00:18):

Thank you, Maggie. Brit, we go on to you about your personal and political journey towards food sovereignty.

Brit Reed (00:18):

Sure. Halito. Sv hochifo yvt Brit Reed. Chata sia micha hoponi sia. Tulalip, Washington vtta li. (Hello. My name is Brit Reed. I am Choctaw and I am a chef. I live in Tulalip, Washington.) Just opening up my introduction in my language as we're always taught to do. And so just going on from there by my journey also, hasn't been a very straightforward one as our other panelists have discussed in their own journeys. I was adopted out as a child, and just to get context for that for native American people in order to assimilate us, back in the 1800s, they began taking children from families and from their tribes and putting them into boarding schools as a means to ensure that they would kill the Indian and save the man, and then in the 60s, they decided to move from boarding schools and transition into adoption. And so now we have many children who are being adopted out as a means to separate them from the tribal communities and to assimilate them. And so that's kind of my background, but I was very fortunate to grow up in a family where even though it wasn't native, they were very supportive of cooking and always had me and my brother in the kitchen, like trying out different foods over time.

How being together and sitting down at a table and cooking and eating can really forge very strong relationships and lead towards like a healthy environment. And so when I was in college and was able to move away, I began to reconnect with tribal communities and also with specifically Choctaw communities. And it was by getting involved in ceremony where I met my second set of adopted parents, my spiritually adopted parents that they began to talk, like, talk to me about traditional foods and the importance of them in both, not only like being able to feed you in a healthy kind of way, but also to feed your soul both culturally and spiritually. And so I carried that through, into my studies, going to the Evergreen State College… Adoption and the Indian child welfare act, and then also in food studies.

And I continued that on into my master's program there. And then also continue the study in food sovereignty, where at the time there was not as much information gathered in one place that talked about what was going on in Indian country regards to, in regards to food in regards to traditional food, or like what different tribes are doing. And so as an answer to an assignment that I had in the food policy class I wrote an article and I also started a group called "Food Sovereignty is Tribal Sovereignty". Which comes from a talk from Valerie Segrest. A Ted talk that you can look up. It's really great. And through many different hands, including Buffy Turner, they began to other more and more native people. Now we're up to over 7,000 people that are all in tribal nations.

And, and that propelled me to meet other people like Sean Sherman and Karlos Baka and Brian Yazzie, Christina Stanley, and a number of other native chefs who are very involved with cooking precolonial foods and through being inspired by them and also recognizing that I couldn't just study these things, like that's not very helpful on the ground to many people. And so I decided to go to culinary school as an answer of like needing to get my hands dirty, to be able to help out the community. And so I went to culinary school and was very honored to be asked by Brian Yazzie and Karlos Baka to join the i-Collective which is the collective to talk about a little bit in the introduction, but it's a collective of indigenous chefs cooks, knowledge-keepers, seed keepers, activists, and artists. Who's specifically, we do like popups and things like that, but specifically talk about pre-colonial foods and food sovereignty and what that means for our communities. And I've also been honored to be able to go on, to live here at Tulalip, which is my partner's reservation, and I work for the diabetes program. And that's one way that I'm able to incorporate working directly with a community to use healthy foods and traditional foods to be able to combat epidemic levels of diabetes and other chronic diseases that we experienced. So that's how I got involved in all that.

Chung-Wha Hong (00:23):

Wonderful. Thank you. And onto you, Jonathan.

Jonathan Wilson (00:23):

Thanks for everyone for sharing so much, really amazing just to think about all the paths that took us here. I essentially have the same thing to share there wasn't a moment or a specific marker in time, but, so much I think about for me growing food and reclaiming land has been about reclaiming identity. That's been from all of us. I do want to honor that I'm actually sitting on Quinnipiac land right now on the Atlantic coast of Connecticut, and I'm, I'm farming on the Sophos and Munsee land, which are tribes from the Lenape nation in New York. My grandmother is Black and Native American and both cultures have such a, a rich history of stewardship of the land that I think has been erased from our lexicon. And, and just from our knowledge, and I think so much is also, I think as far as, you know, food is so nourishing growing food is so transformative. I think so much of what we do also is to heal on, you know, from the trauma of hundreds and hundreds, if not thousands of years of different forms of oppression and colonization that, that have led us to this moment right now. So again, I'm just thankful for this time that we're, that we're able to have to share to move forward collectively and, and hopefully create this space for all of us to be able to allow others to empower themselves through, through food and land.

Laila El-Haddad (00:25):

Thank you, Jonathan. And as you can see from the expansive introductions, we've already uncovered some pretty big and important concepts and back to you later you know just having that connection from Gaza you know, where especially in the COVID era living in uninhabitable conditions suffering from lack of drinking water unemployment, poverty kind of shooting up. So can you talk about why food sovereignty, especially now is so compelling and Gaza, and also link that to your idea of how settler colonialism has attempted to be right people's relationship with demand and food. So just centering Gaza in this conversation, that's a tough question. I just wanted also to say, sorry, I was really distracted earlier because of my three-year-old was like wailing bloody murder at the door outside, and I was fine not to be nervous, but anyway, I wanted to say that I too am coming to you from here, where I'm living my home in Clarksville, Maryland, which is the ancestral home of the Piscataway pupils. And I pay my respect to elders past and present and acknowledge that I'm a visitor. So apologies for not mentioning that earlier, but back to your question, I did want to also comments and one thing that Maggie said, and maybe it's more of a question when you're talking about the search for place. It kind of made me think, can we, and this is something we can all mull over. Can we consider food a place?

I'm just going to kind of put that out there, but it kind of made me think, you know, as, as you were talking about the search for place and the meaning for a place but back to the question about food sovereignty. So, you know, I never obviously formerly studied any of this stuff, but my interest in it came much later. And so all the words and the technicalities are pretty new to me, but in my ongoing exploration and, and, you know, education on the topic as a Palestinian who, who lived for a long time in diaspora and tries to go back frequently, is that, you know, what, what makes Gaza, you know, it has the unfortunate you know position to, to be such it, you know, it's, I'm trying to think of the best way to explain why food source.

