Category Archives: Love Notes Newsletter

Love Notes #4 – Solidarity Shares, Uprooting Racism, and Potions

Upcoming Training Events – Apply Now

 

You are also welcome to join us for any of our community farm days this season or see us speak at one of our public talks.

And please come to the POLLY DANCE PARTY on April 1, a fundraiser for our Solidarity Shares program – which provides free and low costs veggies to immigrants, refugees, and those targeted by state violence.

 

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One of the best things about being at the Just Food Conference over the weekend, was connecting with alumni (aka family) of Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion AND youth who have attended our programs. I feel so blessed to be connected to Ashleigh, Assefash, The Green Teens, and hundreds of others who are doing seriously powerful work for equity in the food system.

 

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We have been super busy wrapping up our “traveling season” with talks and trainings all over the northeast. Thank you so much for NOFA CT, Hudson Valley Farm Hub, NE Young Farmers, Montclair State, Brooklyn Movement Center and everyone else for welcoming us! Of all the work though, we probably most enjoyed nerding out with this Miracle on Craig Street crew over crop rotation plans. It’s an honor to do capacity building with such committed grassroots organizers.

 

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Sometimes #farmlife is overwhelming and discouraging – like when you have to get up at 4 AM in a blizzard power outage to turn on the generator so seedlings don’t die. That’s when you need your monk friend Jun San to unexpectedly walk up your driveway drumming and chanting and give you a copy of her favorite Japanese poem to lift your spirits. Magic! (Yes, Emet wears shorts all winter.)

 

Rain Won’t

By Kenji Miyazawa, translated by Arthur Binard

 

Rain won’t stop me

Wind won’t stop me

Neither will the driving snow

Sweltering summer heat

Will only raise my determination

With a body built for endurance

A heart free of greed

I’ll never lose my temper

Trying always to keep

A quiet smile on my face

My daily diet must be simple

Several heaped bowls of brown rice

Some vegetables and miso

Profit must never be the issue

I’ll listen to others, observe carefully

And refuse to forget

I’ll make my home in a hut with a thatched roof

Near a meadow surrounded by pine trees

If a child were to fall ill in the east

I’d run there to help with the nursing

If a mother were to overwork herself in the west

I’d be there to carry the heavy bundles of rice

If a man were on the verge of death in the south,

I’d rush to soothe his fears

If bitter lawsuits and fighting were to break out in the north

I’d urge all parties to come together and talk things over

In days of drought, I’d weep

Just weep

In unseasonable cold spells, I’d walk the fields

And mourn the stunted crops

People may call me a fool

I doubt if anyone will applaud me

Then again, perhaps none will detest me either

All this is my goal-

The person I want to become

 

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Children joyfully helping their parents seed thousands of onions (sort of.)

 

Have a great week,

Soul Fire Crew

Revolutionary Potions

“A hands-on, hearts-open plant and energy medicine workshop to enhance our effectiveness as justice warriors in these glaringly oppressive times.”

Led by Luana Morales and Leah Penniman

Saturday, April 29

3 – 7 PM, @Soul Fire Farm

Registration Required – limited to 30 participants. 

REGISTER HERE 

This is a multi-racial, gender inclusive, age diverse space designed for social and environmental justice activists. These plant and energy medicine technologies are rooted in Haitian Vodou  and Gaia Reiki, but people from all spiritual traditions are welcome. Dinner is potluck. Please bring a dish to share with 6-8 servings.

Agenda

  • 3:00-3:30 PM Opening, Grounding Ritual
  • 3:30-5:30 Wildcrafting, energy work, medicine making – baths for protection, recipes for interrupting harm, and practices for clarity
  • 5:30-6:00 Fortification Ritual
  • 6:00-7:00 Potluck dinner and share-out of movement strategies to protect our communities and ensure our survival in this time when the Empire is emboldened. (Come prepared to discuss your work.)

Cost: Sliding scale $10-30. No one is turned away for lack of funds.

 

REGISTER HERE 

Leah Penniman is a Queen Mother (Manye) in Vodun-Krobo and serves her community through spiritual activism, ancestor reverence, life cycle support, and sacred herbal baths.

Luana Morales is a Reiki Master Teacher, Birth and Bereavement Doula, Death Midwife, Moon Circle Facilitator, and Medicine Woman from the Boston area.

Food Justice 2.0

Food Justice 2.0

Saturday, June 10, 2017, 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM, @Soul Fire Farm

APPLY HERE

Workshop Goals

  • To understand how racism permeates our food system by exploring the historical and current examples of land theft, labor exploitation, racial violence, and frontlines resistance.
  • To reflect upon our current role as – farmers, activists, artists, and movement builders— in perpetuating or dismantling racism in the food system.
  • To develop relationships of mutual understanding and plan for collective action between organizations and individuals working on food justice in this region.
  • To develop concrete action plans to dismantle racism and other oppressions in the local food system.

Who Is Welcome? This program is designed for a multi-racial, multi-sector group of farmers and food justice activists committed to take action for an equitable food system. All adults are welcome to apply. We will select participants to ensure a diverse group in terms of ethnicity, gender, class, and sector. This is not a 101, so some familiarity with food justice is expected. 

What is the cost? The workshop is sliding scale $20-70. Lunch is potluck – please bring a dish with 6-8 servings. Snacks and tea provided by the farm.

