Executive Director Column 1/27/15
Dear Friends and Colleagues:
The first CFJC newsletter of the year is a week later than usual on purpose. I asked Courtney to hold off because it seems the year is unfolding at once slowly and quickly, all at the same time. I just thought more would be settled—in the press, in Congress, in Selma, Alabama.
But first I want to wish you all the best of the New Year. I have a feeling it is not going to be a dull year.
Again, I wanted to write about how the new Congress is shaping up, but as of publication the committee assignments have yet to be finalized. Note to all of us—one of the reasons this is important now is because the appropriations committee, when it is finalized, will begin the work of making recommendations on funding for all federal programs. The exception is as noted many times elsewhere the DHS (Homeland Security) budget, which was only funded through February. (It is widely expected that Congress will hold the DHS budget hostage to the President’s executive orders on immigration.)
What we do know of the 114th Congress is that they spent the first week of the new session setting up House and parliamentary rules that will affect their governance throughout their term. More in subsequent emails, but don’t be surprised when they cut Social Security Disability benefits later in the year.
Please check back with us often so that we can keep you posted on these and other developments as soon as we know more.
The other thing we wanted to provide an update for was plans for the 50th Anniversary of the March across the Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. If you haven’t as yet, you should see the movie Selma now playing in theatres—a truly African American story told by African Americans.
We have been actively fundraising for money to send CFJC staff to Alabama in March, so that we can march with some of the original participants and many others in support of the 50th Anniversary recreation of the Selma March and related workshops. However, ever since rumors of President Obama’s participation surfaced, things have become and continue to be complicated.
Personally, I continue to be shocked when every young person I meet says they did not learn about the civil rights movement in school. Whatever the reasons a community chooses to hide that history from students, I believe we all owe the freedom riders and scores and thousands of activists no longer with us a place in our history. When it seems every third person in the country is celebrated as a hero, please, let us at least remember and celebrate those individuals who put their lives on the line inside this country so that we can all be free.
I suspect 2015 is the year we will be challenged to state and live our values, more than once.
Because many in the Congressional majority and Washington, D.C. believe that because they won the mid term elections they have a duty to govern according to their values.
Do your own internet search on any state and don’t be surprised to see that the Democratic Party received more votes than their Republican opponents. (In Pennsylvania for example the Democratic candidates received more votes, but the Republicans still claimed 13 of 18 Congressional seats.) A combination of gerrymandering, an over abundance of money and strategic media buys resulted in the makeup of the 114th Congress.
To me this does not mean the will of the people has been well-served. On the other hand, we are a nation of laws and due process.
Therefore, in order to effectively advocate for the values we represent, we believe that we have to become the most informed and educated people on the planet. I mean each and every one of us.
Maybe we can start today with the story of the march in Selma, Alabama fifty years ago. Spread word of the movie, and talk with you family, your loved ones, your friends and co-workers about what it must have been like to take part. Try to figure out how and why we don’t teach that history to our children.
We would love to hear about your discussions, and publish your findings as guest blogs on the CFJC website.
In 2015 we will build on the work of CFJC volunteers, partners and supporters who have made the once California coalition into a national presence and player in the food systems and justice arenas.
For the past four years at CFJC we have been in the business of connecting the dots on food systems, food policy, and the people who live in our local communities. Of necessity, we have branched out to issues of climate change, immigration, Farm to Fork programs, and more, because they are inextricably linked.
We have developed modules for training governmental agencies and local communities on more respectful and effective community engagement. This process formed the basis of a now robust Technical Assistance program available to communities across the country.
Today, Tuesday January 27th we meet at the Alameda County Board of Supervisors to receive a proclamation sponsored by Supervisor Wilma Chan about food and hunger.
The proclamation came about from meetings we’ve had over the past year with the Supervisor and her staff, the Alameda County Community Food Bank and many others to develop a platform and action plan for improving the County food system. Likewise we are part of a press conference on Wednesday to unveil the form our efforts will take.
I apologize for the lack of more specific details because the press conference will take place after publication of this newsletter. I just want to say now that we are part of a bold countywide project to end hunger in Alameda County.
Another project that is in the forefront and in the news this year is the Growing Equity from the Ground Up (GEGU) project to develop a leadership and apprenticeship urban farming program within the city of Oakland. Partners in this endeavor include Allen Temple Baptist Church and just about every food justice and food system group in the City, along with the Center for Collaborative Research for an Equitable California at UC Santa Cruz. Unfortunately, the office of the UC President (UCOP) has declined to provide ongoing funding for their (CCREC) projects. This means that the community will likely hold a press conference and/or actions next week to air grievances with the UCOP’s disregard for CCREC’s Oakland and Central Valley partnerships and obligations.
Please stay tuned to the CFJC website or your local news outlet for updates on both of these activities.
Both the Oakland based GEGU project and Alameda County Supervisor Wilma Chan’s effort to end hunger engage CFJC in a role with which we are increasingly comfortable. That is, that CFJC provides technical assistance and facilitation to move efforts among diverse constituencies towards mutually defined and clear objectives. And that’s how we can effect change at this point in time.
Once again, we ask that you consider making a gift so that we can continue working on your behalf.
We look forward to working with you throughout 2015.
Yours in partnership, with respect.
All the best.
Y. Armando Nieto