So for a long time, Palestinians in Gaza have sort of been living in a, under a situation of sort of parallel governance, right? So on one hand you have the overarching settler colonial rule of the Israelis, right? Even after they sort of formerly disengaged from within Gaza in 2005, they retained ultimate control over Gaza's borders at sea space, its economy, its taxation, population registry, and so on and so forth. And I think we need to establish that in order to have any kind of conversation about food sovereignty is to be able to understand that, you know, ultimately I mentioned this before, but settler colonialism is rooted in control over land and, and people, and, you know, can you have food sovereignty without, can you even speak of it? Can you speak of any kind of sovereignty without having access to those things and, and resources and, and control, you know, I don't know, but so the situation in Gaza has been that you have this overarching Israeli rule, right?

And then you have this parallel governance of the local authorities with which would their nominal power nominal civil authority. And then you have a whole parallel structure of non-governmental organizations, local ones, foreign ones, big international ones, like the world food program and whatnot, FAO and so on and so forth. And the model that they use as we know, tends to be the one of food security rather than food sovereignty and food justice. And so, you know, as you know, Chung, while I mentioned in the introduction, this then presents the problem of, you know, the focus, you know, and you mentioned Raj Patel as well is on just having access to, you know food and food becoming sort of just numbers and calories and things like that. And ultimately that leading to just being able to provide X number of calories to a population that has been under, you know, a decades long you know, siege and blockade and whatever to make sure that their nutritional needs in front of the international community are met.

And that translates then into just these calories coming from, you know and it's this big, big system, right? These important, you know, white products of, you know, flour and sugar and, and on and on and on that's over the years has slowly really stripped, I would say the population and push them further and further away from their, you know, traditional diet. And so that for me is why I think in short food sovereignty, then where that comes in and why I think it should become more central. And, and I'm seeing a shift towards that more important, and the conversation should be centered in that way, you know, rather than a talk of just food security and food insecurity and what can we provide to make sure the population is fed, you know, beginning to talk about you know, where is this food coming from under what conditions can people farm?

Can they access their farms? Can they grow their own food? Do they have control over any of, any of the, you know any of these spaces, you know, back to that word. And they don't, and obviously in Gaza is a very extreme example of this, and it even differs than neighboring West Bank, right? Both under Israeli rule and Palestinian civil authority in the sense that they don't have as much access, you know obviously water is a big issue in both places, but in, in Gaza, it's like a, a microcosm of a much larger problem. It's like, everything is so intense. If you want to access the forms on the border, you know, you do so at your own peril, half of the farmland is along Gaza's borders where you're always risk, you know, it's considered an Israeli buffer zone, so you always risk being shot.

Much of that land was cleared over the past decade. You know why Israeli bulldozers and so on. And so farmers have had to plant not once, but twice but three times. So I don't know, how can we talk about food sovereignty and such in such a, you know intense situation and you know, and I mean, just one statistic that really demonstrates how, you know, insane and maddening this, all it is that, and I think in 2000 and 2000, and the early two thousands, something like 45% of Palestinians were in the agricultural sector, either farming, fishing, et cetera. And by 2017 that had gone down to something like 14%, just, you know, by sheer, by the sheer forces at work to prevent them be it clearing the land, be it, you know the placing of checkpoints and things to make it more difficult and buffer zones to reach the, then be at control over resources like water, be it control over access routes for imports and exports like the borders.

So I, this is the thing I'm asking and I constantly want to learn yet. I see on a small scale, there is a move towards, you know, Maggie mentioned about doing something material and something more meaningful, and I'm seeing slowly a shift away from just sort of the politics of it. That can be very frustrating and almost like futile in a way, and rather something more material and concrete, like what can farmers do on a small scale to establish some semblance of control over their individual, even if not on a macro level on their individual, a small food ways. And, and, you know, and I think that's what we're starting to see happen. And even if it's not happening on a mass scale, that's where I think the conversation should shift and where efforts should be.

Chung-Wha Hong (00:33):

And we'll come back to you to ask for some real examples. Some of them, you outline in your book where food is used as a source of resilience, creativity, building community. So stay tuned. So we'll come back to you with that. Maggie, the other thing you've pointed out about the process of writing this book was to notice that you described in this book the history is written in the feminine and the women who cook as the ones who are building spaces for care and holding up the community. So can you talk, you know, as a feminist can you talk about that aspect of food sovereignty?

Maggie Schmitt (00:33):

Okay. I have a number of things to say about that. On the one hand, I think the, the, like I said before, food and cooking as a way, or talking about food and cooking, like telling a story from the perspective of food, as opposed to starting from some other place. Cause really like you pull on the string and everything's connected, always, no, one's all, all, all, all the system, but if you choose to pull on the string of, of food and sort of follow that where it leads you in terms of, you know, how the politics and economy and the land distribution and all of these other things work, you can tell that through food, which is what we were trying to do in, in, in the Gaza kitchen. But it's a point of departure that's really based in the material in the daily, in the gestures and practices and rituals of the every day.

And in some ways, especially in as hotly contested historical space as Palestine in some ways that allows you to tell the story in a really different way that the story tends to get told in sort of big words of a funeral, the national struggle, I, this is true in Palestine, but this, you know, we could apply this almost to anywhere that, that history, you know, the cliché gets written by the victors and also gets written by those that are dealing with diplomatic Accords political agreements, et cetera. And, and so there's, there's sort of history happening at that level, but then there's a history also operating at, at another level in which the rhythm is different. The dynamic is different. The, the actors and the, the protagonists are, are different. And, and to tell this hips, the history of a people and have a place sort of through its kitchens is to accept a really different rhythm of, of time and political change and, and transformation and, and, you know, borders get changed in a minute when, you know, an accord gets signed, especially in, in, in all look the colonized lands of the world too, but, but food has a different duration.

It has a different, it, it, it has a different kind of friction or inertia. I don't know, it changes more slowly and the habits of the gestures and the tastes transform at a different, at a different rhythm. And that for us was really, really, and it doesn't appear in the written histories. It's an oral history, it's transmitted from generation to generation almost exclusively between women. And it's a history of sustaining daily life that kind of gives the lie to a lot of these like big narratives and, and, and offers a different way of accessing things. So I think for us doing the research on this book was, was tremendously interesting because, you know, you pull on those threads of how people make food, talk about food, think about food, the family stories around food. And it, it reveals the sort of whole other story that you know, more official and generally masculine narratives don't.

