AMP: Grassroots²

Rae Gomes with Central Brooklyn Food Coop

What do you do? In my capacity as a member of Brooklyn Movement Center (BMC), I work on a food justice initiative which has turned into the Central Brooklyn Food Coop (CBFC). It’s a solution to better food access in central Brooklyn. As a member organization, I love all the work BMC has been doing in the past 5+ years. I wanted to work on all the things they were doing including countering street harassment, but I realized I had to choose. Food justice felt like it was a lot more urgent and impactful for me and my family.

What is your why? Why do you do what you do? Food has always been important to me. A lot of family activities centered around food. Food is healing, food is medicine. As a community resource, food can be used to solve other problems. It’s what activated me to work on food justice. A coop is the best answer to food issues in Brooklyn where you have a highly gentrified community – we see food apartheid rather than a food desert. A food coop enables prices to be subsidized by the labor of members, allowing access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. For Black folks, given our history of pain and intentional removal from land, sovereignty over our own health and food are intrinsically tied to liberation.

What moment motivated you to become an organizer/fighter of justice? I’ve always been an activist, who firmly believed in a sense of justice, right and wrong. I look for the appropriate response to deal with injustices I see. As a writer, I want people to see and understand the issues. Though as an activist I want to change the issues. And I want our movements to be self-examining – self-critical to keep improving and ensure they are serving the people they are supposed to serve. I think of myself as a mother, writer and activist. I will always be a mother – most important job in the world. Then a writer, which helps how I understand my world. And as an activist, it’s how I can improve the world I see.

How has your work been different over the past year? I worry that as a writer – before I even begin to write – I have to establish my humanity, every time. The landscape in my community work hasn’t changed greatly, though there is more energy and urgency around it. After 45 was elected and before his inauguration, we had an event at BMC, and there were so many people who came to process, especially white people. Black folks were like, welcome to our hell. BMC is a very intentionally Black-led organization, and we provide opportunities for allyship to non-Black members, and are challenged with how to use their energy. Non-Black folks now being aware of our pain can feel offensive, but also want to use the energy, the resources and access they have to take our efforts further. The challenge is to make sure we’re centering people who have been oppressed for decades.

The ask: We need capital funds to be able to open the Central Brooklyn Food Coop’s doors as well as organizational support that will fund our team (we currently have one part-time project coordinator). Organizational support can also go to basic needs like outreach help, food and childcare at our meetings and printing materials.