Meet Karen Washington, Community Activist and UVM Food Systems Summit Speaker

By Karen Washington

Karen Washington has lived in New York City all her life and has been a resident of the Bronx for over 26 years. Since 1985 Karen has been a community activist, striving to make New York City a better place to live. As a community gardener and board member of the New York Botanical Gardens, Karen has worked with Bronx neighborhoods to turn empty lots into community gardens. We asked her to blog for us as we approach the UVM Food Systems Summit in June, at which she will be a speaker.

Hi, my name is Karen Washington and I will be one of the speakers at the UVM Food Systems Summit in June. Leading up to that event, I have been asked to blog about my experiences along the way.  I am definitely new to blogging. I barely have the time to read my email, but I promised to take a stab at writing down food events where I will be speaking or attending as I make my way to UVM in June. Charge!

To start, this morning my colleagues Lorrie Clevenger, India Rogers and I spoke to a group of young students from Kalamazoo, MI. They belong to a faith based organization from the Methodist Church and are here for 10 days to learn about urban agriculture.

Over the past few days, they visited a rooftop farm, a community garden, and an urban farm. They’ve been very much impressed by what they have seen. I don’t think they have many community gardens and rooftop farms in Kalamazoo; as one put it “imagine growing food in a big city like New York”.

So this morning, we talked to them about food justice and its impact locally and globally. We told stories from our own experiences and perspectives about the way food has impacted our lives and the lives of people of color along the food chain.

What was intriguing for me was this new transformation I have been feeling around food and faith. Realizing that one of the reason I grow food is my faith. For years I have been growing food in NYC, and speaking out against the injustices present in the food system, but what was my drive? Aha, I got it! The essence of my drive was faith based. Now, I am not saying that I am some sort of religious fanatic. But for me, when looking at poverty and hunger head on, the fight goes deep.

So as I stood before the students today, I needed no props, PowerPoint, notes or handouts. I just spoke the truth. The message being “we all play an important part in our food system, from the person who harvests to the person who serves on our plate; thus a sustainable food system can only happen if the system is fair and just, not just for some but for all”.

–Karen Washington

Posted in: Economic, Environmental, Health, Social.