So that's one part, but then I always sort of insist that, like, when we talk from about feminism, like on the one hand, it's talking about like stuff that happens to women, but on the other hand, it's a whole sort of way of looking at it's a whole genealogy as whole, a way of, of reading the world, right? And, and if we talk about spruce sovereignty, like it's a feminist issue because it happens to women. If we look at the, like, things that happened to women categories, you know, in, in those places where there is a modicum of food sovereignty, it's largely upheld by women like 80% of the world's food produced by peasant communities on their own land is being produced by women. So it is really a hugely sort of women impelled reality. And in those places where food sovereignty is lost, diminished, colonized, dispossessed, hugely, those that suffer the consequences of that are, are women, everyone, but women often at the vice sort of front line of who bears the brunt of that.

That's all other story we can go into that. But then also looking at feminism as a, as a way of looking in a way of sort of reading reality for me, it's really important to look at food sovereignty also from the lens of, of putting care in the center as sort of feminist economy asks us to do, knowing that if we, if we under understand the world kind of through the lens of like there's extractivism, and then there are the bodies and the lands and the life that it, it, it devours, it, it predates that's kind of a key, I think, or, or that helps us understand a lot of, and put in common, a lot of these, these colonized experiences that and, and feminism kind of turns that logic, well, a friend of mine, a feminist economist, always says like for capital, the maxim is profit accumulation and, and life is life and all of its facets and all of its ways is a means to that end, right.

And feminism or feminist economics proposes turning that entirely on its head and saying, okay, life is in the center. How can we, what would the world look like? What would economic systems look like? What would I, how would we organize things if we put life and the perpetuation of life in all of its cultures and species, and, you know, from the microbiotic to the cultural at the center and that the sort of perpetuation of life at the center, you know, what would configure itself around that as a, as an economic system, just kind of as a thought exercise. And I think food sovereignty is very much about that. And I think the thinking about food sovereignty is very much you know, another kind of focused way of asking that same question. So I haven't commented the best. Those are a few answers.

Chung-Wha Hong (00:40):

No, but if, if our conversation leads to feminist economy, I think that's a good path. I also wanted to circle back to Brit and you know, both issues, if you, if you feel any parallels between the Palestinian story and the indigenous story and just making those connections and, you know, when you say food sovereignties as tribal sovereignty?

Brit Reed (00:40):

Yeah, I mean, and I want to thank the panelists who have spoken already. Like, I feel like I have so many things I want to say. Yeah, I think much like Palestine, you know, like when we say sovereignty for native nations, like we mean sovereignty you know, a treaty is something that is an agreement or a contract between two governmental entities that are understand to be actual nations. It's not just that the United States government came through and made these agreements with these ethnic groups. These tribes have specific sovereignty that is specific to each tribe. And so when we talk about tribal sovereignty for native nations that plays into the actual governmental structure and, and the right of people to rule themselves and I think the thing about, and they take over your land and all those things, it's that there's also, especially like here in the United States.

And I'm sure this might be the same also for Palestine is that the story is constantly rewritten and rewritten and rewritten and retold and retold and retold to glorify those that have come here and settled here which is really just a polite way of saying invaded and continuing to stay. And I mean, we just had an example of that just yesterday of one of those stories that's retold over and over and over again to make this nice history. That's not so nice. But Valerie Segrest talks about, you know, like for, for tribes, whenever like our food is so important to us, it's not just something that we put into our body, but there are relatives. And that when we made these treaties, we were thinking of our relatives and wanting to make sure that they were protected when P when we were making these agreements.

And so, so, yeah, like, so for us, it's, it's a much more than just, just the food that we put in our bodies. One of the things I think about oftentimes too in relation between Palestine and native peoples, is that despite these treaties that were made these agreements these contracts, if you will to be able to have access to usual and accustom land. So not just the, the places where the various tribes were put on their reservations, which historically were prisoner of war camps. But that they would have access to like all of their territory, not just those, those plots of lands, and that they'd be able to go out and hunt and fish and gather, and like and also grow food. Like my tribe specifically was a huge agricultural nation, and we're actually like considered the bread.

And what we saw instead was, of course, we all know that these treaters were not upheld on the United States end, and that for tribal people, people could get shot trying to leave these boundaries of these prisoner of war camps that are what we call reservations now. And even up until the 1970s, like here specifically where I'm at, I'm in the Northwest people like fishing is a huge part of the culture. It's not just the way that, again, that, that they feed themselves, but it's also like a really spiritual part of it as well. And so eating things like salmon, the relationships relationship to the salmon and those other sea creatures that they would eat is really important. And so, like they would go off, they'd have to go sneak out at night and go fish and then like use lines to like drag the fish through you know, like through the plants and stuff to make it look like they weren't fishing or they'd have to hide it and come back.

And people that didn't like they could go put in prison put in jail. There's a person named Billy Frank Jr. Who was literally put in jail over 50 times for just trying to fish and fighting for the right to fish. And so, like we see these parallels even up into the seventies and also to the day there's people, who are still fighting for the right to, to hunt moose right now, there is a huge, a huge struggle up in Nova Scotia as well with the Mi’kmaq, with lobster access to food and see people face, still having to like possibly go to jail just to access their food and to uphold these treaties and those relationships to those relatives, that they have. So that's some of the things that I think about, when I think about some of the similarities between, native nations here and also what happens over in Palestine

Chung-Wha Hong (00:45):

And it's a very powerful image of the prisoner of war camp and then Gaza being seen as an open air prison which leads to one of the other connections that we really wanted to make was around abolition. And this question is for you, Jonathan, you talk about being a farmer rooted in abolition. Can you say more about what it means to farm with an abolitionist approach, including sharing some examples, local examples that you've been involved in your mute in now? So I have to

Jonathan Wilson (00:46):

Sure. Thank you. Yeah, I would say that the link between abolitionists farming and food sovereignty is inextricable, right. You know, just to step back food advocacy, right? It, it, it, it sets up a really fragile system that it, that creates a shadow state but leaves millions of people, food insecure, right. It's not effective. It doesn't actually execute its purpose. Food sovereignty looks at how do we create autonomy and self-determination against right. That colonial landscape and that extractive landscape that we've dealt with for, in this on turtle Island, right. For, for almost half a millennia. So abolition in farming I would say specifically is rooted in creating spaces where people can choose to heal themselves where people can choose to empower themselves where my, you know, myself, I just to give context, I think that all of us, but I, you know, I could cite maybe thousands of examples of my own, you know, trauma of, of, of trying to farm under capitalism and imperialism and how much we internalize that, and then how much we actually then you know, we put that back out into the universe.

