"Black Panther Party-Zapatista Foodways: Lessons from Home"
In the radical history of the United States we can see the potential of social movements that were able to feed their communities and challenge the corporate food regime and a racist political system. For example, the Black Panther Party was feeding almost a quarter of million youth across the United States per day through the Free Breakfast for Children Program (Patel 2011). This eventually placed them as the greatest threat to U.S. “internal security” which ultimately served as FBI director J. Edgar Hoover’s scare tactic to dismantle the movement through COINTELPRO. While the Free Breakfast for Children Program put men in the kitchens and in so doing attempted to confront the gender hierarchy and patriarchy within the Party, the Zapatista experience challenges us to think beyond a food system controlled by corporations. In Survival Pending Revolution: What the Black Panthers Can Teach the U.S. Food Movement Raj Patel provides some details as to what the “universal aspiration” of the Free Breakfast for Children Program “for a balanced diet” consisted of: “fresh fruit twice a week, and always a starch of toast or grits, protein of sausage, bacon or eggs, and a beverage of milk, juice, or hot chocolate […]” (Holt-Jimenez 2011, 123). While we can easily fall into dialectic debates over good/bad foods in mainstream science, I’d rather see the BPP Free Breakfast for Children Program as a critical and practical lesson that teaches us how autonomous control over a localized food system go hand in hand with the self-defense and self-determination of our communities in the U.S. The Standard American Diet (SAD), which is greatly processed and meat-based, is a patriarchal-capitalist food system that dates back to colonization. You see, just as rape came with conquest, so did the idea that the brown female body we call the land and everything that inhabits her dwellings like the (feminized) animals are for the taking. Since colonization, people of color have been under colonial occupation through the foods we have been forced to produce and consume. Trapped in this colonial food matrix of power, the land and all of our relations are equally part of the same labor force that drives production and consumption of a Eurocentric Standard American Diet—a SAD diet.
With roots in a heavily meat and processed food based paradigm like the SAD, the U.S.-led corporate food regime has attempted to displace plant-based consumption within native and indigenous communities of Mesoamerica. Yet, whether plant-based or meat-based (as with some Native Alaskan and Canadian communities) health-giving Indigenous foodways that are ecologically sustainable continue to exist outside of the colonial food matrix of power. Certainly, a major lesson from the Zapatistas is one of self-determination (Alfred 1999), and how to move beyond resistance (El Kilombo Intergalactico 2007) towards decolonial autonomous movement building by remembering our traditional ways of healing and eating without dependency on the current systems of education, politics, food and health. In line with the Zapatista focus on self-determination, People of color (POC) movements in the U.S. are creating alterNative ways of doing health, food and nutrition by remembering the ways of our ancestors. Such POC movements are carrying on the ancestral guidance and answers we need to solve the problems we face today. Crucial here is any attempt to “do” health, food and nutrition differently must include the other segments of that broader braid – la trenza – with which health and nutrition are interwoven; so, “doing nutrition differently” also entails community self-defense and cultural-ecological revitalization, health and nutrition, autonomous food systems and governance. The Zapatistas’ everyday reality exemplifies such a broadened understanding of health nutrition. There are communities of color in the U.S. that have been inspired by the Zapatistas and the Black Panther Party movement among many other to do the same. Our familias of youth, elders, students, garment workers, resilient migrant workers and street-food vendors make up the bases of support for such movements in the U.S.
Thursday, February 28, 2013
An excerpt from Another Way of Doing Health: Lessons From the Zapatista Autonomous Communities in Chiapas, Mexico (In forthcoming edited publication by Ashgate Press, Doing Nutrition Differently) by Chris Rodriguez
Posted by Chris Rodriguez at 12:10 AM
Thursday, January 26, 2012
As a Decolonial movements seek to decolonize the Occupy Wall Street Movement(s), a political-ethical stance inspired by two already existing movements is worth sharing: (1) The ethics of decolonizing food movements rooted in indigenous principles. I originally published this piece with a generalization of this dynamic autonomous movement of movements by calling it the food sovereignty movement. After a series of critical reflection I engaged with my compañera on the differences between decolonization, self-determination and sovereignty I realized that the ethics discussed here go far beyond sovereignty. Taiaiake Alfred, Gustavo Esteve & Madhu Prakash offer important critiques on sovereignty and universal human rights (among other topics) that provoked me to clarify the language used in this piece. In a nut-shell, I am not here to promote sovereignty since it implies the reaffirming role and rule of Western thought, governance, state/nation-hood, and heirarchal control over the land. This is an offereing of some lessons i've gained in decolonzing movements and decolonizing food movements which are inclusive of all of our relations—people, plants, animals, water and the land. It is how we defend and give voice to the land. (2) The Zapatista initiated Other Campaign. Because it is the one and only movement with the political trajectory and international solidarity that articulates the idea of creating another way of doing politics from below and to the left…in other words a decolonial political-ethical stance.
These two movements of movements can teach us how not to be co-opted while providing us with guiding examples of how to stay on the course we are already on. That is, on the path of assembly and encountering the other—los de abajo—as we seek to decolonize. One way to actually experience decolonization live in the flesh is by eating a plant-based local indigenous diet that is ecologically and geographically specific to where one lives.
Thursday, December 8, 2011
Red quinoa with roasted corn, red bell peppers, leeks, carrots, celery and purple onions.*
Posted by Chris Rodriguez at 7:30 PM
Monday, October 31, 2011
by Chris Rodriguez
The destructive face of globalization has reached all corners of the planet. While the land, water, air, animals and humanity are in need of a world-wide movement of liberation, most people continue to overindulge and over consume. The United States is of course the leading force behind this mass consumption and destruction. But, as a Mexican writer for the radical blog Desinformémonos said, “finally something begins to move in the belly of the beast.” Yes, I’m talking about the Occupy Wall Street movement. Writing from within the belly of the beast, however, implies a responsibility to challenge the language of empire and remind us that beyond occupying space, there is a deeper struggle, a five hundred plus year-old indigenous movement, to decolonize, recuperate and liberate occupied territory—physical and geographic. Perhaps the use of the term “occupy” is embedded in people’s consumption of the U.S. Empire’s mass media promoting endless war and domination of the world. I feel it is safe to say that this has normalized the idea of occupation, and as we are witnessing today, has also made it easy for the masses to reclaim the word “occupy” as a positive, progressive one. But did you ever stop to think about how your own physical mind and body are occupied? Do we really need to occupy more space? How will these questions reach a leaderless movement of occupation? Well for the folks who take the time to read this post my intention is to express solidarity with the those who are voicing their rage at the occupations. Perhaps some of you camping out at civic centers and wall streets across the U.S. Empire will have time to read this post and get inspired to praxis what you’re preaching.