By Lotta Chan, CFJC Research Associate
“We are marching for the 99, we are marching for the 99!” rang the voices of hundreds of farmers, families, activists, and gardeners who had gathered at Ohlone Park in Berkeley on Earth Day to celebrate the land and the food we cultivate from it.
The rally and march was in the name of food sovereignty—the right communities have to their own healthy, local, and sustainably grown food. In every way, the event centered on the principles of community and food. I arrived at the event famished, having just driven up from camping in Santa Cruz, and felt immensely grateful for the farmers and families who had brought their veggies and homemade sweet bread, oatmeal, and strawberry-pear compote to share. More than just a celebration of the Earth, this Earth Day was a celebration of each other, of humanity and community.
As chickens clucked in the background, one by one amazing speakers took to the mic to address the crowd. Melvin Dixon, a former member of the Black Panther Party, told the story of the Panther’s free breakfast program. My heart sang as his booming voice spoke of the right of everyone to be free of hunger. Activist Pancho Ramos-Stierle spoke out against war and addressed the need to liberate. What touched me about his speech was his use of the word “beautiful”: it wasn’t just about creating community; we need to create community in beautiful ways. Lastly, organizer Carla Perez motivated the crowd by having us us lift up our voices to sing the unifying verse: “We are marching for the 99, we are marching for the 99!”
As I joined in the refrain, I was astounded by the excitement and passion of the hundreds of residents who showed up for the event. I was expecting a small crowd of the regular food activists I see around in meetings, but instead, I found myself in a sea of diversity. There were families throwing Frisbees. There were dancers and drummers and a brass band. There were farmers and chefs. There were Occupiers and criminal justice advocates and students of all ages. But one thing everyone had in common: they loved the land and they loved the people caring for it. And as we began to march, I thought to myself: This is the community we need to create in beautiful ways everywhere. This is the Earth Day that should be every day.