So I think abolition is farming is really challenging that it's challenging the concept that settler colonial practices, whether in Palestine, whether on Turtle Island are the foundation that we need to work back from, right. That all land is stolen that there isn't a dynamic that we can reform or permutate you know, to somehow look through the, you know, some optics or lens like justice, right. Abolition seeks to get to the root right, to tear it out from the root, which means that it's really a philosophy and a practice that we need to embody versus like an end road the same way in abolition. I think folks always ask, what do you do with the really bad people, right. When someone asks, if you're a prison abolitionist, what do you do with the really bad people?

It's about looking at the conditions that created the harm, right? That created the situations for all of these folks to be labeled bad people, right. That's abolition the same way in agriculture. It's not necessarily figuring out how do we you know, reshape the landscape, it's actually saying, no, you know, how do we take back stolen land? And from right. Once we get to that point, right, we're looking at what are the regenerative practices that indigenous folks use what, you know, et cetera. Right. So I think abolition is farming seeks to look at that philosophy and practice foundationally into how we do all of our work. And I definitely, you know, I think I just read a really great book by dr. Robert Spencer called the revolution has come about leadership in the black Panther party. And just like all of the, you know, I think the foundation and threads that, that I've heard right now, you know, the one thing, the link that's that, that has kept the struggle intact. And then I think has us now pivoting to a place of acknowledging the importance of healing and the importance of self-care, you know, that comes from a long tradition of women, always holding up this movement, always being present, maybe not visible by the patriarchy, but clearly, you know, the foundation that's allowed us to be able to move in this direction where we're, where we're having a self-reflective moment, you know? Yeah.

Chung-Wha Hong (00:50):

You're reminding me of a quote by Angela Davis who talks about abolition feminism as a methodology. Not just an idea and maybe we can pivot to some of those examples of regenerative practices. You know, when we're prepping for this call, Jonathan, you talked about Woke Foods, Cafe Forsaken, your work with department of probation. What are some of the examples that kind of embody all the values that you talked about?

Jonathan Wilson (00:50):

I can speak to those. So, Woke Foods and Cafe Forsaken is really amazing. I just kind of learned about it. One of the one of the folks that works with it was a farmer that I find with a season and a half, and they came about essentially as a necessity of, of care and creating access to nutrient dense food during the pandemic. They've done some really amazing work in partnering with community gardens you know, working with I think large retailers to take on seconds and donations. And I know that they're able to serve thousands of meals over the course of the pandemic at no cost and that in a, in a real, real clear example of mutual way within the community. And I think it's, it's examples like that, again, that I think that are moving away from extractive capital based farming, which I'm a survivor of myself you know, into, into methodologies again, of creating, you know, foundations where we are focusing on self-care healing and, and not just regenerative agriculture and farming, but how does that relate to, like you were saying, if food is a space, right.

And if we're trying to hold this place, what does that look like to hold up? Right. Our, our community, our people, our comrades and that's, I think the, kind of the, the nuance right of abolition is how do you actually be an abolitionist sometimes in spaces where abolition is not welcome. And then, yeah, so I, I worked at a cultural institution for seven years and I think that's, that's what I tried to do was I think I tried to figure out how can we create systems of abolition in a space in place where it's quote unquote is not supposed to be. So historically farming in, in the Northeast the appearance of it is, is very white. The resources are very white who owns the majority of the land is very white. Urban agriculture is actually, I think, much more diverse, but in New York city, which where I got my start I think gentrification in the, in the optics of class, you know, somehow made it appear that urban agriculture, wasn't actually a mixed cultural amorphous, you know, group of folks.

And, and I think that was a detriment to how folks receive funding and how I think folks were engaging or urban agriculture. This is like maybe late nineties, early two thousands. So I think what I tried to figure out how to do is, okay, how can we put abolitionist policies or abolitionist practices into a space that's like that? So I ended up partnering with department of probation, you know, even though I recognize working with them who, you know, I think have many contradictions and many problems we were able to hire for former probation participants in a youth program, all of them were able to receive you know, more, I would say more than a living wage. And some actually ended up working full time with benefits even vacation days, you know, as young people coming out of probation. So I think that example, even though it has tendencies of reform within it, because we're working within a large cultural institution, it's again, creating space for folks to be able to empower themselves in a space where historically, you know, young people of color on probation or are not welcome and cultural institutions and not, not necessarily present in agriculture. So I think it is again, cracking open that space, right. Foundationally and figuring out how to challenge those contradictions by making space for, for folks who traditionally are not present in that space.

Chung-Wha Hong (00:54):

And I want to go back to you, Laila, Maggie, about examples that you've seen in Gaza, despite the occupation, despite the portrayal of Palestinians as factums kind of the hope and joy and energy and creativity saw witnessed that you, you captured in your book. So well, what are some of those examples?

Laila El-Haddad (00:54):

Yeah, I'll speak a bit and then I'll hand it over to Maggie. I did want to say that you know, Brit, as you were speaking, I kept thinking of parallels in the Palestinian context to you know, specifically to the, you know, penalization by Israeli authorities of Palestinians who forage for, you know, indigenous ingredients, like, you know, za’atar, or there's a certain kind of thistle in the North of Palestine. That's very seasonal and popular. And a couple of other things there's really hefty fines if, you know, Palestinians are caught foraging for these things, which they do anyway, obviously, but in a very Clemon Steinway, like in the cover of night and so on and so forth, and it has been documented. And then in the case of Gaza, specifically with the fishing, that was the biggest parallel that I found.

Laila El-Haddad (00:55):

You know, as you may or may not be aware, there's a fluctuating Naval blockade that restricts fishermen's access, you know, anywhere from, at its lowest 0.4 nautical miles up to 12 nautical miles, which isn't a whole lot. And if you, you know, go beyond that line, you get shot or, you know, detained or whatever. So, so I thought that was really interesting. You know, and again, you control a nation through control of its food and resources. This is kind of what we keep going back to in terms of sort of positive examples you know, again, with the focus being on sort of like what I really liked what Maggie was saying about that food having it has a different duration or a timeline. I mean, we saw so many when we were there and I've gone subsequent to that visit when we went together many times as recent as exactly one year ago.

