We need more than “buzzwords and bandwagons”

FoodShare’s 2021 AGM

FoodShare’s 2021 Annual General Meeting (AGM) was a virtual night of reflection and a space to come together.

Crystal Sinclair, FoodShare’s Board Chair, gave a thoughtful land acknowledgment, inviting us to take some time to consider the process of reconciliation and reciprocity in our lives. She reminded us that the sacred lands on which we at FoodShare work are the traditional territories of the Wendat, the Haudenosaunee, the Anishinabeg and the Mississaugas of the Credit, and that our work must continuously be guided by an Indigenous Advisory Circle as we strive for Indigenous food sovereignty.

After a moment of silence to reflect on Crystal’s words, Sheldomar Elliott, FoodShare’s Food Rx Coordinator and our emcee for the event introduced Britta B. who gave a powerful performance of her poem Not Without Hope.

Britta’s energy could be felt through the virtual room. Finger snapping emojis took the place of the real thing and exclamation marks flooded the chat as Britta questioned whether words were being followed up with action:

“some of us swear we are in this together
are these statements of solidarity longstanding
or are some of us just hitching rides
on the backs of buzzwords and bandwagons?

After Britta’s words had folks’ brains buzzing, the business portion of the AGM began. The 2020-2021 Board of Directors were thanked for their contributions, including Suzanne Barr, Deryan Dixon Blackett, Zilia Castrillon and Jennifer Scott who are departing this year. Members then elected the board for 2021-2022, including a newcomer—activist and essential worker Rechev Browne.

Next up, Ellie Ade Kur offered a thought-provoking keynote speech. An author, educator and activist, Ellie co-founded the The People’s Pantry and works closely with Maggie’s TO, two grassroots, mutual aid organizations that have stepped up for their communities during this incredible time of need.

Ellie drew on the influences of folks like Ella Baker, Samaria Rice, Tarana Burke, and Dante Stewart, describing the interconnectedness of those working toward social justice:

“We exist within a much larger constellation of our ancestors, of our community today, and of folks in the future as well.”

Ellie stressed that no ‘heroes’ are coming to save us. That it’s folks like sex workers who have always led the way in initiatives like mutual aid. And that it will be grassroots solidarity, not “non-profits or charities or specific experts; it’s not speaking gigs, or book deals or sponsorships; it’s not academics, it’s not politicians—it’s certainly not politicians” that will lead to liberation.

We took a collective deep breath. 

Lots to think about. Lots of work to be done. 

After thanking Britta and Ellie for their inspiring words as well as the audience for their support that helps keep us going, FoodShare’s Executive Director Paul Taylor wrapped up the meeting with closing remarks.

Paul discussed the ways the pandemic has revealed issues that existed long before COVID-19—but that many people had been able to ignore:

“…that there are deeply embedded and pervasive inequities that exist in this country…systems and structures that are anti-Indigenous, that are ableist, that are racist, that are patriarchal, and certainly classist.”

Thinking about systemic injustice in the food system and beyond, Paul said:

“We’ve learned that charity isn’t good enough. Corporate food waste isn’t good enough. Treating people like compost bins because they’re poor certainly isn’t good enough. Shitty wages aren’t good enough. Capitalism isn’t good enough. But you know what is good enough? We’re ALL good enough. We deserve better, each and every single one of us.”

The possibility of collective purpose and liberation ran through the evening: 

From Paul: 
“We’re gonna do everything we can to ensure that everyone has access to something as essential, as joyful, as delicious as food. And don’t you dare tell us it’s impossible. Because we refuse to believe justice is impossible. Justice is within our reach.”

From Ellie: 
“Anything and everything we do in these spaces and in our organizations, and any form of movement work, is fundamentally about creating a path forward that’s a little less dark for the people that come after us.”

From Britta: 
“I need you as much as you need me and 
we need each other like never ever have we ever 
before” 

WATCH: Ellie’s keynote speech and Paul’s closing remarks.
READ: Foodshare’s 2020 Impact Report for a summary of the year.