GivePulse Stats


  • Johns Hopkins University

  • CSC Student Organizations

  • Center for Social Concern

  • YO! Baltimore Tutoring Project

  • Community Impact Internships Program

  • COVID-19 Maryland

  • CIIP 2021

  • Impacts

    This Impact is private

    This Impact is private

    This Impact is private

    CIIP Blogs (Summer 2021)

    The Black Church Food Security Network is a organization that leverages the assets of historically African-American churches to support Black farmers. During my internship, I supported the operations of the inaugural year of BCFSN's Black Church Supported Agriculture program (BCSA). BCSA allows congregations to buy wholesale from Black farmers -- we provide the necessary infrastructure for farmers in our network to sell to markets they otherwise may not have been able to access. The purpose of BCSA, and indeed the mission of BCFSN, is to challenge our current food system by advancing Black food and land sovereignty. We hope to create a community-led food system; one that utilizes local assets and place-specific knowledge as opposed to relying on large, often exploitative and environmentally harmful corporations.

    Throughout my internship, I've learned so much about food systems: previously, I had never thought of the complex array of economic, social, and scientific activities that underlie our consumption. I've also learned a lot about the unfair lending practices of the USDA and ways these practices continue to harm Black farmers to this day. The land grabbing and enormous debt that Black farmers have had to historically take on devastates families for entire generations: this is why the work of BCFSN is instrumental to, not only getting communities access to fresh produce, but also to empowering farmers that have been excluded from this country's agricultural fabric for far too long.

    What has been most valuable about my internship experience, however, is getting an in-depth look at the work of activists on the ground. I have spent the past few sentences talking about the larger context of the work we do, so hearing about the day-to-day work of the BCFSN may be surprising. One day, my supervisor and I may be transporting a truck-load of produce from a farm and transporting it to a local congregation. But other days, we may be standing at a busy intersection, shouting at cars and passerbys to buy some seeded watermelons sourced from a local Black farmer down in Virginia. Some days, we spend hours on Zoom, reading about worker-owned food cooperatives and dreaming about solidarity economies. Other days, we may spend an afternoon helping a local congregation launch a garden on their land.

    Often, this day-to-day work can feel slow. Sometimes frustrating. Is selling a few watermelons on Belvedere Square really bringing about justice for Black farmers? Will planting a few soybeans and pea plants at a small church in Baltimore defeat Nestle or Monsanto? Despite my frustrations, I ultimately think it does and it will. But it requires a long and sustained effort from passionate people that are committed to keeping the web of small-scale food producers afloat in the face of exploitative and unfettered agribusiness. Using the social capital, infrastructure, and organizing power of the Black church is one way to do this, and seeing it in action has only motivated me to keep going. I hope this internship experience is just the first step to a lifelong commitment to food justice and ending food apartheid in a city I have come to love even more this past summer.

    Made an impact between 07/21/2021 and 07/25/2021
    CIIP Blogs (Summer 2021)

    This past Friday evening, I had the pleasure of interviewing Anita and Thomas Roberson, the farmer-owners of Botanical Bites and Provisions, a small farm in Fredericksburg, Virginia. Anita and Thomas had a completely different life previous to farming -- prior to founding Botanical Bites, Anita worked as a Human Resources administrator and Thomas was a Physician's Assistant. Thomas waxed poetic about the many cardiac perfusions he performed as a PA in the military, and I was enamored by his life in medicine previous to his life as a farmer.

    I am also interested in a life in medicine, so hearing about Thomas' life was really inspiring. Something I have struggled with this past summer -- and indeed most of my college career -- is how I can balance the demands of a career in medical research and clinical care with civic engagement and specifically food justice activism. Thomas is a good example of how one can live such a life; the Robersons are not merely farmers, but also active contributors to their community in Virginia. Much of their unsold produce gets donated to local food rescue and food distribution centers, and most of what they sell goes to a worker-owned food co-op in Fredericksburg. It was exciting to see how the life of a dedicated clinician transformed into the life of a farmer, activist, and environmentalist.

