By Chad Kamen, New Roots Intern
“Ohana means family. Family means no one gets left behind or forgotten.” - Lilo and Stitch
Family is a broad term that we all come to with our own preconceived notions and connotations. To me, family is two-fold; there is my “family,” the small nuclear unit I was born into, and the much broader “community-family” of which I am a proud participant. Within this larger “community-family” is my close friends, mentors, and other people who have greatly affected my life; as of last Wednesday, June 17th, I had the pleasure of expanding this collective once again.
Last Wednesday, June 17th, I attended New Roots' first interfaith food justice workshop (a pairing of Living Faith Christian Ministries and Congregation Adath Jeshurun) and was able to be a part of something that is quite hard to adequately translate into a blog post. I could write about the facts of the event (who spoke when, what was said, etc.), but the true success of the night happened alongside the evening's actual itinerary; people spoke. Now, I know vague clauses can come off as overdramatic, but the success of the night was truly that dialogues were renewed in the basement of Living Faith Christian Ministries between two groups of people who have been separated for quite some time. From an outside perspective, people from what would seem to be greatly different backgrounds shared stories, recanted family food-related adventures, and broke bread like old chums. The magic of the night was that all in attendance were actually long-lost friends, not just new acquaintances. Before the course of history took hold and swept these communities in different directions, these people did talk. From the early 1900's to the late 1960's, small Jewish family-owned grocery stores were abundant in West Louisville. One of these very stores, Zeigler's, became one of the first integrated lunch counters in Louisville. With the tumultuous end to the 1960's, these stores started to disappear and conversations between most Jews and the citizens of West Louisville were halted. Now, after almost 50 years of little to no communication, I got to witness the reunion. The faces may have changed, but the connection was still there!
It is easy for us to forget or leave behind the past when it is left to fade away; connections and friends can disappear into the woodwork if we let them. Many of the problems in the world could be bettered, and maybe even fixed, if we rekindled some of our lost relationships. History and chance may play their part, but nothing comes close to the power of reaching out. On June 17th, a simple workshop reminded me of the importance of the idea that family is as temporal as you let it be. Humanity is all one collective family, interconnected by a shared history and DNA. And as a Disney character once told me, family is a responsibility; it is an obligation to ensure that every member, regardless of circumstance, is accounted for and shown compassion.
Hey y'all! My name is Ashley Burton. I am a summer intern for New Roots!
Also, I have the spectacular fellowship: FoodWorks through Middlebury College.
My hometown is the “city by the river” also known as Memphis. Currently, I am a Masters of Public Health candidate at Jackson State University in Jackson, MS. Inquiring minds may wonder what led me to Louisville.
A few years ago, I realized the inadequate food supply in my community. I live in what is known as a food desert. The United States Department of Agriculture defines a food desert as: parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers. TERRIBLE, I KNOW! My family and I were compelled to shop outside of our community to purchase decent produce at affordable rates. (I was very shocked when I learned there was actually an organic food section at Kroger. It was in the suburbs of course). Anyway, you know what happens after conflict occurs? One would hope a resolution(s) would follow.
I was on my high and mighty horse in my International Political class when the instructor mentioned food insecurity. She asked us to name places where food deserts exist. I spat out every underprivileged nation I could think of. She replied by saying, “Well, that’s true Ashley but what about downtown Memphis?” It hit me like a whirlwind. As I continued to think, I realized downtown Memphis was indeed a food desert and so was my own neighborhood! How could this happen in America? I was moved to act.
The summer of 2013, I applied to an internship with an environmental justice non-profit. I became a Community Organizer. There, I learned about environmental racism, agriculture, and sustainability on multiple levels. I was able to revitalize the local community garden and help unify the members of the community. We had free weekly community meals using mostly the food we grew and supplementing what we needed. There were nutrition and cooking classes for residents as well! It was by far the best experience of my life.
Since then, I have continued my work in activism. Activism is very broad. So for the sake of time, I will label myself a food justice activist. I have done a host of things to educate myself in agriculture and contributing /creating sustainable systems.
In conclusion, I am very grateful for this opportunity to learn from New Roots. They have been very warm in welcoming me. It is my desire to learn all I can from this organization and replicate the Fresh Stop model in my hometown of Memphis. Louisville reminds me a lot of my hometown. It is southern of course! This place has love and problems that I know the citizens are striving to resolve. I hope to contribute to the love here and initiate resolutions that will benefit all community members! Again, thank you for allowing me to work in your communities.