Magic in a Movement: The Fight for a Just Food System in the USA (Personal Reflections)

Group meets at US Food Sovereignty Alliance gathering to discuss strategy for advancing food sovereignty in the Western Region.

The US Food Sovereignty Alliance met from October 12-15 to advance the USA food movement for a more democratic, sustainable and just food system. I accompanied over 150 other souls from different corners of the country who convened on Lummi and Nooksack land in Coast Salish Territory, in the city now called Bellingham, WA.

The assembly involved a powerful combination of dialogue, strategizing and planning. The energy was palpable and there is clearly something special afoot in this alliance. There is magic in this movement.

Some highlights for me:

  • *The action and march in support of farm workers’ rights, contesting the gross injustices, racism and inhumanity in the US immigration system
  • *The local hosts, led by a group of women of color driving the fight for food justice and migrant justice in Bellingham, Community-to-Community, were so impressive in their intelligence, passion and persistence in these struggles – not to mention their kindness and generosity as hosts of the assembly
  • *The right balance of testimonials/stories of food sovereignty from around the country, with time for strategizing about how to move the work of the alliance forward

    March for migrant rights

  • *I can see this is part of a long term process that was perhaps building slowly but that is now being catalyzed and is building momentum
  • *The cultural aspects of the meeting with meaningful food, music, art, dancing, mystica – all reflecting the values of food sovereignty and connecting us in deep and lasting ways
  • *Learning about the many radical food projects in the USA and the people behind them – such a committed and intelligent bunch of people!
  • *The strength of the analysis shared by people, and further developed in the space, channelled towards struggles for decoloniality, just transitions, migrant justice, participatory democracy and more
  • *Connecting with other people interested in research processes that support social movements and the transformation of food systems and society through the Agroecology Research-Action Collective (ARC)
  • *Being warmly welcomed as a newcomer and ally into the alliance, making new friends and being inspired to carry on this important work

Action in support of Migrant Rights at USFSA meeting in Bellingham. Photo: David Meek

At different points over the last decade, I have been participating in national meetings in the European, Canadian, and UK food sovereignty processes as well as in the international fora. I am struck at how the particular context of each particular nation/place shapes not only the content of the meeting (e.g. fighting to shape the US Farm Bill versus the EU Common Agricultural Policy) but also the ways of meeting and working together.

Each place has a different cultural context including language, style of relating to one another, experiences of popular education traditions (which are deeply helpful for organising groups democratically), and the extent to which groups and peoples who are much different from one another are able to engage in intercultural dialogue for solidarity and joint action. This context is especially shaped by the relationship between each place (and the people in that place) with the colonial past/present and the impacts this has on the relationships between people.

Amazing music and cultural aspects at the meeting

The deeply entrenched matrix of inequality – especially but not exclusively racism/white supremacy and patriarchy – deepens divisions/fractures in communities but is also always present as an influence in the work of social movements shaping who is involved in them, how people talk about problems, and who has power within them.

What was amazing to see in the US context is the critical attention to these contradictions, a recognition of the politics of difference, a cutting analysis put forward by activists that call these systems of oppression out and a move to work from the margins through processes of mutual empowerment for social justice and a better world.

March and action for Migrant Rights at USFSA meeting in Bellingham

I would love to see more trans-national sharing between social movements – the movements in the places I’ve lived (Canada, UK and USA) all have a lot to learn from one-another. I’d be interested in hearing from anyone who has had experience of making these trans-national connections or who also thinks it is a good idea. colinrayanderson (at)

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