For immediate release
March 9, 2017
Austin, TX – Who has access to food in Austin? Where, and why? What are local organizations doing about food access, for themselves?
On Saturday, February 18, the Food for Black Thought (FFBT) team explored these questions with Creative Action’s Color Squad. Creative Action is an Austin-based non-profit that inspires young minds through the arts. The organization’s Color Squad is a collective of teen artists who work under the guidance of professional artists to design and create public and community art.
Color Squad was commissioned to create a mural for the Central Texas Food Bank. FFBT facilitated a workshop for the group as part of their creative process.
“As we began our research, we looked into food waste, food policy, and sustainable food systems. We learned a lot, but we also knew that we wanted to connect the discussion back to social justice, which is at the heart of what we do at Color Squad,” said Lindsay Palmer, Director of Color Squad. “We knew that there was a piece of the puzzle that involved communities of color being disproportionately affected by food insecurity that no one else was able to connect for us. I knew Food for Black Thought was exactly the people to speak to these issues.”
For the workshop, the FFBT team focused on the history of Austin and its impact on the current local food system. The workshop began with mapping the group’s personal experience with food access in the city (pictured below). Together with facilitators, the youth artists explored issues of race/racism, gentrification, and power.
“As an initiative centered on Black food experiences, we emphasize Black food history as central to local food history,” said Kevin Thomas, co-founder of FFBT. For example, a timeline activity during the workshop emphasized the presence of Clarksville, a historic Black freed people’s community in West Austin.
Originally launched as a conference in 2012, today FFBT promotes community food justice through action education. FFBT also consults on capacity building with community groups and on food policy issues.
“What inspires FFBT is what Black and other communities of color have done and are already doing,” said Naya Armendarez Jones, Managing Director of FFBT.
In addition to highlighting the past, the workshop honored the present. Facilitators highlighted current organizations that are managed for and by people of color in Central Texas, whose work focuses in part on food or health. FFBT collaborates with some of these organizations, including allgo, Black Sovereign Nation, and Mamas of Color Rising.* The workshop also noted campaigns such as #TasteofBlackAustin, which amplifies the work of local Black food makers.
“Color Squad took away knowledge about the city where they live as well as organizations that they can spread the word about or actively support,” said Jones.
The workshop became a space for exploration, self-reflection, and dialogue. “What [Color Squad youth] expressed to me was that they very much valued that FFBT gave space for discussion and didn’t just lecture at them, but when you did talk, you knew what you were talking about,” said Palmer.
Palmer added, “For my part as a facilitator, I very much appreciated that FFBT brought such well thought out artifacts for them to explore, and then gave space for them to discuss and figure it out for themselves.”
For the workshop, FFBT drew on its Exploring Food and Urban Change curriculum. Originally supported by a grant from the University of Texas-Austin, this curriculum critically explores food access through the lens of race, racism, and Black history. So far, FFBT has piloted the curriculum with educators and organizations in Austin and New Orleans.
For FFBT, the partnership with Creative Action’s Color Squad was a unique opportunity to work with young artists. The workshop was based on curriculum originally funded by a University of Texas-Austin grant.
“This partnership was a unique opportunity to connect with food justice through the arts,” said Jones.
Creative Action’s Color Squad will sell zines filled with art and recipes inspired by their food research and the FFBT workshop at the Museum of Human Achievement on Saturday, March 25, 6-8 PM. The squad is creating their food mural in April-May 2017.
For questions about Color Squad and their projects in the community, contact Lindsay Palmer (email@example.com) To learn more about Creative Action and our other community programs, visit www.creativeaction.org or contact Alberto Mejia, Senior Director of Community Programs (firstname.lastname@example.org).
*There are many long-standing and new organizations that are POC led in the Greater Austin Area. We do not do them all justice here. These are examples from FFBT’s work and from the Communities of Color United for Racial Justice / Comunidades de Color Unidas para Justicia Racial coalition.