Simplified Agenda

  • 9:00-9:15 Registration
  • 9:15-9:45 Welcome, Goals, Safer Space Agreements
  • 9:45-10:15 History of Institutionalized Racism in the Food System
  • 9:45-10:15 Reflection on Our Roles in the Food System
  • 10:15-10:30 Break
  • 10:30-12:00 Action Planning Part 1 – Problem Definition
  • 12:00-1:00 Lunch Break
  • 1:00-2:00 Action Planning Part 2 – Organizational Self-Assessment
  • 2:00-3:30 Action Planning Part 3 – SMART Goals and Strategic Objectives
  • 3:30-4:00 Closing Circle and Reflections

APPLY HERE

Love Notes #3 – BLFI Deadline, Regional Organizing, and Water Magic

Love Notes #3 – February 22, 2017

Peace family,

Want to immerse in land-based healing and learn skills to feed your community? There are only 8 days left to apply for Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion by the priority deadline. Want to receive weekly deliveries of life-giving food to your doorstep? We still have openings in the Ujaama Farm Share! Want to bring youth to the farm? We are almost booked for our summer youth food justice program, so sign up now to schedule a visit… Read on for updates about regional organizing, upcoming events, and an exciting announcement.

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Just yesterday, we convened the first ever regional gathering of farmers and food justice leaders of color in the northeast. Among the POC-led formations represented were Rise and Root Farm, Wildseed Community Farm, Nuestras Raices, Gardening the Community, Corbin Hill Food Project, Wellington Herbs and Spices, Movement Ground Farm, and Soul Fire Farm. Our primary goals are mutual aid and joy-centered relationship building. We will be working toward a “food justice corridor” of people-information exchange in the region. The ages of farmers present ranged from 13 to 80. Ase-O!

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In this time of climate instability, careful water management is essential. With the permission of the Spirit of the pond, we are renovating it to once again serve as a reservoir for irrigation and fish habitat. What was recently only a few feet deep and clogged with silt will soon be 18 feet deep and hold over 60,000 gallons of water for the crops and wildlife. Water is life and without it we have no food for our community.

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Organize! Wintertime for Leah is very much about regional organizing for food justice and racial equity. She recently facilitated a training for student farmers at Farm School, MA (where she farmed as a teen) to help them craft business plans that integrate a social justice imperative. We’ve been working with the Young Farmers Network in Providence and Real Food Challenge on anti-racism strategy. We also collaborated with other farmers nationally to draft the first CSA charter and are supporting Young Farmers Coalition in conducting a national survey of our needs as farmers. The last of our winter speaking events are coming up – check us out at Williams College 2/24, Montclair State University 2/28, NOFA CT 3/11, Just Food Conference 3/12, and Eastern Mennonite University, 3/20-21.

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So about that book! It’s happening! For years, our community has been asking us to take all that we teach at Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion in terms of concrete farming skills, African ancestral agricultural practices, culturally relevant cuisine, strategies for accessing land and resources, et al into print. Specifics to be announced soon as deals are in the works, but trust that Farming While Black: A Practical Guide to Liberation on Land © will be in your hands sometime in 2018. We are super excited to uplift our people’s farming practices, like these Komye, Haiti farmers above who channel irrigated this degraded land to bring it back to life. We will be looking for a RESEARCH ASSISTANT to help with the book, announcement soon.

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The sap is rising in the trees and the snowpack is starting to melt. This means spring is almost here! To prepare for growing thousands of veggie seedlings, we are transforming one of the high tunnels into a heated, vented greenhouse. Please send Jonah hugs and warm energy – it’s been a challenging task to do all the necessary wiring in the cold of winter. Once finished, this will be a huge improvement from growing all of your seedlings sprawled out across of living room and kitchen. Jonah is also working to renovate the wood shop so that it’s suitable for teaching – we have our first natural builders immersion this fall. Upstairs from the shop will be some additional rustic lodging for program participants. Finally, Jonah is replacing the slop sinks and cobbled together shelves in the bathroom with real built ins for your washing comfort.

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In collaboration with local black women survivors, we are organizing a Transformative Justice training for the community, seeking mechanisms for community accountability that uphold the humanity of everyone involved and do not rely on the police state for enforcement. As part of the reflection process leading up to this training, we crafted our commitments to treating one another as fully human. We hope that love and justice advance inexorably in movement spaces.  

Our squad is complete! We are so excited to welcome Amani Olugbala back to the farm as our Food Justice Educator and Gabriela Alvarez as Kitchen Goddess. Amani is already live, having just met with Project Growth leadership team to start planning our 2017 “restorative justice” diversion program for court adjudicated youth. Full crew bios here.

Finally, we want to shout out our friend and board member, Tagan Engel, for her new podcast The Table Underground. She recently interviewed sisters Naima and Leah Penniman about heart-led activism – listen here.

 

Wishing you a gentle and powerful week!

Soul Fire Crew

I commit to treating others as fully human…

I have been heartbroken by the vitriolic attacks experienced by many members of our activist community – not in one situation, but in several, both online and offline. For several months I have been listening and supporting targeted individuals, helping with safety plans, reaching out to community accountability trainers in other communities for advice, and other such emotional labor. I want us to stop harming each other. Some of us are organizing and fundraising to bring a community accountability workshop to the area, details TBA. I have also been thinking about co-creating voluntary standards for how we treat one another in the movement. While I should have been sleeping but couldn’t because I love our people and was upset about harm, I drafted MY COMMITMENTS to YOU. It is my hope that all of our formations-collectives-organizations in the movement will have conversations and develop commitments as to how we treat each other. These will not all look the same. I hope that some of the language below catalyzes these important dialogues. We cannot succeed in building a just world if we are not reflecting those same values within our activist communities. 

