Racial Equity Habit Building, Networked

March 5, 2015 Leave a comment


Two years ago, the Food Solutions New England (FSNE) Network Team, with support from IISC, committed to putting racial equity at the center of its work in trying to bring the six state region together around a vision of a more sustainable food system. Since formalizing that commitment with more than 150 delegates at last year’s annual Food Summit, and taking it to other food system-focused networks by invitation, the FSNE Network Team has faced the big question – Now what? How to deliver on this commitment and in a regional context? At the very least we continue to deepen our learning around and commitment to equity, modeling for and learning from and with others, growing and strengthening our understanding and action. A sub-committee of the Network Team, of which IISC is a part, has put together a racial equity plan consisting of various areas of activity, including education, communication, convening, network weaving/organizing and curating tools and resources for food system advocates at all levels (organizational, community, municipal, state).

One step that has just been launched is a bit of an experiment, and takes the 21 Day Racial Equity Habit Building Challenge from Debbie Irving (author of Waking Up White) and Dr. Eddie Moore, Jr. (founder of the White Privilege Conference), and turns it into a virtual community of practice. The ongoing challenge of the Network Team is to figure out a variety of means to keep knitting the network, and to keep communication and learning flowing. This is where the proliferation of social media tools and collaboration platforms has been extremely helpful.

Here’s how the challenge has been set up (with big shout-outs to FSNE colleagues Karen Spiller, Joanne Burke, Johanna Rosen and El Farrell): “As part of its commitment to racial equity and food justice in the food system, Food Solutions New England (FSNE) is trying to normalize the conversation about race and racism and to build greater collective capacity around our region to identify and address the different manifestations of racism (internalized, interpersonal, institutional, and structural). This exercise is about creating dedicated time and space to create more effective social justice habits, particularly those dealing with issues of power, privilege and leadership.”

People from around the region (and beyond as it turns out – the network very much at work) were invited and over 150 signed up to commit to furthering their connection to understanding and addressing racism for 21 consecutive days, March 1 – March 21. The steps are:

  1. Sign up through the FSNE website.
  2. Read, discuss, take action (a sample resource list has been provided).
  3. Record learning and doing / share reflections and actions with others.

When people sign up, they receive an invitation to join an on-line discussion forum to write reflections and set up threads of conversation during the challenge, if they so choose.

In addition, there are other ways to engage in the challenge:

  • Tweet #FSNEEquityChallenge.
  • Connect with the challenge through the Facebook event page,
  • At the end of the 21 days, join a phone conference to discuss learning, questions, commitments, requests, etc.
  • Share experiences through a post on the FSNE blog.

It’s been encouraging to see people committing to and jumping into the conversation in various ways, and to learn about other groups, including students, self-organizing to do their own versions of the challenge. This is just another step, and one that we hope to replicate and build upon in weaving a robust regional network with, to quote my colleague Cynthia Parker, “the will, the skill, the knowledge and the strategy” to eliminate racism.

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