Eva Dickerson has spent her life thinking about food. Not just about what to eat, but more specifically what it means to have access to food, groceries, and space to grow.

“Access to food could ask because there isn’t a grocery store in someone’s neighborhood,” said Dickerson, 26, “but food apartheid might ask who planned the neighborhoods so that some people have groceries in their neighborhoods and others don’t.”

Eva Dickerson holding a shovel
Eve Dickerson.Courtesy Eva Dickerson

These questions form the basis of Dickerson’s work as a farmer and activist. She currently lives in Thailand as a Princeton Asia Scholar and spends her time teaching children how to farm while she tends community gardens and harvests produce for her local community. She describes her mission as working for “food sovereignty” and against “food apartheid”.

Eva Dickerson, center, in Thailand.
Dickerson, right, said he has long focused on food apartheid, which affects millions of people around the world.Courtesy Eva Dickerson

The term “’access to food’ doesn’t really direct us toward understanding complex systems of power like colonialism, white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism,” Dickerson said. “’Food sovereignty,’ however, is, and means that every person on earth can access all parts of the food system in a self-determined way and honor them as human beings without infringing on or impeding another’s access. person to that part of the food system.

“’Food Apartheid’ is just a more accurate way of describing the ways systems of oppression manifest in our food system, so that your relationship to power literally determines your ability to feed yourself, get a good job, or practice the ways of eating that support their culture. .”

Long before Dickerson left for Thailand, she learned about the injustices faced by many Black people in the US and became part of Atlanta’s activist community.

“There are moments in my adolescence that are marked by state violence, specifically state violence against blacks. In particular, I’m thinking of Sandra Bland, Mike Brown, Natasha McKenna and Korryn Gaines,” Dickerson said.

Dickerson was inspired to do this work while studying at Spelman College.

«When I found out that my campus was contracting with Aramark, which is a large national food service company, I was really upset,» he said, referring to Aramark’s history of use. prison labor to prepare and package food.

Dickerson, right, describes his mission as working for
Dickerson, right, describes his mission as working for «food sovereignty» and against «food apartheid.» Courtesy Eva Dickerson

Dickerson said protesting her school’s food supply led her to create her campus first fresh food market. He continued to learn from Black and Native American farmers in the Atlanta area, who teach farming practices as a form of activism. These days, she is supporting her fellow activists in Atlanta who are fighting a large police training facility being built, in part, on a former prison farm, «essentially a labor camp where they used to send prisoners to grow food under horrendous and terrible conditions». conditions.»

Even through adversity, black communities have passed down the ancient knowledge of agriculture in America for centuries.

blacks make up 14% of the US population but they are three times more likely to go hungry than whites, according to the Agriculture department.

Another study found that one in three black US households they live in food deserts, which means they have little or no access to supermarkets with fresh produce.

Eva Dickerson, center, currently lives in Thailand as a Princeton Asia Scholar
Eva Dickerson, center, currently lives in Thailand as a Princeton Asia ScholarCourtesy Eva Dickerson

Food apartheid affects millions of people worldwide, but Dickerson said there were several factors that made black hunger in America exceptionally frustrating.

This dense knowledge of agriculture among African Americans began on the African continent. centuries of harvest and cultivation of rice it reached the Americas via the transatlantic slave trade routes. Enslaved Africans then created the model for the American kitchen by growing food to feed those who lived on the plantations, while finding creative ways to feed themselves off the waste for more than 200 years.

Black Americans continued to work as stewards of the land beyond emancipation, the Jim Crow era, and the civil rights movement. But systemic racism did not allow this work or knowledge to become generational wealth or Food Sovereignty for African Americans.

Today, black farmers make up less than 1% of rural landowners, but Dickerson says their mark on history is still felt, and the fight for food sovereignty advances that legacy.

“I have a vision of the future,” he said, “where the children I’m helping to raise and their children have access to clean water, clean food; learn the truth and scope of its history and how we got there today. But also feel empowered to carry on the legacy of the people who came before them to take care of each other and their planet. We’ll plant forests and farms and trees and so much food, and we’re going to win.»