I commit to treating others as fully human…

Because no one is disposable; because suicide is real; because our people have been through enough trauma; because even if we imagine what we believe or hear is the whole Truth, it can only be a partial truth; because all of us are human; because all of us are valuable; because all of us make mistakes and cause harm; because it’s easier to tear down than to build up; because the real “enemy” is white supremacist patriarchal capitalism, not one another; because relationships are not “zero sum” – for one person to be right, valuable, justified does not mean the other is wrong, invaluable, unjustified; because there is room for differences of identity, tactics, and beliefs; because the distance between humans in the online space engenders more vitriol and less understanding; because black and brown lives matter; because fear of being shut down silences voices we need to hear; because leading with love is revolutionary…

  • I will not participate in or condone bullying of any human being, online or offline. Specifically, I will not spread rumors, expose secrets, threaten, dehumanize, or recruit others to dislike specific individuals.
  • I will practice “both/and” thinking. No one knows everything or has the whole truth.  Together we know a lot.
  • I will practice self-focus language, using “I statements” rather than imagining that I speak for others or have access to some universal truth.
  • I will be aware of both my intent and impact. When someone tells me I am causing harm to them or others, I will listen, seek to understand, and take responsibility for changing my behavior when appropriate. I will apologize sincerely.
  • I will defer to “calling in”, not “calling out.” When someone behaves in a way that challenges my values, my first response will be to invite them into awareness rather than dismissing, shaming, or shunning them. I will ask someone to support me with this if I can’t/choose not to do it myself.
  • I will practice self-care. I will be patient and gentle with myself. I will take space when I need it, so I can show up fully.
  • I will ask questions before assuming. The best way to understand the choices, actions, or intentions of one another is by asking.
  • I will defer to face-to-face or voice-to-voice communication to resolve interpersonal challenges, rather than social media or mass email.
  • When others are in pain, I will show up for them and support them, to the extent that I am able.
  • I will not imagine that I have a monopoly on pain or that my suffering takes precedence over the suffering of others in my community.
  • I will not perpetrate violence against others – whether physical, sexual, emotional, psychological, spiritual, cultural, or verbal. I will not seek to harm other humans.
  • I will respect people’s emotional boundaries by obtaining explicit verbal consent before discussing personal or potentially triggering topics with them.
  • I will respect people’s physical boundaries by obtaining explicit verbal consent before touching them.
  • I will ask for help when I need it, not assume that others know what support I need.
  • I will be aware of my prejudices and my privilege and make space for others to be heard in the community.
  • I will take a deep breath before I speak or act, asking myself, “What do I seek to accomplish?” and “Will this action alleviate or cause harm?” I will be patient and present in my decision-making. .

“We must love and protect one another. We have nothing to lose but our chains.” ~Assata Shakur

 

Love Notes #2: Resistance Strategy and Sign Ups

Love Notes #2, January 24, 2017

By Leah Penniman

Resistance Strategies, New Farm Manager, Job Opening, Sign Ups for Everything, Winter Training, and “Love Will Triumph”

To be a revolutionary is to be rooted in uncompromising love of our people and love of the earth. I personally do not ascribe to the doctrine that we earn our “radical badge” by tearing down the work and personhood of others who may have different tactics or perspectives. I long for a movement community that can engage in rigorous critical dialogue that upholds the humanity and dignity of all who strive for justice. I am grateful for the “reformers” who work on the inside to change policies and create programs – in fact our diversion program for court-targeted youth is possible because of one such lawyer. I am grateful for those who put their bodies on the line, enduring hoses and tear gas to stop pipelines and bulldozers. I am grateful for the visionaries building just alternative institutions – from cooperative businesses to language justice collectives. I am grateful for the voices that speak out with harshness and anger, shaking the community from its complacency. I am grateful for the sometimes fumbling, well-intentioned words and actions of “allies” and their courage to change. All of us are necessary. None of us are disposable. Ase.

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Check out Climbing Poetree’s newest video “Love Will Triumph” starring our youngest Soul Fire Farmer, Emet! Thank you to Naima Penniman and Alixa Garcia for uplifting #solutionaries.

In this time with the Empire is emboldened, our resistance is imperative. It’s unlikely that we will be able to get any favorable federal legislation passed during this takeover, so we need to fortify the grassroots. It’s time to organize at the municipal and state level for sanctuary for immigrants, funding for social programs, and the dismantling of the prison-industrial complex. It’s time to organize folks with privilege to systematically and strategically redistribute wealth to frontlines communities. It’s time to put our backs and sweat into our community organizations – the food justice farms, local schools, health clinics, advocacy collectives, and other formations building alternatives to white supremacist capitalism. And it’s time for direct action – demonstrations, civil disobedience, and tactics of the ungovernable. A multi-pronged strategy is necessary, so let’s each find the intersection of our passion and what the world needs.

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It was powerful to be part of the largest demonstration in the memory of veteran Albany activists, as close to 10,000 people gathered to resist the xenophobic, sexist, racist agenda of the empire.

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Winter is rich with opportunities for community organizing and activist training. In the past couple of weeks we have been blessed to offer equity and justice training for Edible Schoolyard NYC, a “Social Justice on the Farm and in The Classroom” workshop for education students at Goddard College, and food justice and nutrition training at Globesity in Albany’s North End.

