After the evacuation, nature has slowly crept in. Once an area of heavy industry and collectivized agriculture, the zone is now nearly indistinguishable from the surrounding countryside. The forest has reclaimed long-abandoned villages and farmland; roads and buildings are being swallowed up by thickets of trees and shrubs.

It is now a sanctuary for many animals such as bears, boars, wolves, deer, and cats.

Here’s a video about life in the area: [x]

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When someone steals another’s clothes, we call them a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; the coat unused in your closet belongs to the one who needs it; the shoes rotting in your closet belong to the one who has no shoes; the money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.
—  Basil the Great

Uprooting racism in the food system: Communities organize for justice
March 11, 2013

A shovel overturned can flip so much more than soil, worms, and weeds. Structural racism - the ways in which social systems and institutions promote and perpetuate the oppression of people of color – manifests at all points in the food system. It emerges as barriers to land ownership and credit access for farmers of color, as wage discrimination and poor working conditions for food and farmworkers of color, and as lack of healthy food in neighborhoods of color. It shows up as discrimination in housing, employment, redlining, and other elements which impact food access and food justice.

Many people involved in creating food - from Haitian tomato pickers organizing in Florida, to Native Americans saving seeds in Arizona, to Black Detroit residents growing gardens in fractured neighborhoods – are simultaneously chipping away at structural racism. In the Harvesting Justice series we touch on many of these issues, starting with a look at African-American farmers and what they doing to win justice in the food system.

In 1920, one in every seven farmers in the U.S. was African-American. Together, they owned nearly 15 million acres. Racism, violence, and massive migration from the rural South to the industrialized North have caused a steady decline in the number of Black farmers. So, too, has, institutional racism in the agricultural policies of the USDA. By 2007, African-American farmers numbered about one in 70, together owning only 4.2 million acres.

Over the years, studies by the U.S. Civil Rights Commission (CRC), as well as by the USDA itself, have shown that the USDA actively discriminated against Black farmers, earning it the nickname ‘the last plantation.’ A 1964 CRC study showed that the agency unjustly denied African-American farmers loans, disaster aid, and representation on agricultural committees. But organizations like the National Black Farmers Association, the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, the Land Loss Prevention Project, and the Federation of Southern Cooperatives have been challenging racism in agricultural policy through legal action. In 1997-98, African-American farmers filed class-action lawsuits against the USDA for unjustly denying them loans. The lawsuits were consolidated into one case, Pigford v. Glickman, which was settled in 1999. But due to delays in filing claims, nearly 60,000 farmers and their heirs were left out of this settlement. In November 2010, the U.S. Congress passed the Claims Settlement Act (known as Pigford II) to compensate Black farmers who were left out of the first settlement. President Obama signed the bill a month later, making $1.25 billion available for claimants in the form of cash payments and loan forgiveness, though the Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association has filed an appeal because Pigford II provides smaller payments and places limits on claimants’ future legal options.

bell hooks wrote, “Collective black self-recovery takes place when we begin to renew our relationship to the earth, when we remember the way of our ancestors… Living in modern society, without a sense of history, it has been easy for folks to forget that black people were first and foremost a people of the land, farmers.”[1]

Some who are still farmers are carrying on the fight for economic and civil rights for land-based African-American people, a fight which dates back to the days of slavery. Probably the most impressive contemporary example of such organizing has been the Federation of Southern Cooperatives. An outgrowth of the civil rights movement, it formed in 1967 when 22 cooperatives met at Atlanta University. The federation has used collective action ever since to support Black and other small farmers and rural communities. Today, their members include over 100 coops in 16 states across the South.

A fast-growing movement is African-Americans reclaiming their connection to their urban land and their food, as part of food justice and food sovereignty movements. People’s Grocery and Mo’ Better Food in Oakland, Growing Power, Rooted in Community, Detroit Black community Food Security Network, and many others are organizing with farmers and connecting African-American growers and consumers. Many of these, such as the Detroit Black Community Food Security Network, are working forcommunities of color to have democratic control over their own food systems. Their work includes youth programs and urban gardening in areas where access to healthy, affordable food is limited, as is the case in many low-income and people of color neighborhoods.

These groups are also raising awareness of the ways that African-American communities, and communities of color in general, have been sidelined within the food movement itself. Inclusion and participation of people of color has come slowly and late. Often, African-American neighborhoods are targeted as ‘intervention’ areas by outside organizations that - though well-meaning - are neither led by nor accountable to the community and its most urgent needs and goals. The prevailing white culture of the food movement as a whole creates barriers: the typical image of farmers presented often reflects a white archetype and the types of food solutions presented are not always culturally relevant or practical.

