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Expert anthropologist speaks about decolonizing food

Lecture and panel "Decolonizing Your Diet" took place in the Student Union Feb. 5, as part of Black History Month at Mills. (Photo Courtesy of Freedom Farmer's Market)
Lecture and panel “Decolonizing Your Diet” took place in the Student Union Feb. 5, as part of Black History Month at Mills. (Photo Courtesy of Freedom Farmer’s Market)

Dr. Gail Myers, an expert in the anthropology of African-American farming, spoke alongside four local farmers in the Student Union Thursday, Feb. 5, in “Decolonizing Your Diet,” a Black History Month event at Mills College.

Myers spoke extensively about the impact colonialism in the United States has had on farming and the relationship that African-American communities have with the Earth.

“We were in tune with the natural environment,” Myers said. “Colonialism brought all this destruction. When we grow our own food, we are giving back to the spirit we came from.”

For Myers, growing food was a part of her childhood. She fondly described growing food with her grandmother, and said that her grandmother’s urban farm created a strong sense of who she is as a Black woman.

“That was her way of resistance and liberation to the standard American diet,” Dr. Meyers said.

Myers has used her experiences with her grandmother to encourage others to decolonize their diets.

“How do we decolonize? We reclaim and we revalue the local knowledge,” Myers said. “When we decolonize our diet, we reclaim foods. There [is] something very important about growing your own food, a sense of power.”

Myers is a co-founder of Farms to Grow, Inc., a non-profit organization which, according to their website, strives to “assist African American farmers and other under-served farmers/gardeners maintain and create sustainable farms and spaces to grow food and motivate the next generation of farmers to grow sustainably and with community in mind.”

Preceding Myers’ lecutre, a panel of four local farmers discussed urban farming and their experiences with decolonizing food. Panelist Iyalode Kinney, founder/garden director of Communities United Restoring Mother Earth (CURME), spoke highly of Dr. Meyers.

Myers discussed how colonialism has shaped farming in the United States.
Myers discussed how colonialism has shaped farming in the United States. (Terrapin Frazier)

“The only reason I’m here is because of her. She cares about us,” Kinney said. “I follow her to the next soil place. I know her as a person who brings people together for a cause.”

Myers repeatedly discussed urban farms, markets and gardens as spaces of resistance. According to Myers, colonialism resulted in the intentional erasure of Black farmers.

“We are resisting invisibility,” Meyers said. “Many people don’t even know there are Black farmers.”

Myers is currently working on a documentary project called “Rhythms of the Land: The lost love story between the Black farmers and community” that will include interviews of African-American farmers, sharecroppers and gardeners.

“There is a power in choosing where your food comes from. There is power in knowing where your food comes from,” Myers said. “Especially if you have a farm and you are able to grow your own food, I think that is everything … Decolonizing is everything.”

Tamicia Wakefield, a first year majoring in public policy, expressed interest in supporting local black businesses following the event.

“It is important to support local black businesses in order to build up your community and an opportunity to give back to it,” said Wakefield. “Black men and women propel themselves into the business world and exist as role models.”