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Our farm team is almost complete! We are so excited to welcome Larisa Jacobson as our new Farm Manager. She is already hard at work on the crop plan and seed calendar for the season. Larisa has deep community organizing, international solidarity, and farming experience and “holds reverence for the healing power of art, music, and food and for lifting up the stories and agency of those at the margins and the in-between spaces.” You can see full bios for our squad here.

 

GET INVOLVED IN 2017!

  • Soul Fire Farm is hiring a Farm and Food Justice Educator for the summer. Apply now.

  • Applications are open for Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion, including the “train the trainer” track.

  • Let us feed you! Register now for the 2017 Ujaama Farm Share, 20 weeks of fresh veggies delivered to your doorstep in the food apartheid areas of Albany and Troy.

  • Volunteer! We welcome volunteers at our monthly community farm days. We also have opportunities for remote volunteering – research, writing, and speaking.

  • Registration is open for our summer youth food justice empowerment program. Please sign up.

 

Stay strong family. We got this.

 

Leah and crew

LOVE NOTES #1, Jan 2017: Haiti Rises

Dear Community,
 
Happy New Year! We pray that you are staying connected to your heart and rooted in the strength of our movement, even as the forces of destruction are emboldened. We are just back from powerful healing and solidarity work with the farming community of Komye, Haiti and hope you enjoy this image-rich report back.
 
We also want to let you know that sign-up are OPEN for 2017 Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion. This year we have three mixed level sessions and one session for experienced growers and alumni. Registration is also open for our Youth Food Justice Empowerment Program and for our monthly Community Farm Days. You can check out our 2017 calendar for more details. Sign ups for other programs will be rolling out in the next couple of months. 
 
We are looking to add one more person to our 2017 summer squad and are in the hiring process for a Farm and Food Justice Educator. Please consider applying. 
 
We’re so excited to continue to build with you, strengthen our skills and resolve as land-based activists, and make our ancestors proud.
 
In love and struggle,
 
Leah and crew
 
 
Between Dec 23 and January 3, Ayiti Resurrect united the hearts and hands of hundreds of people from Haiti and the African Diaspora to support community resilience in Komye in the aftermath Hurricane Matthew. This was our 7th delegation dedicated to transforming trauma through collective healing through initiatives focused on arts, education, health, agriculture, the environment, and women’s self-determination. Check out the photos and report back below, for a window into the journey that changed us all!
We worked with our Komye family to offer freedom school workshops, activities for children, and a 2-day health clinic. 
 
A devoted team of 3 nurses and 2 traditional medicine practitioners offered free healing services to community members, from emergency care to massage…
 
…and over 60 people got acupuncture treatments!
 
 
Simultaneously hundreds of community members turned out to learn with and from one another.
 
Workshops included stone bone carving, traditional and contemporary games, health and sanitation, 
 
 
…herbal medicine, drum and dance, song, composting, home gardening, soil conservation….
 
…meditation, movement, yoga, partner acrobatics,…
 
…soccer and Haitian history.
 
We worked side by side with the families of Madame Antoinette and Madame Anise to repair three homes that were damaged in Hurricane Matthew.
 
 
These homes had severe rot and damage to the fragile wooden frames, tarps for walls, and compromised roofing panels.
 
We shored up the framing with fresh timbers, replaced tarps with tin and plywood, and installed new roofing. 
 
Both homeowners chose pink as their preferred paint color, so we swallowed our aesthetic preferences in deference to their leadership 😉 
 
The homes we repaired were on steep mountain slopes and carrying the plywood and materials uphill in the heat was real! Thankfully, the only on site injury was a small cut on Jalal’s toe, which Madame Anise promptly treated with fresh lime juice.  
 

We sent significant funds down to Komye in advance of the delegation that were used to repair 6 additional homes and distribute hundreds of water filters. We also left behind enough funds to repair 4-6 more homes in the coming weeks, and started a tool library with over $1000 worth of high-capacity battery-powered tools and fasteners most applicable to Komye’s context to support residents in future repairs.

It was beautiful to witness leadership emerge and mature in Komye over the seven years of Ayiti Resurrect. In the early years, community members deferred heavily to the ideas and guidance of those of us in the Diaspora. This time, most of the Komye teams had organized clear proposals for how they wanted to advance healing and sovereignty in their community. Thanks to the outpouring of support from so many of YOU we were able to resource ALL of the groups’ proposals!
 
The women’s empowerment group distributed scholarships to 50 of the most vulnerable children in Komye so they could attend primary school. After the hurricane, many women lost their garden crops, which they relied upon for income to pay school fees. This scholarship relief will carry families over until the next harvest.
 
 
The artist group purchased solar panels to electrify their workshop and increase overall productivity. In an effort to expand markets, some of the artists have acquired a small building on the road to Jacmel which they are retrofitting as a storefront for their finished artwork. The artists explained that economic sovereignty is key to resiliency in the face of unnatural disaster.
 
 
The education group distributed scholarships to 25 young adults in Komye who are attending technical college and university. They also purchased equipment and hired teachers to offer night classes in culinary arts, plumbing, and sewing. The group noted that many talented young adults leave Komye to pursue higher education and their efforts are aimed to retain these bright minds in the rural areas.
 
