According to Feeding America, the 2021 food insecurity rate in southwestern Wisconsin for the “Black (all ethnicities)” community was 23%, compared to just 6% for the “White, non-Hispanic” community. And according to the USDA, Black children are almost three times as likely to face hunger than White children. For Second Harvest to work towards our vision of everyone in our community having enough nutritious food to thrive, we must acknowledge that this troubling disparity exists, understand its causes, address those causes, and be better allies for our diverse community. Additionally, we must understand why our current systems have and continue to adversely impact BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) communities.
To better understand the causes of poverty and food insecurity in the Black community, we recently partnered with Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership to engage a group of our staff in a course called Justified Anger, Black History for a New Day. The nine-week course explored how African-American experiences and histories have shaped our society, systems, and perspectives. Some topics discussed in the course included Inheritable, perpetual, Race-based Bondage: Slavery in the United States and Modern Civil Rights in Wisconsin.
We recently gathered those who attended the course to reflect on what they learned. The subject matter was new for many, and they found it challenging and uncomfortable.
“A lot of my previous assumptions have been shaken,” said one teammate when speaking about how this experience changed his perspective on Black history and the implications for today. The lessons of complicit racism became a stark reality check for many and are an important reminder that we should not lose the historical context of racist practices and acknowledge the disparities these practices created for communities of color.
While the lessons were emotionally challenging to learn and even more difficult to discuss, the experience brought participants closer. One attendee said, “This enhanced my listening skills and reinforced why supporting and empowering BIPOC communities is necessary to our mission.” When asked how this could change our work, it was mentioned that “By centering Black joy and resilience, we have an opportunity to shift the narrative.”
The work does not end here. As an organization that spans 16 counties and partners with over 300 food providers, we continue to grow our understanding and shift our actions to be more equitable, center diversity and community voice, and embrace inclusion. We are working towards becoming better listeners, learners, and collaborators.
A special thank you to the Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development for the creation and facilitation of this life-changing opportunity to learn and be better allies. If you want to learn with or support Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development, please visit http://nehemiah.org/our-work/justified-anger/.