And, you know, I'm constantly, it's funny, even though I'm Palestinian, you know, we all fall victim to this mentality of like, you know, Oh, you know, poor Palestinians, poor Gaza, whatever. And every time I go, I feel like I keep learning so much from my own people about, you know what it means to be eternally like hopeful and optimistic and endure, you know and not succumb to, you know, the script that's being, you know you know, handed out or forced down your throat or whatever, but, you know what, I'll just talk about my most recent experience last year, which is you know, we I mean, I went to so many examples of small, you know, specifically relating to farming farms where you know, the, I mean, maybe I'll talk about the, the organic farm that Maggie and I visited.

This is a guy that is so passionate about, you know, one of, one of the main problems. Let me just preface it really quickly. I know that we don't have much time that Palestinians face specifically in Gaza, but also in the West bank is the dumping of sort of rejected produce is, is from the Israeli export market to Europe. And I think Israel ranks as one of the highest nations in terms of the pesticide use on his products. And if it doesn't meet the European whatever standards, then they're dumped on the Palestinian market, it's sort of exorbitant prices that we're forced to pay and so on and so forth. And so there was a small little movement to attempt to counter this. And one of the farmers that we met had started with some, you know NGO funding, a small organic farm, and as much as that, it is possible, not in a sort of like, you know, important Western sense, but, but, you know, truly, you know, just in a, in a more what made sense and was organic, you know, literally and figuratively, right.

And we got back in touch with him like a few weeks ago, and we were happy to see that he was still going strong at it. But what we really loved is that, you know, it was so peaceful and at peace and so happy and what he was doing and genuinely believed in this mission. And it was replicated, I think, at Northern Gaza and, and a few other places and had so many clients who were, you know, local women and others that had gotten cancers and various other elements that they suspect came from this produce. They were eating and from depleted uranium, from the bombed out buildings and whatnot, but it was just the harmony in that place was incredible from the beneficial insects he was talking about to, you know, the I think he was doing some aquaponic farming, right?

And, you know, to, to, to you know, female led households in Southern Gaza, Northern Gaza, where, you know, the women had divvied up the land, you know and it was almost a completely sustainable model, which, you know, might seem like, Oh, that's not a big deal, but in a place like us, it's a huge deal that, that one can actually accomplish such a feat on a very small amount of land, which most people don't even have access to their own personal plots anymore. And Gaza, you know, where, again, this just exuberant joyous, joyful household where everything was being done seasonally and locally from the cows to the chickens, to harvesting the chili peppers to multiple women's cooperatives where you know, local produce was being processed and made from like date paste to, you know I talked about the chili peppers and so on and so forth. But just example of example of people actually doing, you know, what I mean doing, and creating and trying to, you know, keep that energy alive and sustained in whatever way they know how and whatever you know, is accessible and available to them. And Maggie, maybe you want to add a little bit,

Chung-Wha Hong (01:00):

You have to unmute yourself and just briefly, cause I know we want to go to audience questions in a minute.

Maggie Schmitt (01:01):

I just, I love picking up where Laila left off with the, this one individual that we were especially impressed by and his organic farm, the image sticks in my mind of this man, trying to do a kind of sort of bio-dynamic organic farming that relies hugely upon, you know, the wealth of the soil and beneficial insects and in a place that, you know, as long as you're only looking sort of immediately on his very tiny plot of land, I mean, maybe five acres at the very most or three on the small plot of land, this incredibly vital territory and you raise your gaze up and all around is just absolute devastation. And because of the systematic spraying of pesticides and herbicides in the border area, because of the demolition, because as the mentioned of the repeated vomiting, so, and all of the contaminants that come with them, like the, the degree of destruction all around and this insistence on, like, I'm not going to despair by looking around, I'm just going to focus on this one little thing that is the one thing that I can do, and I'm going to make a safe Haven for those insects and, and for the food and for all the people that come there.

But on that tiny terrain. And, and I think we both found that tremendously moving as kind of a, a lesson to all of us in, in these times know, to cultivate this little pace and make it a, and make it a place of richness. So, and, and that kind of dynamic of like, I will just focus on what I can control and make it a place of richness and beauty and joy and wealth, and that same spirit repeated in almost every household we set foot in of people that just sort of refusing to despair by looking at the apparently totally insuperable odds against them and just focusing on making those little spaces and refuges kind of, and that was really moving.

Chung-Wha Hong (01:02):

And, and I want to just also call out a group in Palestine called Union of Agricultural Work Committees, who support local residents and farmers with their individual farms, as well as doing bigger land reclamation projects saving heirloom seeds with hundreds of seats that would have been otherwise lost and supporting farmers with kind of the technical, the seeds and tools aspect of their work as well as kind of the broader organizing work as well. I want to circle back to Brit and it wouldn't be right not to ask a chef about maybe a couple of your favorite dishes and how, how they help you connect with your ancestors, your culture.

Brit Reed (01:03):

Yeah. for myself, I usually it's like, I'm very like context specific, right? And so for me, even though there's like plenty of native American cuisines out there, cause there's over 566 federally recognized tribes. And then there's even more that aren't recognized in Canada and Mexico. For me, I, I specifically look at Choctaw cause I'm Choctaw as well as Lakota because I'm adopted, I have Hunka parents. And then I also am here obviously in Coast Salish territory. So those are the three cuisines that I specifically look at to cook and context of those specific communities

As a way to kind of like start learning about my own people's food was a dish called Tanchi Labona. Tanchi Labona is one that is also cooked by like the Chickasaw who are like our cousins. They call up a chauffeur. Traditionally this dish would have been made with corn and harmony. So corn has gone through a normalization process as well as sometimes Hickory nuts and like some sort of gametes. So either like deer rabbit I guess if like they really had to like squirrel alligator, whatever people had on hand. Cause you know, back in they can really be as picky as we can be now. But today like I guess like when they made me Maggie will be interested knowing is like during colonization, of course let the Spanish who just came over to our area.