The health group purchased supplies and hired nurses and a doctor to run a clinic in Komye 2 days per week. Currently, there are no consistent medical services available in Komye and residents suffer from infection, diarrhea, rashes, and many other ailments exacerbated by the hurricane. The clinic integrates traditional herbal medicine with Western medicine, uplifting the value of both modalities of healing. The health group will also be offering weekly classes in traditional plant-based medicine and disease prevention.
 
The agriculture group established the first ever irrigation system in Komye! They purchased a gas-powered pump to draw water from the river and spent several days ditching and trenching the land to develop a canal system to deliver water to over 20 farmers’ plots. For those that can’t be reached by the canal, the pump will be lent out on a rotating basis. The group is promoting a legume intercropping system in these newly irrigated lands to fix nitrogen and repair soils severely eroded by the hurricane.
On the final day of the delegation we curated a culminating celebration of Haitian freedom and entered into powerful ritual space with our chosen family. 
 
A local theater group re-enacted Haitian history from the creation story, through the Haitian Revolution, to present day examples of love and resiliency. 
 
 
We then carried a log that was felled in Hurricane Matthew to the center of the ritual space and braided it with fabric through a dance representing unity called “Trese Ribòn.” 
 
The children wrote their prayers for the future of Haiti onto colorful ribbons.
 
Children and adults danced and sang “Ayibobo!” as we wove their testaments of hope around the log. 
 
As the sun waned, we carried the log to the water well that Ayiti Resurrect installed this past June.
 
 
Houngan Onelieu led a beautiful traditional ceremony to bless the prayers of the children, offerings song, dance, food, and drink to the Spirits. 
 
 
We then planted the log deep into the ground at the center of the veve as complete darkness enveloped the sky. It was a perfect testament to our resiliency – bending but never breaking.
We are moved to tears & laughter by all the forces that came together to make this heart-work possible.
 

those born of the 2010 earthquake who called us together, & all the spirits the walk with and guide us.

 
Our all-star team of builders, farmers, musicians, acro-yogis, healers, nurses, musicians, meditation practitioners, teachers, and athletes who share a deep love and commitment to Haiti!
 
Top Row: Naima Penniman, Emet Vitale-Penniman, Natasha Camille, Jalal Sabur, Natalie Sablon, Leah Penniman, Enroue Halfkenny, Melissa Day, Richardson Loussaint
Bottom: Anais Maviel, Dominique Bouillon, Jean-Jacques Gabriel, Neshima Vitale-Penniman, Jonah Vitale-Wolff
 
Core collective members: Angelique Nixon, Beatrice Anderson, Leah Penniman, & Naima Penniman
 
Our incredible community leaders in Komye!
 
Dimmy Sanon, Danielle Marie Beaurais, Emmanuel Philip Joseph, Yadlie Dubois, Ruth Cajuste, Ben Maxi, Bos Nene, Jocelyn Michael Aristil, Hyacinth Laratte, Jean Marie Etavie, Wislerson Pierre Louis, Jean Moliere, Franz Laratte, Anax, Luckner Pierre Louis, Clermont Lamy, Vixon, Larcol, Yvelia, Rebecca, Elizabeth, Milouse Sanon, Supris Margot, Yveline Gilbert, Guypson Sanon, Monique  Pierre, Jean Janise, Mercilia Lapoint, Simone Lambert, Berlin Latouche, Onelien Yva, Darline, and our community partners Magepa, Green Haiti, Assocation Planteur Mango de Komye Leogane!
 
Thank you to everyone who donated money, medical supplies, seeds, tools, sent prayers, and continues to hold Haiti in a vision of healing and dignity. 
AYITI RESURRECT | Website | Email
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AYITI RESURRECT, Haiti, Brooklyn, Trinidad, Worldwide

LOVE NOTES #23 – new squad forming, vulnerability, and stats

LOVE NOTES #23

December 11, 2016

By Leah Penniman

 

We have a new email address love@soulfirefarm.org. Please update your contacts.

 

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Watch out world! Our 2017 farmer-activist crew is already on fire. We are so honored and blessed to be welcoming Jas Wade and Keidra Gordon to the family. Jas is a Los Angeles-born community organizer, earth medicine practitioner, and beloved graduate of Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion and CASFS Santa Cruz. Keidra is a Georgia-born environmental engineering graduate who just completed an apprenticeship at Amber Waves Farm and brings a sharp business sense, passion for regenerative farming, and positive, honest energy. Stay tuned for our next Love Notes to find out the 3rd farmer who will be helping manage the operations next season. Please join us in wishing them joy, success, and meaning at Soul Fire.

 

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With the exception of Black and Latinx Farmers Immersion, I don’t often cry while facilitating. The Ending Racism: A Toolkit for the Spiritual Activist training at Deeper Change Forum, New Haven was the notable exception. As soon as Naima and I started telling stories of being 6-7 years old and loving Mama Earth so passionately that we collected and returned cans for funds to buy stamps to write letters to everyone in town with earth-saving tips… heart opened. What a powerful day. We depicted facts about structural racism with our bodies, so that we could feel, not just intellectualize the oppression of white supremacy. We wrote collective poetry on our vision for a society where black lives matter. We each drafted an action plan for leveraging our power to end racism, and implemented one small action right there in the space with witnesses. We were surrounded by STITCHED, a tapestry of thousands of human stories that was literally soaked with the smoke of the sacred fire at Standing Rock. Facilitating with my heart-womb-soul sister Naima Penniman was everything! Our connection is deep and authentic, and allowed me to align my internal universe with what I presented on the outside. It felt risky, vulnerable, and perfect. (Photo credit: Tom Ficklin)

 

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These are some of the faces of the love warriors who dedicate time and resources behind the scenes to make Soul Fire Farm happen. It’s been less than a year that we’ve been “officially” a nonprofit with a tiny staff and still depend on our volunteer family for writing thank you notes, evaluating programs, navigating social media, researching the facts that inform our curriculum, raising funds, and straight up caring for the land. We had a gratitude lunch for our unsung heroes, shared soup and salad from our harvest, exchanged stories of why we do the work, and played some of our favorite community-building games. There was chocolate mousse cake too, because we believe in kale, but not kale all the time.

