By Jay Conui, Political Leadership Coordinator, HEAL Food Alliance
Last month the HEAL School of Political Leadership (SoPL) held our third session in Durham, North Carolina. Durham was a natural fit for us – HEAL has a wealth of members and allies in the state who are engaging in important movement work every day, an we were excited to learn from their on-the-ground organizing and experience, as well as reconnect with some of the visionary farmers and trainers that we met when we hosted our first HEAL Summit in Raleigh in 2017.
After our SoPL leaders and trainers arrived and settled into their digs in Durham, we kicked off our weekend together over a shared meal and words of wisdom from local movement leaders and HEAL allies:
- Savi Horne from the Land Loss Prevention Project
- Naeema Muhammad from the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network
- Shorlette Ammons, Center for Environmental Farming Systems
- Philip & Dorothy Barker from Operation Spring Plant (and HEAL’s Steering Council!)
We were privileged to hear from each one of these leaders about their history of work in the region, and discussed the ongoing political challenges and campaigns for food systems transformation in North Carolina.
The following day, the cohort took a deep dive into understanding the key elements of campaign messaging with Jessica Byrd from Three Point Strategies and the Movement for Black Lives. Jessica graced us with her expertise and wisdom around developing communications strategies for the cohort’s respective campaigns, and each SoPL leader got a chance to practice and refine the stump speeches they had been working on since the first SoPL session in Delano, CA.
We closed out our training with a grounding trip to Tierra Negra Farms, part of the Earthseed Collective in Durham, NC. Tierra Negra’s vision is to develop a community-based, sustainable food system by reshaping the relationships that surround food. As stewards of the land, the folks at Tierra Negra make it a point to honor in all aspects of their work the land and lives that were stolen as a consequence of white settler colonialism. Today, Tierra Negra’s stewardship is laying the ground for cooperation, racial justice and agricultural sustainability in the region.
As we walked the green farmland, each of us had time to reflect on the history of the earth on which we were grounded — histories of the indigenous tribes who originally inhabited and farmed the land, their genocide in the hands of European settlers, and the subsequent enslavement of black people that produced the enormous wealth for the Southern elite. Understanding and naming these histories are so important for contextualizing the current political moment we are all living in, and for laying the foundation for a new political movements that addresses the root causes of our destructive systems.
The SoPL crew will carry these histories with us as we continue position ourselves to drive real political change, and to move forward a collective vision and in values of what we believe our food and farm systems should look like.
Our next Session will take place in Minneapolis, Minnesota on September 14-16. Stay tuned for more updates!
Jay Conui is HEAL’s Political Leadership Coordinator. Jay comes to HEAL with over 20 years of experience working in social justice movements and national liberation struggles, including training grassroots organizers and movement leaders to embody their leadership commitments and visions for social justice through the use of somatics. Read more about Jay