A critical element of many African-American groups’ work thus involves nation-wide education and organizing on structural racism as it impacts health, farming, food, and land. Among other elements, these organizations are committed to knocking down barriers to food production and food access. Some have joined the world-wide movement for food sovereignty, in their own communities and through the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance, so that citizen control over food and agriculture can exist across global economic systems.

Ultimately, we all eat, and we are all implicated. Achieving racial justice in the food system is not the sole burden of African-Americans organizing but will take multiracial alliances of people raising awareness of systemic disparities, and working together to end them.


I want to add many Latino & low-income communities have started community farms as well. It’s a huge step toward autonomy, mutual aid & collectivism in these areas where healthy food isn’t readily available or it’s very expensive.

I recently began working with a women’s collective & migrant farm workers to develop a community farm in south El Paso near the Texas/Mexico border. I would really encourage people with the time & resources to start organizing a community farm because food justice is a human right’s issue!

Tibetan Nomad Herdsman surrounded by the Kyirong Mountain Landscape. by reurinkjan on Flickr.

How does something immoral, when done privately, become moral when it is done collectively? Furthermore, does legality establish morality? Slavery was legal; apartheid is legal; Stalinist, Nazi, and Maoist purges were legal. Clearly, the fact of legality does not justify these crimes. Legality, alone, cannot be the talisman of moral people.
—  Walter E. Williams

Check Your Definition

Stills from a video I threw together recently, based on a post by Brainpolice that I shared some time ago. As this is a remix, feel free to use the image files from the zip file below to remix into your own work. You could also download the video file from Vimeo and add a music or voice track if you wanted. Just be sure to credit Brainpolice and myself. I would also appreciate a message if you do make something out of this as I’d be interested in seeing it.


One time at an activist conference I brought up some basic statistics on rape and male violence. And immediately another woman stood up and said—in that tone that’s in the border area between earnest and self-righteous—“We need to educate.”

I replied, “I don’t want to educate men, I want to stop them.” This was, of course, met with horrified silence—what exactly was I suggesting? But there is no therapy, no rehab program, that works to change perpetrators. By now, everything has been tried. Nothing works. They don’t ever learn to see women as human beings. They don’t ever stop feeling entitled to women’s bodies. So not only was her suggestion liberal, it was useless.

…I think that to make the leap to radicalism takes three insights. The first is that there is a thing called power, social power, political power. The second is that some people have it and some people don’t. The third is that there is a causal relationship between those groups: some people have it because some people don’t. Once you’ve got that down, you can pretty much apply it to any situation.

…You asked about identifying the sources of harm. I’d say start with the most obvious, the most egregious harms. A fist in the face is pretty obvious…

Now trace it back: who’s attached to that fist? Now, name an agent. If you’re talking about male violence, that’s hard. Not intellectually hard—it’s easy to see who’s attached to that fist. But emotionally, psychologically. One reason it’s hard is because there are consequences to naming men and male power. You will be ridiculed, silenced, maybe physically threatened. You might be raped. You might be killed…

Another reason it’s hard is because there’s a tremendous psychological identification with the oppressor. There’s an absolutely brilliant book called Loving To Survive: Sexual Terror, Men’s Violence, and Women’s Lives by Dee Graham. She’s come up with the concept of Societal Stockholm Syndrome. Her basic thesis is that just as captives bond to their captors in hostage situations, women—and any group that’s oppressed—will bond to men or the group that has social power…

Once you’ve named the owner of the fist, because you’re a radical you look for patterns. Who else is getting a fist in the face? And you find out: in the USA, every 18 seconds a man beats a woman. Keep tracing it back. Do the police stop him? Do the courts, the laws? Does god? Or do they in fact support his right to hit you? Who says he has a right to hit you? It’s in the bible, you’re supposed to submit because it’s all Eve’s fault. Why don’t you count as a human being? You see that you’re surrounded by images of women as objects, chopped into body parts, on display, for sale. In fact, women are being brutalized in millions of pictures and it’s called sex. The clothes you’re supposed to wear put you on display, make it impossible for you to run or even walk. They turn you into an object, a victim, and that’s called “sexy.” Why are you wearing these clothes? Why do you want this attention when every 18 seconds it ends with a fist in the face?

What you find is a whole web of institutions and cultural practices that support male violence: religion, laws, the police, the mass media and pornography, heterosexuality, the very definition of masculinity. He didn’t put that fist in your face because of who you are as an individual. He did because he belongs to a class of people called men, and you belong to a class of people called women, and that describes a set of power relations.