 

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This year was pretty off the chains. We built a barn/apartment, contributed to two books, worked with almost 5000 people, figured out how to do this “official organization” dance, and stayed mostly connected to our hearts. For a summary of our work, check out this report. Our board is working to develop our 2017 goals, which will increase our emphasis on healing justice, regional organizing, and farmer training. We will also be setting upper limits to what we do for the first time, and trying to take at least 1 day off per week. Please help us be accountable to our compassion and care for self.

 
 

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Winter involves a lot of talking. The land is happy to rest and have a bit less of our attention – so we are able to focus outward and engage in important conversations about racial justice in the food system. We recently presented at the Young Farmers Conference at Stone Barns and at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. It’s inspiring to witness the courage of those who invite us to facilitate, understanding that many of these institutions are wary of naming oppression. Breaking the silence is the first step. (YFC Photo credit: Ben Hider)

 

***

 

It’s likely that our next LOVE NOTES will have report backs from our solidarity delegation to Haiti and maybe even a program calendar for 2017. Thank you for being with us on this journey. The work is challenging and we could not do it without your prayers and affirmations.

 

Love and blessings,

 

Leah and Crew

Love Notes #22 – snow, ancestors, and survival

SOUL FIRE LOVE NOTES #22

November 22, 2016

Leah Penniman

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Our ancestors and elders never gave up on us, and we are not giving up on our children. Our great great grandmothers braided okra and rice seed into their hair before boarding transatlantic slave ships, believing in a future of planting and harvesting in the face of brutality most of us cannot fathom. Now is the time to hold fast to our seeds of hope, to renew our commitment to Assata’s call, “we must love and protect each other,” and to lean upon our Ancestors and the Earth to give us strength to persevere.

 

Winter is upon us at the farm. We are buried under two feet of snow and Nature is in charge. Much of our attention is turned toward physical infrastructure projects, grassroots organizing and movement building, public speaking, and putting together our farmer-activist team for next year. We have created an annotated photo update for you of the last couple weeks, so that you can be witness to some of the seeds of hope and resistance we are working so hard to cultivate. Announcements at the bottom.

 

This week we honor the festival of Manje Yam (Eating of Yams), a Haitian harvest ritual where we give thanks for the land and the good food she yields, and where we spiritually travel back to Ginen (land of the ancestors) for renewed strength. Ayibobo. Ase.

 

FARM AND FOOD JUSTICE UPDATES

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The Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference, Harlem, was like a family reunion for us. We spent our time in strategy sessions with the National Black Food and Justice Alliance, offering a workshop on the Freedom Food Alliance – ending mass incarceration and advancing food justice, and moderating the keynote panel for our brilliant elders, Mama Savi Horne, Dr. Walter Hill, and Dr. Owusu Bandele. It was so amazing getting to hear them speak, that sometimes I forgot I was supposed to be moderating.

 

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Our community farm days this fall have been incredible, with over 60 people attending each day despite the chilly weather. This crew of young folks came all the way from Jersey, departing at 5 AM so they could give the soil some love (in the form of leaves, limestone, and rock dust). All of the harvest from this day went to Karen refugee families in Albany. We remember when we started in 2011 and our volunteer days were just us, our parents, and a couple close friends. So abundant!

 

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Not sure how it happened, but people seem to want to hear us talk! We recently visited Yale University and SUNY Oneonta, with RPI, Deeper Change Forum, and Young Farmers Conference coming up soon. It’s a fun challenge to get across the dense factual context of racism in the food system, while providing seeds of hope and opportunities to connect to our hearts. Many people who get involved with our training and farm share programs first meet us through these talks and workshops. We keep a list of upcoming events here.

 

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On Saturday, it was 60 degrees and sunny when welcomed community to the land for an ancestor healing ceremony with Enroue ‘Awo Onigbonna’ Halfkenny. He led us in making offerings to our ancestors and asking them for support with the healing needed in our lives. We sat in witness to one anothers’ prayers as the sun set, the stars emerged, and the temperature dropped. By morning, the season changed. Many of us were snowed in and “forced” to dance and eat pumpkin soup together in between hours of shoveling.

 

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What do farmers do after the deliveries stop? So much! Probably the most time consuming opportunity of the past several weeks has been conducting interviews for our farm manager and farm crew next year. We are close to making those decisions. Next we need to hire a food justice educator and office manager, applications will be posted soon here. We also get to improve our infrastructure. We have been starting seedlings in our living room for years and they don’t fit anymore, so this hoop house is getting double plastic and a heater for the baby plants. There’s an endless list of things to fix – insulation on the shop, a new well pump, etc. Winter is the container for planning and readying.

