Huey P. Newton garden mural pictured above was created by Peoples Grocery, a food justice organization working in the very community the Panthers free breakfast program began, West Oakland
Recently, Planting Justice started engaging with students at Oakland Technical High School which has made national headlines this month due to current senior and star student Akintunde Ahmad. Unfortunately not every student at Oakland Tech will be accepted to twelve of the country’s top colleges like Ahmad nor will every student go on to the NFL like Oakland Tech alum Marshawn Lynch…but we know that all students at Oakland Tech can make positive change in their community like Oakland Tech’s own Huey P. Newton and the lesser known Apollos
. And that is why we teamed up with Oakland Tech’s Science teacher, Joe Senn, so that his class is able to learn about growing food, culinary arts, gardening, and civil rights movements in history with a weekly class taught by our Education Team.
Our first lesson started with identifying demands for change through students really talking about the issues that they observed in the communities they live in. Some examples of their needs and demands are as follows:
FREE DIVERSE WORLD.
After writing down all our demands, I shared with them the Black Panther Party’s 10-point program; a document written in 1966 which describes many of the same needs our present communities have. Students understood the connection we have with each other by sharing why the demands they read were important to them.
The Black Panther Party’s Ten Point Program is a valuable tool for teaching liberation education. It not only gives students a deeper understanding of civil rights/human rights movements in US history, but also provides an opportunity for nourishing and utilizing students’ capacity to connect this history to their individual experience with oppressive structures. It can also instill positive self-value and cultivate empathy and a commitment to social justice. At a school where 21% of students drop out we are hoping to turn apathy into engagement, hope and resilience for students whose lives are complicated by economic, social and environmental injustice.
After creating our own list of community demands and rights we took a trip out to the garden and together we mulched the garden prepared it for the change in seasons. The following week accompanied by Maya Salsedo, our newest educator, students planted their raised beds. Before planting we did a power-shuffle — an activity that poses statements and measures participants experience — the topics we focused on included food access and health. Our power shuffle revealed that no students had better access to fresh fruits and vegetables than corner stores. Our power-shuffle also showed that everyone in the class has a family member or friend with diabetes. After our power-shuffle everyone participated in creating greater access to fresh foods by either weeding, harvesting, watering or planting at the school garden.
After planting out our beds we reflected on why it is important to grow food at Oakland Tech. Students explained that there is nothing but fast-food restaurants and corner stores surrounding the school, a problem of food access imbalance. Some of the produce that students grow and harvest gets included in salads for Oakland Tech school lunch, something that helped students to realize planting food is a political act when they considered the neighborhood’s food access and that 51% of students are eligible for free or reduced lunch. We are inspired by the Black Panther Party’s organizing and know that while free lunch is an act of community self-defense, empowering the next generation of Oakland with the means to produce food is a move towards self-determination, lasting community food security and food sovereignty.
“In brightest day, in blackest night,
No evil shall escape my sight.
Let those who worship evil’s might
Beware my power– Green Lantern’s Light”
With joy and care,
*”Huey P. Newton garden mural pictured above was created by Peoples Grocery, a food justice organization working in the very community the Panthers free breakfast program began, west Oakland”