Feeding Our Roots, A Food Sovereignty Reflection
By Marcelo Garzo
At Planting Justice, we work to grow food, grow jobs and grow community. What we are also doing is growing culture. We are sowing the seeds of justice, tending to our vulnerable and tender seedlings, and transplanting this new life into the fertile soils of our communities. Sharing seeds of hope, health, and power
These are the seeds of culture, the everyday, shared practices we support as a collective entity. We ALL have culture. The United States has a culture. California has a culture. White supremacy has a culture. Patriarchy has a culture. Even the suburbs have a culture! All systems of power and oppression have produced everyday practices that re-inforce and invisibilize their own existence. These practices are one part of culture.
While we know and recognize these dominant cultures that seek to continue oppressing in the dark, we also have cultures that seek to perpetuate life, cultures of restoration, solidarity and healing. When we speak of culture, we often focus on some obvious parts of what makes us who we are, such as our music, art, or literature. But culture is much more expansive than that. Culture is the way we Be, collectively. It is what we do everyday. It is not only the language we speak, it is how we speak it, and also, how we listen. It is how we share.
As an activist and artist working for food, environmental and healing justice, I seek to honor these movement spaces for their role in leading me back to my culture, back to where I come from. It has been in the spaces of food justice; the garden, the kitchen, the market, the land, that my ancestors have re-visited me, whispering universal knowledge systems into my blood, my hair and my hands.
It is in the garden that I (re)met my elders, where I have been able to serve my communities as a mentor for youth, where I have learned what it means to be engaged in reciprocal, intergenerational learning and problem solving.
It has been in the kitchen that I have re-membered my ancestors recipes; recipes that are not so much about a perfect ratio of ingredients, but that call for a general approach to preparing a meal, a combination of spices, but also energies, ways of Being in the kitchen that influence the taste of a dish as much as the amount of salt one includes in the sauce.
It is in the garden that I have seen how we can transform the spaces around us to reflect the peace and freedom we seek inside our bodies, minds and souls. We hold this space, with care and respect, reciprocity and relationship, with our plant and non-human animal relatives, the unseen forces that govern the universe and all that is alive, and therefore sacred. It is here that I trans-formed, shifted from the numbed, passive shape of an unconscious consumer, to the active and humbling experience of becoming human, of having the power to intervene in the world around me, and shape it along the contours of my wildest dreams.
Working to defend Mother Earth, we see how she has always been there, taking care, supporting us, holding us up, literally as the ground beneath our feet. She feeds, clothes, bathes and shelters us. She is where we come from, and where we are going. I did not read this in a book and find it intriguing. I listened to the voices of the ancestors, the plants, the bugs, the rain, and other sacred relatives, and re-membered, that the last 500 years are a small and very offensive drop in a sea of infinite time and creation. It has been plants, students and recipes that have reminded me that love is always more powerful than fear, as we actively participate in the healing of open wounds.
I pray that food justice activists continue to build gardens without fences, kitchens without limits and hearts without borders. For it is here that we may find out more about where we come from, who we are now, and where we are going. You never know where you will find your way home, but if that’s where you want to go, your foods can be your guide, your map, your guardians.