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The other big project that we are honored to undertake is solidarity rebuilding with farmers in Komye, Haiti. Hurricane Matthew destroyed almost all of the farms and many homes in this town, where we have been working since the 2010 earthquake. Our delegation of mostly Haitian and African diasporic healers, artists, and farmers are returning to Haiti next month to lend our hands and hearts to the restoration of space and spirit.

 

ANNOUNCEMENTS

 
  • Naima and Alixa of Climbing PoeTree just released this incredible new music video, We Survived. It brings me to tears!

  • Winter is a great time to read up on food justice issues. Check out these zines by our friend Beatriz Beckford on what United Farm Workers and SNCC can teach us about our movement.

  • Want to be volunteer with Soul Fire Farm this winter? Our biggest needs are video editing, in-kind donation management, and tabling at Capital District community events. You can apply here.

  • Consider sharing your resources with Soul Fire Farm by making a donation or in-kind gift and encouraging others to do the same. We are trying to raise our 2017 funds before spring so that we can focus on the farm and programs after the thaw. Doing both at the same time in 2016 was super stressful – no need for that. Thank you!

  • In these times, we are increasing our commitment to work in solidarity with farmworkers, immigrants, and refugees. A first step is listening to what is needed. Rural and Migrant Ministries is putting on a conference highlighting the voices of rural women of color and we hope other can attend and support.

  • We also want to encourage our community to support the AfroColumbian women who are defending their land from mining companies, and the Standing Rock Sioux and other tribal nations who are defending their water from oil companies.

  • You can support our delegation to Haiti by donating money or supplies. We need to bring down construction tools, seeds (zone 8), and first aid supplies. Let us know what you can gather.

Love Notes #21, November 2, 2016

Love Notes #21, November 2, 2016

By:  Hannah Slipakoff

 

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Throwback to Chicken Transitioning during BLFI 3. Our amazing alum, Sammi Gay, shared some photos this week and we can’t resist passing on the images of beauty and joy that truly capture Soul Fire Farm! (Photo: Sammi Gay)

 
  1. Contents of Share
  2. Announcements
  3. Farm and Food Justice News
  4. Recipes
 

CONTENTS OF BONUS SHARE

  • Lacinato Kale – 1 bunch
  • Salad Mix- approx 1 lb.
  • Purple Cabbage- 1 head
  • Bok Choy- 1 head
  • Chinese Cabbage- 1 head
  • Cilantro- 1 bunch
  • Garlic – 6 heads
  • Onions- 4 to 5 fruits
  • Leeks- 1 to 2 fruits
  • Sweet Potatoes- several roots
  • Butternut Squash- 1 fruit
  • Daikon Radish- 1 bunch
  • Green tomatoes- 4-8. See recipes below!
  • Optional: 1 dozen eggs
  • Optional: Spicy Fenugreek, Green and French Lentil Sprouts
 

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Drumroll.. PEAS! Soul Fire is hiring! You know you wanna join this crew! (Photo: Jonah Vitale-Wolff)

 

JOB OPENINGS FOR SOUL FIRE FARMERS: We are hiring a 2017 farmer and farm manager to run our 1.5 acre vegetable and fruit operation, 3-acre pasture, 80-100 family farm share CSA program, and ~200 chickens for meat and eggs. Soul Fire Farm is an educational and organizing farm and as such, the farmers support youth and adult learners in farming tasks during certain programs. Farming experience is required. Please spread the word!!! Priority deadline October 25.

ADDITIONAL ANNOUNCEMENTS

FINAL 2016 COMMUNITY DAY. 8-1 Work and learn together. 1-2:30 Potluck lunch. November 12.  RSVP here.

UPCOMING EVENTS: We have many public speaking events coming up the fall, including at Yale, Black Farmers Conference, and Young Farmers Conference. We will host an on-farm ancestor healing workshop with Enroue Halfkenny on Saturday, November 19 – currently full but sign up for the waiting list if interested.

GARLIC FOR SALE: We have a beautiful hard-neck garlic for sale for eating or seed! All orders can be placed by-the-pound (a pound is roughly 1 quart) and picked up at the farm or delivered on our weekly Wednesday distribution route. This garlic will store for months, so stock up for your winter supply. Garlic also makes a great gift! Contact us if you are interested. $9 per pound. $12 for seed garlic.

RETURN YOUR BOXES AND JARS please. You can leave them where you get your delivery. If you break them down, please make sure not to tear or bend any of the tabs, or just leave the assembled box for us and we are happy to break it down.

WASH YOUR VEGGIES.  We DO NOT extensively wash veggies before delivering them to you.  We will do some washing if there is a lot of dirt on greens and we always rinse root crops.  In general, this allows the food to stay fresher longer. It also means you need to wash your veggies before consuming them. For greens: fill a bowl with cold water.  Soak greens in water for a minute.  Drain water and repeat two more times. Dirt will rinse to the bottom. Bugs should float to the top.

KEEP FOOD FRESH, EASY: Store leafy greens in a sealed plastic bag in the fridge. To revive wilted greens, dunk them in ice water and dry in salad spinner or with gentle toweling. To make it easier to use greens on the go, wash and chop them in advance and store them in a sealed plastic bag. Then you can just grab a handful to add to your eggs, smoothie, soup, or saute. Quick and easy.

 

FARM AND FOOD JUSTICE NEWS

Wow, ABUNDANCE! Welcome to November at Soul Fire Farm… while temperatures have been dancing in the low twenties in the evenings, our field is continually bursting with vegetables and our hearts are lit with the steadily warming flames of amazing movement work. We are truly blessed to be stewards of this land and co-conspirators in the effort to build a just and sustainable food system.

