By Neshani Jani, Communications Director & Zeenab Aneez, Communications & Development Associate
A few weeks ago, under the gorgeous blue skies and billowing clouds of Albuquerque, New Mexico, the HEAL Food Alliance and the Food Chain Workers Alliance (FCWA) joined forces for our first ever joint Summit! Our annual summits have become strong traditions for each organization (For HEAL it is our 3rd and for FCWA – their 10th) but this year was special for two reasons:
First, sharing space with the Food Chain Workers Alliance reinforced our purpose as a collective. HEAL’s strength has always been our community. Our annual summit is where we bring folks from different parts of our movement together to grow our shared understanding of what we are up against, and build power as a multi-sector, multi-racial, BIPOC-led organization that is fighting to transform how food is produced, procured, prepared, and shared.
Second, we were joined by Marc Mascarenhas-Swan and Anisha Desai from AORTA – the Anti Oppression Resource and Training Center – who have been facilitating our development of a three-year plan that will empower HEAL to make the most transformative change possible. And in Albuquerque we made some HUGE strides together as a community to chart our collective work ahead!
Day 1: The Review and Welcome
Before we could start planning for the future, we knew we needed to take a deep dive into our existing work. Our members broke out into mini sessions to talk about our current campaigns and campaigns in development like the Real Meals Campaign, Good Food Communities, and our Racial Awareness, Care, and Engagement group for white-led organizations. In the afternoon we opened up space for folks to lead workshops for each other about their work, including strengthening our networks through agroecology; using agroecology as a tool for change; responding to threats from ICE; reparations; creating cooperative economies; and neighborhood pop ups.
After spending the day grounded in each-other’s work, we officially opened up the Summit with poetry and blessings from local youth and elders from Tewa Women United, welcomed our group to contribute objects to our community altar (they brought seeds, posters, art, jewelry, clothing, coffee, fruit and more), and took a “gallery walk” to admire the colorful posters our members created that mapped their own organizations’ strengths and needs.
Day 2: Planning, Honoring, and Learning
We began our deep dive into collective strategy with AORTA’s facilitation. This was a time for us to think critically about the world we know we can create together and the work we need to do to make that happen. Discussions were deep and commitments got real.
Hosting the summit in Albuquerque meant that we had the opportunity to learn more about the roots of the local food movement, and got to know the beautiful folks who are driving the work now. In the evening the winds died down, the temperature evened out, and we finally stepped away for an evening visit to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. (IPCC). At IPCC we heard from some incredible movement leaders like Cristina Dominguez-Eshelman from our member org La Semilla Food Center, M. Karlos Baca from our members I-Collective, Tina Archuleta from Itality: Plant Based Wellness and Serafina Lombardo from New Mexico Acequia Association. They discussed their work around environmental justice, indigenous food sovereignty, food access and education, reminded us of the importance of staying together in the movement, like the ancestors did, building new resilience, and most importantly, honoring land and water wherever we are.
While we are grateful to IPCC for hosting us at their beautiful space, our members at the i-Collective raised real concerns about the Executive Chef for Pueblo Harvest, IPCC’s food provider. We learned that their chef is a white-presenting male, despite Pueblo Harvest’s tagline, “Native Sourced. Pueblo Inspired.” As an organization led by people of color, HEAL strives to center Black, Indigenous, and people of color leadership in everything, including our purchasing choices. We’re disappointed to learn about Pueblo Harvest and thankful to the i-Collective chefs for calling us out on our oversight.
Day 3: Closing and Celebration
The third and final day of our Summit was a chance to gather again as a collective group to affirm our work. Together we mapped the plans we developed in our small groups to a three year timeline aligned with HEAL’s vision for change. We are so grateful for all of the hard work, perspective, affirmations, and challenging questions that came out of our time together in Albuquerque!
After our closing circle, FCWA members started their member meeting while the rest of us broke away from our laptops and post-it notes and spent time in the fresh air getting to know the work of the Three Sisters Kitchen, a community kitchen where people to come together to eat, cook, learn, and build. That visit was followed by a trip to Los Jardines Institute and their accompanying farm, which the amazing Helga Garza from the Agricultura Cooperativa facilitated for our group. Los Jardines creates opportunities that promote multigenerational learning, sharing, and movement building while honoring land based and grassroots ways of knowing in the places where we live, work, play, pray, and go to school.
Our crew was honored to work on the farm and eat a delicious dinner on the farm prepared by i-Collective chefs Kristina Stanley and Hillel Echo-Hawk. With some help from our incredible volunteers they prepared a delicious meal using the farm’s traditional horno oven and an open flame.
We’re grateful to have connected with local leaders who shared their knowledge with us and provided a space where we could nourish our bodies and our minds. It was a fantastic way to end three days of strategizing on building a vision to transform the way food is grown, produced, distributed and eaten!