So Hernando DeSoto was the first conquistador that came through our area and they left all these pigs, which if you're familiar with like Spanish cuisine I forget the exact name of it, but like the jamon iberico is like really big. It's like, I can't tell you how expensive, just a leg off of that. But they left a bunch of those pigs in our territory, in the South. That's like why, like you see like the, the Razorbacks and all that. It's partly because of the Spaniards leaving those pigs in our area. And for us, like we, we saw them as kind of dirty for, for a long time until the French for a trade completely wiped out our, our deer population in Choctaw territory. And so that moved the dish from having deer meat in it, into pork.

And so now if you go to like Oklahoma or Mississippi, if you get touched up on it, you'll get like corn and hominy and pork in the dish. And it's really delicious. And that breed of pig also developed into the pig called the Choctaw pig or hog as well. So, I really loved that dish and I also really love Banaha which is like a tamale. I'm convinced that despite the erasure that settler colonialism has done, when you start to learn about the traditional foods and all the different areas of the Americas, you can start to see that prehistory that happened. So, of course, we see like tamales being around and like in what we call now, Mexico, and there's several different kinds in the Oaxaca area. But throughout the South West, like they have like a kneel down bread and Navajo nation, that's kind of like a tamale.

And then you go over to the Southeast where we're at, we have been now hot, which is like still the same kind of like cornmeal that’s like wrapped in a husk and then boiled and you eat it kind of like a tamale. And we also put beans in it to make a complete protein. And then you go all the way up until like Mohawk like territory and up into Canada where they have different kinds of a similar dish too. So I really like the Choctaw version of it the best cause that's my life. But yeah, it's, I think it's really interesting to look at that, that food history and see what might be there to tell us about the time before globalism happened

Chung-Wha Hong (01:07):

And you're making us kind of salivate. I wanted to ask the audience, if you have any questions or have thoughts you want to share in the chat box, please do. So. I also want to encourage, if any of the panelists, if you have questions for each other or react to comments that's been said before, I'm just really appreciating the layers of connections that we're making between what might be considered very different contexts New York, Palestine, Choctaw, your Salish reservation. We're making those connections poignantly.

Brit Reed (01:08):

Oh, exactly. To interject. Yes. I think one of the things like when you were talking a little earlier about like, if food could be placed there was a, there's a podcast called the Toasted Sister Podcast. It's really great. Totally recommend it. But they just did a Thanksgiving episode. And one of the things that really stood out to me that they had talked about is a, this woman was talking about, you know, she's she Mashpee not because of just being like, you know, like that's her tribe, but she's Mashpee because she eats the food from that land. She you know, she eats the plants. They're also going into her. And so in that way, she's also the land. And so I thought that was really interesting. I think as like for myself, and I'm sure, like maybe y'all have thoughts about this too.

Like being both Choctaw, I feel like I'm like double, I mean, like the double diaspora of that, because of course, like we were put on the trail of tears out of what's now Mississippi to Oklahoma, and then now I'm like in the Pacific Northwest, but I'm also black as well. And so I've got like a couple of diasporas going on there. And so from my, like me, I'm always wondering like when I don't live in that place, like how, how do I put that? Like, I know, like for me, like, I always look for like, what are similar foods I can go out and gather, but I've created, or it's like, if you're also like if she's Mashpee, because she's also eating the food from there, like how does that affect us in the diaspora where we may not have access to the plants and like the animals and stuff that are from that, to be able to take that in.

Laila El-Haddad (01:10):

That's a great question. That's something that I, that sometimes bothers me a lot, or I kind of like, you know, obsess about is this whole aspect. I always say there's a lot of other people that have the luxury of being able to sort of visit their ancestral lands or, you know in one way or another sort of in a physical way. And we're still prevented from doing that. Or even if we are restricted, even if we aren't rather we're restricted greatly. And we always have to kind of think twice about, you know, because our documents will only allow us to certain territories, but not others. And we might risk losing the documents if we go here or there. And my husband's case, he's never been to Palestine at all. He grew up in a refugee camp in Lebanon. And yet, so again, we're always asking this question of what does it mean to be a Palestinian and if you've never even been there, or if you, you know, you can no longer go there or whatever, you know?

So that's where food plays a very important role for me. And I'm constantly thinking, how can I honor, like his, you know ancestral homes and lands and teach that to the kids and help them understand, you know, where they're living, you know, his, his grandparents we're you know, forced out of their homes during the neck bed, during the 1948 Palestinian, you know, catastrophe and Exodus. So it's that same kind of thing that I'm always thinking without trying to overthink it, you know, just how can I in a very natural way help them reconnect to that and continue to keep those connections alive. You know, and it bothers me a lot. Cause sometimes I feel like it's not central often to conversations that we have specifically when we're talking about Palestine, it almost is like an afterthought for a lot of people. They're really good into the politics of it or the borders or this or that and the other. And this is a very central and painful component, I think for a lot of politicians,

Maggie Schmitt (01:11):

I think there's a, I love this line of thinking and talking about, about food as a place and, and the relationship somehow between food and place. I love the image you're describing Brit of like, you are a place because you imbibe it like it is, it makes your body know. And, and I think that's really important, but the, and here I would throw out maybe a question even to chunk thinking about food sovereignty. A lot of the ways of talking about food sovereignty and a lot of, for example, in Via Campesina is really based on the idea somehow of indigenous populations on their own land maintaining or, or, or defending a food sovereignty that somehow, they already have, which is enormously important and terribly under peril in, in so much of the world. But there's also a gigantic part of the world's population, including I think all of us here today that are desperate, that are multiple overwhelmed lapping histories of displacement and desperate lived in, in very different ways.

But there is no, there's no direct, obvious way home. And so, there's much to do to honor the past, but, and I, and I love what you're describing Jonathan I'm I was taking notes of, of the things you were citing because I, I want to read up on the kind of abolitionism that you're describing, but this idea of a practice like you can't get there. There's not a, there's not a moment of arrival in which you've gotten there and it's all fixed. Like we can't hope for fixed somehow. And this is the case for, I think all, all, all of us in this deepest work world, like you can't hope to fix it, but how can we have a methodology by which we like ask them topically approach? Okay. And, and, and, and I think food is one of the practices that works for that.