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Local Abundance. Last week Leah and Jonah had the honor of working with Texas-based organizer Pancho Arguelles to co-facilitate a day-long food justice training for the Hudson Valley Farm Hub.  Thanks to Caracol Interpreters Cooperative, facilitators were uphold the values of language justice by having simultaneous interpretation for the entire day.

 The Farm Hub is a local organization with amazing potential. Their work represents a broad spectrum of the current realities of United States agriculture; reinvigorating large family farms, transitioning to organic, commercial production, building  just labor practices, multi-tiered farmer training, non-profit farming, and kindling relationships between all levels of farm workers- from compañeros in the field to executive directors in the office.

 It is so imperative that we give our all to fostering unity in farming work- genuinely growing justice out of years of stolen land and labor takes persistence and commitment. We are so glad we have local partners on this journey!

 

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Comrades at Westfield State University. (Photo: Westfield State)

 

Last night, Leah participated on a panel titled “Alternatives to an Unjust Food System” at Westfield State University, near Springfield, MA. She was honored to share the space with leaders from New Lands Community Farm, Nuestras Raices, and Gardening the Community– three organizations with deep roots in Western Mass. Together they covered strategies for decolonizing food from the field to the table, building youth leadership, and land access for people of color and new immigrants.

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Holding up their duty, fighting for freedom through in-depth organizing! (Photo: BLLI participant)

 

National Abundance.  Soul Fire jumped from the local sphere to the national as Cheryl and Naima repped the farm at the Northeast Regional organizing summit of the Black Land and Liberation Initiative. Guided by the BlackOut Collective and Movement Generation, leaders from the region converged in Philadelphia for intensive visioning, strategizing and training sessions as part of the effort to launch a trans-local, Black-led land reclamation and reparations initiative. Naima shared this amazing photo with us, and the wise words of Frantz Fanon; “For a colonized people, the most essential value is first and foremost the land: the land which will bring us bread, and above all dignity.”

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(Photo: BUGS)

 

The Soul Fire family is fired up to join in community at the Black Farmers and Urban Gardeners Conference happening this weekend in Harlem, NY! Leah is honored to be moderating the keynote panel on Saturday morning and leading a workshop with dear friend and board member Jalal Sabur on Sunday. It gets even better, Climbing POETree is performing to close out the weekend. You don’t want to miss this! Register NOW

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#SoulFireSelfie! Good thing I wiped the soil off my face! (Photo: Rowe the Dog)

 

Sentimental Abundance. Last, but not least, ABUNDANCE of gratitude! This is the last week of the season for the amazing Cheryl DeSanctis and yours truly, Hannah Slipakoff. We’ve had the incredible joy of working as Farm Managers in Training here at Soul Fire for the last seven months. As winter moves in, it’s time to grow our work beyond this healing land. We could spend all day reflecting, and sharing heartfelt words about the power of this project, but we’ll use the rest of our time to transplant onions for Spring 2017 harvest! When you cut them open and cry because of their freshness, we know you’ll be thinking of us! Reach out and stay connected- you mean a lot to us!

 

Love and Nourishment for the week ahead!!

 

RECIPE – Asian Greens Stir-Fry

You probably want to hold on to this recipe for next spring!

 

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Recipe adapted from The Kitchn. (Photo: The Kitchn)

Ingredients:

8 to 12 cups chinese cabbage and bok choy, sliced in half lengthwise

2 tablespoons dry sherry or Shao Hsing rice wine

1 tablespoon chicken or vegetable broth

2 teaspoons soy sauce

3 medium cloves garlic, smashed

1 teaspoon minced jalapeño chiles, with seeds (optional)

2 tablespoons peanut or vegetable oil

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper (optional)

 

Instructions

1. Cut Up the Ingredients: It is very important that all the ingredients are cut as directed in the ingredient list. The most important key to making a good stir-fry is cutting each ingredient to a uniform size as specified above. Cut the vegetables and set them aside in a bowl. Cut the aromatics as directed and set them aside as well.

2. Make the Sauce: In a small bowl, combine the sherry (or rice wine), broth, and soy sauce.

3. Heat the Wok or pan: Turn on a stove burner, as high as it will go. Set a 14-inch wok over this high heat burner. To determine when the wok is hot enough, start flicking droplets of water from the small bowl into the pan after 30 seconds. As soon as a bead of water evaporates within 1 to 2 seconds of contact, the wok is heated and ready for stir-frying. Do not overheat the wok.

4. Pull Wok off the Heat and Add Oil: Pull the wok off the heat and add 1 tablespoon of oil.

5. Put the wok back on the heat. Add the garlic and chiles (if using), and stir them for 10 seconds or until fragrant.

6. Add the Vegetables: Push the garlic up the sides of the wok and add the greens. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir-fry for 2 minutes or until the greens begin to wilt.

7. Add the Sauce: Pour the sauce mixture around and down the sides of the pan instead of directly into the center (to prevent cooling the pan and lowering the cooking temperature). Stir-fry and toss to coat the greens.Cover and Cook for 15 Seconds

8. Uncover and Stir-Fry: Uncover and stir-fry for another 30 to 60 seconds, or until the greens are bright

Additional Notes:

• Substituting Other Vegetables: Substitute up to 4 cups of chopped firm vegetables or 8 to 12 cups of another leafy green for the lettuce or baby bok choy in this recipe.