    Talking with the Robersons during a time where I am reckoning with how to best spend my final year of college reminds me that I have my entire life ahead of me to accomplish the things I want to accomplish and involve myself in the things I want to involve myself in. This is not unique to the Robersons -- the people that make up the Black Church Food Security Network had many different lives in many different cities prior to joining.

    Made an impact between 07/21/2021 and 07/24/2021
    CIIP Blogs (Summer 2021)

    Every Tuesday, members of the Black Church Food Security Network engage in Popular Education. "Popular" in this sense does not mean "well-known" or "well-'liked," but instead "of the people." Popular education is a tool of critical pedagogy that is grounded in political struggle and social transformation. Most importantly, it stresses that education should be a dialect between the educator and their student. The role of the educator is as a facilitator. This concept is introduced and explained in Paulo Freire's best-known work, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

    In this past Tuesday's Popular Education, we read an excerpt of this seminal work, which I will reproduce here: “Students, as they are increasingly posed with problems relating to themselves in the world and with the world, will feel increasingly challenged and obliged to respond to that challenge. Because they comprehend the challenge as interrelated to other problems within a total context, not as a theoretical question, the resulting comprehension tends to be increasingly critical and thus constantly less alienated. Their response to the challenge evokes new challenges, followed by new understandings; and gradually the students come to regard themselves as committed.”

    Here, Freire is saying that students who are posed with problems that they can relate to are more likely to engage and think critically about them. This engagement, for Freire, is the way that new challenges or dimensions of a problem that had never been thought of before can surface. With this in mind, we undertook a problem-solving session in which we thought of the issues facing our Black Church Supported Agriculture program. Our BCSA program's biweekly distribution was cancelled, for we did not receive enough orders. It has been difficult in keeping the program afloat, but the insights from all of our members helped us gain a clearer understanding of the reasons why our current approach may not be working and ways we can improve.

    By starting with a problem that our BCSA program faces, and hearing everyone's thoughts, we were able to come up with a cohesive plan of action moving forward. While this seems simple, this mode of discussion in which everyone's perspectives are valued is in fact revolutionary and embodies the kind of pedagogy that Freire envisioned when he wrote his thesis on the way education should be.

    Made an impact between 07/15/2021 and 07/18/2021 with Johns Hopkins University
    CIIP Blogs (Summer 2021)

    Last week, we ran into a huge problem: only one Baltimore organization, Hex Ferments, had placed an order through the Black Church Supported Agriculture (BCSA) Program. Usually, our program picks up and delivers produce for 3-4 organizations. These bi-monthly distributions are a big affair; the labor of driving the truck, loading and unloading pallets of produce, and coordinating hundreds of dollars of orders falls onto my supervisor, their partner, and myself. It costs several hundreds of dollars to rent a large enough truck and usually requires an entire day to make our deliveries, since we have to pick up from farms that are sometimes a several-hour-drive away.

    Since only one business had placed an order through BCSA this week for produce that would take nearly 10 hours to drive to pick up, we were unsure whether or not it would be worth it to rent the truck and put in the effort to pick up produce for only 1 order. Talking it through with Pastor Brown, the founder of BCFSN, we turned our dilemma into a new opportunity. We decided to still pick up the order and turn the long journey into a tour in which we will stop by congregations along the way and gift them produce in hopes of building partnerships with them and getting them to join our network.

    Sometimes it feels as if the work I do at BCSA is slow; it's hard to build up a supply chain from just a few people midst of a pandemic. But when challenges like this turn into new opportunities to form community and comradery with nearby organizations, I feel motivated. I am excited for this trip and cannot wait to write about it next week.

    Made an impact on 07/05/2021 with Johns Hopkins University

    This Impact is private

    This Impact is private

    This Impact is private