There's also the, the sort of flip side of that, which is appropriation. And I think we can also talk about, about that and the sort of pitfalls of food, just as a symbol that you can take with you anywhere. And that's not the connected directly to the land, but I think it's really interesting to hear all of our different disparate voices and ways of trying to approach this problem. And I think in some ways it is at odds with a lot of the food sovereignty discourse, which would be a big question I have to the food sovereignty idea kind of in food sovereignty, there's this idea that we can be self-determining, but who is this? We'd like the, we has to always be created in, in some ways there's not an obvious we, at this point for, for a lot of us, for some there is. Yeah,

Chung-Wha Hong (01:14):

Yeah, yeah. I mean, one of the groups that we support in Honduras, for example, the link up people and many of you might know Berta Cáceres who was assassinated because of her activism protecting sacred ancestral river. She talks about when she introduced us herself, she does I'm my people link up, people are people of the corn. So in addition to food as a place, I think there's a for the diaspora, especially there's food as memory also. And the diaspora communities it's, it's when the, when the, the campaign to erase the eraser is such a big part of whether it's occupation or colonialism. I think it serves that double purpose of, of food and memory that, that becomes such an, an extra part of like your identity. Like that's just who you are.

But I don't think it's a very neat definition and La Via Campesina has more of a, their external facing message is more of a political message because it wasn't direct response to the World Trade Organization, WTO, and kind of the globalization. But I think today it just, it’s really wonderful to get into the depths of what food means in terms of identity and ancestral connections and kind of individual source of resilience, as well as the political sphere. Let's look at some of the questions here from the, the audience one question.

Laila El-Haddad (01:16):

Yeah, we had a great question about what do you want me just to read? Yeah. She said, I think it's worth understanding there's no status, as far as food is concerned all over the world, food changes and evolves with new products, processes, and populations. Should we not be recognizing that? And how do we bring that to the same table as our respect for deep seated, like I'm supposing she means, how can we sort of address this or discuss this while sort of maintaining or not compromising our respect for, or deep-seated traditions

Chung-Wha Hong (01:17):

Right. Maybe this is a good part to talk about cultural or food related appropriations, because I think people who try to appropriate indigenous foods kind of justify it saying, Oh, we always kind of copy and it's constantly evolving and this, and, but, you know, maybe that's like one aspect of it that, that maybe you can clarify. I, all of you, I know, have had experiences in that,

Laila El-Haddad (01:17):

Right. I mean, there's a lot to say on this. I know we've talked about food, you know someone after that had a really nice comment and said, building on the metaphor of food as place, it is a way to connect with others. It is personal sacred, therefore it cannot be conquered. I think a lot of when we're talking about, you know, food appropriation and whatnot, and I think her question's a little bit different. It's like, how can you evolve as an, can you accept, you know, the evolution, the natural evolution of you know, I'm guessing food or restaurants or approaches, while respecting the continuity,

Talking specifically about that versus food appropriation, I think we've talked a lot about sort of the context and the intention behind it. And you know, rather than it just being kind of a zero sum type thing or a polarity, it's really like, you know is it with the intention that you sort of want to erase eradicate invisibilize, undermine another culture? Is it being wielded as a kind of weapon, you know, or is it simply, you know, or do you genuinely understand it's the place in context and the people that it belongs to and to whom it belongs and then just sort of building on that. So I don't know if you have anything else to add, but that's kind of the way the framework that I like to think about it. I think it's, you know, it's naive to assume, I think on anyone's behalf that food and control over food and food waste is not, cannot be wielded as a weapon, or is it hasn't been, you know, I mean, that's for both when we're, if we're discussing specifically for Palestinians and native American populations, that's definitely been the case.

Chung-Wha Hong (01:18):

Hmm. Others, Brit?

Brit Reed (01:19):

I'd like to jump in, but I also want to give Jonathan a chance to talk before me, since he hasn't been able to talk now a little bit, you had something to add.

Chung-Wha Hong (01:20):

I think he's temporarily frozen. Brit go ahead, and we'll have him join us.

Brit Reed (01:20):

I mean, I, I think it's a difficult conversation, right. I feel like in this globalized world right now, we want to be able to say that it's okay to take any of these things. I think something that I would like people to recognize as a basis of this conversation is that in terms of like that, I mean, like 60 to 70% of all produce that has become integral parts of cuisines around the world had their origins in the Americas to begin with. Like how would you have like Russian and Irish food without potatoes? Or like, how would you have kimchi…

Seafood throughout the world without peppers? And how would you have you know, like Italian cuisine without tomatoes? So, in a sense, we already have worldwide like native, like fusion, if you will. Because these ingredients were already native and just taken out of our, our, of our continent by colonialization. And there's a, a reason for that, that I won't get into. But in terms of right now, it's like, like we were saying before, like when people have had their food ways taken from them through oppression as a means to conquer them I think it gets a little dicey, right? Like, so for native people, for example, like we're now experiencing like this revitalization movement right now in our foods, but a part of that is because people don't have to go to jail as much anymore to be able to access those foods.

Right. but because we've been given like I have people here on the reservation that are asking me, like, how do you cook deer? You know, where I'm sure that like, people that aren't familiar with native communities would just assume that like, it's a native food. Of course you would know, it's like, no people don't always know. And so a lot of native people and communities are coming back to these food and gaining the knowledge around them. And so to be able to like, like, of course there's cookbooks out there, but to take the recipes, like in those books that are out there and then start a restaurant that has nothing to do with like native people and gives like nothing back to the community is like so dangerous. Cause in a sense also to have these foods are our stories, right? They're our representation. They're who we are. Like I said before, there are also our relatives. And so when you take it without giving anything back to the community or acknowledging who they are like that's just like a further form of colonization and your and that gets really dangerous. But I will say though, that there are plenty, who are selling these wonderful products that are traditional foods. Like I can't tell you how amazing like actual maple syrup are or like maple vinegar and maple sugar, like, Oh my God, that is so good. So thankful that I know like great lakes, people to be able to use that there's so many wonderful varieties of like corn. And like always wonderful produce. Like I would definitely say like support native producers that are producing these foods because they do by buying them, you are supporting these communities. You're supporting the ability for people to earn, like a wage and to be actively involved in these food ways and also to feed their communities right. And have these relationships with these foods. And like definitely cook with them, just don't take our dishes and then repackage them and then sell it and then make these foods inaccessible for our communities. Because it's definitely something that we've seen with quinoa and like some other foods as well.

