A submission to the CoFED Racial Justice Fellowship Program

 

I was pretty stoked to write to these prompts and wanted to post for public viewing. It’s cool when you feel you’re finding your way, like “not this or that but more like that and also…” yea:)

Yaaaaay! Even if I don’t get it, which is a total reality, I’m hype because, idunno shrugs*, it’s more life.

Cheers.
KM

1. Who are you? Who are your people? If you prefer, you can answer this question in other mediums, including poems, photos or links to videos, music, websites, dances or other things you’ve created


I’m Kriss, Kriss Mincey. I am raced black, born female, and I identify as a woman and femme. Right now, who I am is someone who’s practicing making music, meditating, having more coffee dates with her mom; someone who’s learning how to plant and care for fruit trees and edible plants.
I’m someone who’s asking herself what whiteness even is for it to be so powerful that it casts her as the “other” even among trees. It’s my life’s business to know that I’m “black;” it establishes my role as the “other” to a white person’s “belonging.”  

But how do you turn whiteness--the privilege society affords  “a set of characteristics and experiences that are attached to the white race and white skin”—into something you can touch, something that’s tactile and just as obvious as the so-called other? What does it look like to do whiteness, and how do we know when we’re witnessing it? How do we claim the ways in which we are invested in whiteness?

If whiteness is a pathology—something you can take apart, examine, and heal—and if we want to “dismantle white supremacy” as buzzwords say, what will we call what’s left in its absence?

I’m also asking the ethical question of how to record my own history and experience as a black american woman—I have a personal history: I believe this assertion to be radical on its own. And yet, to tell my story and those of other black american women and femmes, is to make us more easily identifiable, academically examined and pathologized; or commercially mimicked, disoriented by the taking, renaming and mass export of blackness as a global commodity that we are shamed out of claiming.

This is the latest iteration of myself. And for me, other black american femmes, and other “others,” I see growing food and operating in green spaces as a medium and venue for actualizing the full breadth of whoever we are, wherever we are.

2. What does racial justice and community ownership of food and land mean to you and your co-op or collective?

Racial justice, and community ownership of food and land, translate to 4 key elements as they relate to my proposed project:

1) defining for yourself what healthy food is

2) buying and growing food in a way that redistributes excess resources

3) accessing that food in areas where you haven’t been displaced

Fourthly, racial justice is about the question, “who belongs?”

In addition to the aforementioned, belonging is about “who gets to imagine themselves here?”

Green spaces are not imagined as being a place where black women and people with limited mobility belong. We know this by the white, masculine-presenting and able-bodied person who comes to mind when talks of “environmental justice” come up. And while I still long to see more of the image of myself in this venue, there is healing in this place, and an autonomy that is bigger than owning land, and certainly more worthwhile than just working it. It is expressed in the kind of symbiosis--oneness--in which we and the land belong to each other.

3. Tell us about your proposed Fellowship project. What is your plan to impact racial justice within our food system? How will you implement your project within the 6 month timeframe?

My project: a Universal Design sensory food garden accessible to people using wheelchairs and with otherwise limited mobility. This is to heal racial trauma, ableism, and other experiences that are symptomatic of being marginalized as "other” in proximity to whiteness

---“whiteness trauma,” for short, so as to shift our focus from the groups of people who are most vulnerable to the effects of whiteness, to the active perpetrator of trauma, which I argue is whiteness itself.

Why: My mom and I live together in the house she inherited from her mother. We fix coffee in the same kitchen where she, my grandmother and great grandmother fixed their coffee, even with the same kettle, and talked about their lives.

My mother is a black american woman and a 100-percent disabled military veteran, whose life experiences have imbued me with a sense of legacy, history, and most importantly, a place where I feel at home--a place in the world, if not anywhere else, where I belong. My late grandparents sold the house to my parents, and now my mom is passing it down to me in honor of our matriarchal lineage.

I want to share with her the regenerative experience I’ve had in natural spaces, so that she can have more control over her health and happiness, and access to natural foods grown from the very grounds our family has lived on for more than half a century. Society affords me privilege because I have full use of my body. I want to redistribute that power by making the gardening and farming experience accessible to her, because home should be a place where we both feel like we belong.

Here’s a brief description of my implementation plan. Click Appendix Action Plan Outline for a more detailed timeline.

  • June: Planning, design and budget submission

  • July and August: buying materials for pathways, raised beds and borders, and building them

  • September and October: planting and harvesting winter crops

  • November: Assessing the first harvest, making changes, and planning for spring planting season

4. Can your project happen successfully without CoFED’s support? What support already exists for this project?

Without CoFED’s support, the project could take years…still, Baltimore’s urban agriculture and black business communities are ones that are tightly knit, I believe. While I don’t have much money, my wealth in relationships, skills, education and full range of mobility afford me access to information and the capacity to implement the project through sweat equity.

5. How are you directly impacted by the issue(s) you are addressing? (and how my project addresses them)

So as not to belabor the points made in earlier answers, which address this prompt in the discussion of whiteness trauma, the following are some of the healing benefits my project offers in response to the symptoms of said trauma that impact me most:

  • Better food: Growing fresh food on my block means we can eat higher quality food as we age, healing health conditions common among black and indigenous folks living in food deserts, which our neighborhood was until just 5 years ago.

  • Self-determined destiny in the form of

    • A framework for a black-femme owned commercial farm in Baltimore.

    • a re-imagination of the relationship between bodies, identity and natural landscapes *informed, in part, by the work of Dominique Butler

  • Land sovereignty in response to gentrification: Creating a green space on my family's property in an increasingly gentrified Baltimore creates a permanent sense of home and belonging for me, my mom, and for our neighbors.

What success looks like

Success in 6 months would look like having all the beds and paths built, and seed and tools bought for the next planting season.

If awarded the CoFED Racial Justice Fellowship, I’d be able to build and plant the garden in time for the fall harvest, and have time to assess the extent to which I can scale the operation to a commercial farm supporting local entities, such as Callaway Elementary School, my childhood school; Dovecote Cafe, Red Emma’s, The Medina Collective and Terra Cafe--black owned, minority owned and worker owned businesses looking to buy from black farmers; the Dolfield neighborhood; and even further, the West District.

While it would be no small feat to support local schools, businesses and collectives with one plot of land stretching just a quarter of an acre wide, the suggestion itself still finds its roots in yet another anti-black-femme myth that being a superhero is the only way I get to be somebody, and that to be discovered mortal as a black femme renders me undeserving of that inclusion.

That said, I affirm that my community starts with me;  “my cup runneth over” only once I am filled to the brim with care, inspiration, economic empowerment, and all the gifts that a project like this might offer. So I hope that you’ll accept this application as a token of direct action toward reclamation of black-owned land, starting with my family’s, and the liberation of black and femme bodies, starting with mine. Thank you.

 
Kriss MinceyComment