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Challenging Racism in the Food System: The Federation of Southern Cooperatives Fights for Black Lands, Agriculture, and Equal Justice


Challenging Racism in the Food System: The Federation of Southern Cooperatives Fights for Black Lands, Agriculture, and Equal Justice

Andrianna Natsoulas, Beverly Bell

The 2015 US Food Sovereignty Prize will be awarded on October 14 in Des Moines, Iowa. This year, one of the two winners is the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, a network of cooperatives, almost all of them comprised of Black family farmers, across the deep South.


Such a worthy recipient of the food sovereignty prize!


Four people were just arrested today in Des Moines as part of the 4th annual Occupy The World Food Prize protests, attempting to shine a light on the groups goal of total ownership of the global food supply. Frank Cordaro of the Des Moines Catholic Worker community wrote this about the prize last week. He appears to be one of the four people being arrested in the photo from today. Quoting from the group's facebook page:

“Bread alone is not enough: A Corporate World Food Prize to a Corporate World Charity Does Not Equal Food Justice” by Frank Cordaro

This year’s World Food Prize winner, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed’s organization BRAC, is the world's largest NGO! (DM Register, July 1, 2015). And I say, "Amen!" and thank you, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed and BRAC, for the Works of Mercy performed by your programs, for the millions of people you have served, and the hundreds of thousands you have helped get out of desperate poverty!
The "Works of Mercy": the acts of feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, sheltering the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and burying the dead are always good things to do when needed!
Still, charity without justice is like clapping with one hand.... it does you no good. Worse yet, it can be a distraction from the real problem.
We do the same kind of work at the DM Catholic Worker, only on a much, much smaller scale, in a completely different culture and society, with a different business model. We live on the ‘beg’. There are no paid salaries. All get room and board. We do a drop-in feeding center – food and stuff. We’re a give-away ministry. Though not an official part of the Catholic Church, we follow our Catholic Worker Aims and Means religiously.
And though we are very small and BRAC is very big, and we come from very different cultures and societies, it's our business model that separates us the most.
BRAC is run like a large, diverse corporation within an institutional mindset. And like all large corporate charities, private or public, for profit or not; they run the risk of what we call in Biblical terms the "Joseph Syndrome".
It's the Bible's classic story, Joseph, a farm boy goes to the city, does well, makes his fortune, and returns home a hero. Joseph was one of Jacob's twelve sons. Unfortunately, his older brothers didn't like him very well so they sold him to the Pharaoh in Egypt. But lucky for Joseph, God had given him the ability to interpret Pharaoh's dreams and told the Pharaoh he saw in one dream seven years of abundance then seven years of drought.
Now Joseph, being a really smart guy, suggested to the Pharaoh his own "Land Policy" (God had no hand in this…) and it went like this: During the first good years of abundance buy all the surplus food in the land and store it in the cities. Then, when the seven years of drought occurs and the people are desperate for food, sell it back to them taking all their money, then their livestock, then their land, and then themselves. So, finally, in the end, all of Pharaoh’s people got fed, and at the same time, ended up Pharaoh's slaves. (Gen 47: 13-26)
In these modern times, all large corporate charities, private or government, that do not also seek justice fall victim to the Joseph Syndrome and often help mask the lies of today's Global Corporate Financial Instruments. Because the same '1%'ers' who own our global food system’s solutions to world hunger will make sure everyone who survives gets fed on their way to enslavement.
The problem with BRAC is not that BRAC uses the Wall Street/ Corporate Food System to do their Works of Mercy. We all have to use the corporate food system to do the Works of Mercy. The problem is, BRAC does so blindly, In accepting the World Food Prize it is legitimizing the Corporate System that is destroying the planet, when all the while its best answer to world hunger is: feed and enslave all who survive.
Which makes Sir Fazle Hasan Abed and his BRAC the ideal Corporate World Charity to win this year's Corporate’s World Food Prize.
Maybe we all might ask ourselves what a hungry Jesus meant when he told the devil in the desert “One does not live by bread alone” (Matt 4:4)
Frank Cordaro 515 282 4781 frank.cordaro@gmail.com is a member of the Des Moines Catholic Worker Community and the Occupy the World Food Prize Working Committee