Chung-Wha Hong (01:23):

And time flies. Cause I didn't realize I've been remissed in my moderator duties, so we only have five more minutes. So it, while it may seem a little bit abrupt, I want to give everyone maybe a one minute just final thoughts. And it could be around, you know, given all these parallels and everything that we've learned today, how can we bill together? How do we do, how do we cultivate joy and love in this work going forward? So one minute each so that I could also make some announcement. Thank you. And I apologize for not keeping time, Jonathan would you like to go first since you might freeze again? Jonathan, are you able to go first? Can you hear

Jon Wilson (01:25):

Absolutely sure. Thank you again, everyone. This was really been just amazing and really inspirational and I think holding space I think for all the folks who are not able to be with us I think trying to push the dialogue towards abolition towards reclamation of stolen land towards redistribution of wealth I think Ford's holding that that long thread of, of women holding up and holding space for care. You know, I think these are the things that, that will push us forward. And I'm just thankful, I'm thankful to be full how brilliant shutting up. Yeah, it's just really amazing and I hope that we're able to look at more interconnectedness and understand how our struggles intertwined even more as we move forward.

Chung-Wha Hong (01:25):

Thank you. That's one minute Brit Maggie, and then I'm going to give Laila the final word.

Brit Reed (01:26):

Joy and learning who the tribes are around you. There's so many wonderful like cultures here in the United States and food ways. Learn about how you, how the, your local tribe has impacted the regional cuisine in your area. Cause the base level of all American cuisines and different regions are what were the traditional cuisines and learn about the treaties. All of us are beholden to the trees. It's not just tribal people and the us government or the Canadian government, but it's all of us who live here on these lands and learn about what the struggles are. Every tribe is going through some sort of fight right now for sovereignty. And so there's tons of local issues around. And I think that native nations are nothing if not about creating relations. And so I think that when you engage in those and come in a good way, there's a really beautiful path forward and beautiful relationships and a whole new world that you'll be able to experience.

Chung-Wha Hong (01:27):

Yeah, Maggie.

Maggie Schmitt (01:27):

I don't know. I, I don't feel like I'm in much of a place to make prescriptions. It's a really an honor to share this space with you guys and, and discuss this. And I, I wish we had another couple of hours cause I, I, I want to keep, continue listening to you, but to echo Brit, I guess, you know, learn and listen and study and talk to each other and, and, you know, just really pay, pay attention, read, read together. And I think one thing has come out of this whole conversation, that's sort of the entwinement of history and the past sometimes erased or or you know, intentionally forgotten or oppressed past and, and the dynamics of the present. And, and, you know, I think we all have so much still to learn about that and then into the future, because ultimately like we're all in this together, like the, the atmospheric comments, the mineral conduct comments, the soil comments, like at the end of the day, like we're, we're all in this boat together. So, so we better learn how to listen to each other a little better.

Chung-Wha Hong (01:28):

Thank you.

Laila El-Haddad (01:28):

Yeah. And I, I, I too want to say it was a great honor and I, you know, wish I could sit here and listen to all of you talk some more. And I was also thinking, man, I wish there was, this was, could be translated into some kind of like, you know, workshop or course for, you know, primary or middle or high school students or something. Cause that's always something that bothers me as a mother of four, you know, raising four children here is always like, you know, I feel like I'm always working against the tide. Like despite the fact that they, you know, are more aware than I would say their peers, but still it's the it's very evident. The you know, unless you happen to have like a really dedicated teacher that goes out of their way to amend like whatever curriculum they're teaching, it really bothers me that this isn't like a narrative that they're discussing beyond like, yeah, it was something bad that happened, but you know, but really like no going out of the way to learn and understand more in an experiential way.

Laila El-Haddad (01:29):

And this is something I, you know, some kind of prescription, I wish that we could, some somehow, you know, implement would be great. And then, you know, on a broader scale, hopefully eventually we were hoping to do in conjunction with and that kind of California, that the middle East children's Alliance food delegations to Palestine, we were supposed to have started in the summer. I don't know where that is with COVID, but it would be the first like such delegation to bring, you know interested parties and peoples and, you know chefs and food, justice advocates, and so forth from the United States to go over there and begin to establish connections and partnerships. And I think that's an important step as well. So hopefully, hopefully we can make that happen. And maybe even eventually we can work on doing some kind of joint, you know, dinner, even if it was a virtual one. We'll see. That will be a great thing as well. That's always a great way to have more conversations with different.

Chung-Wha Hong (01:30):

Thank you so much. All of you have been just amazing. I know it's only the tip of the iceberg of your deep experiences and wisdom, and I hope that we'll be able to learn more from you in the future. Just one minute and final announcements, if Amelle or Charlotte could share the slide I'm going to say that you will have a chance to hear more from Laila and Maggie. All right, let me do this in the right order. So the webinar has been recorded. And so when you check back on the website, there will be the recording that's available for further distribution. You can recommend it to friends and other others who might be interested. So please check back and you will be able to hear in the second webinar, hear more from Laila and  Maggie, it's December 12th, more amazing talks about Gaza and the food system. So stay tuned and be sure to put that on your calendars and the next slide.

Laila El-Haddad (01:31):


Chung-Wha Hong (01:32):

And plugging financial support, Just World Educational. We'll continue to do these great educational sessions. If your support could help make that happen, that will be great. And Grassroots International, like I mentioned, if you're looking for a place where you can, your donations to food, sovereignty organizations and other human rights organizations in Palestine including Gaza feel free to check out our website. So both organizations will continue to make Palestine and food sovereignty a key part of what we do. And lastly your feedback is really important to us. Please stay on. And as soon as we're done with this webinar, there'll be a short evaluation form to fill out. So if you do that, that'll be enormously helpful. So, thank you to our wonderful speakers again, and Helena, Amelle, and Charlotte and all the, all the gang at the just world books and educational and everyone who attended. Thank you so much for your time and spending it with us during this weekend, goodbye, everyone, and please fill out the evaluation forms. Thank you, everyone. You all are so awesome.

Further Resources

Speakers for the Session


Vivien Sansour


Chung-Wha Hong


Jonathan Wilson


Helena Cobban


Laila El-Haddad


Maggie Schmitt

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