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« Bicycle Benefits Rolls out in Kalamazoo | Main | Claiming an Antiracist Identity: Why and How? »

Becoming an Antiracist & Anti-oppressive Village

Kama Tai Mitchell

Kama Tai Mitchell

PFC Owner, board secretary


At the People’s Food Co-op, the board of directors recently updated our Ends and Sub-Ends statements – our reason for being. We added a new Sub-End that proclaims our vision that because of the Co-op “we are a thriving antiracist/anti-oppressive cooperative village.” 

This statement is a reintroduction to the word village, a concept and practice from time immemorial. Before words, before music, we stuck together for survival. It takes a village for all of us to survive in good health. We must know and support our neighbors, share our gifts with our community, buy locally, and move with integrity. 

A village is only as good as ALL of its people. Not some, ALL. If some villagers are in despair, homeless, or looking for sustenance at a liquor store in a food desert, then the village must support. There is more than enough for everybody, yet some may go without their whole lives. That is what a village is not. 

Author Malidoma Somé is a Dagara shaman from Burkina Faso, West Africa. His insight into the village mentality makes a deep statement. 

 "Ritual, community, and healing — these three are so intertwined in the indigenous world that to speak of one of them is to speak of them all. Ritual, communally designed, helps the individual remember his or her purpose, and such remembering brings healing both to the individual and the community. The community exists, in part, to safeguard the purpose of each person within it and to awaken the memory of that purpose by recognizing the unique gifts each individual brings to this world. Healing comes when the individual remembers his or her identity — the purpose chosen in the world of ancestral wisdom — and reconnects with that world of Spirit. Human beings long for connection, and our sense of usefulness derives from the feeling of connectedness. When we are connected — to our own purpose, to the community around us, and to our spiritual wisdom — we are able to live and act with authentic effectiveness. (The Healing Wisdom of Africa: Finding Life Purpose Through Nature, Ritual, and Community) " 

The idea that “human beings long for connection” is so important to me. It’s true. We all begin as a powerless infant that must be connected with an older human to survive, and that instinct never goes away; we must connect. And since the beginning of civilization, humans have connected over, through, and with food. 

Malidoma Somé says “when we are connected… we are able to live and act with authentic effectiveness.” Read that AGAIN! The People’s Food Co-op of Kalamazoo’s board of directors strives at every meeting to act with authentic effectiveness. We do this by constantly and consciously looking at, refining, and examining our Ends and Sub-Ends. We do this by living into an anti-racist philosophy and identity, and we do this by investigating our effect on our village. How can we live into our Ends and Sub-Ends without the village philosophy?

Our mission can’t stop at the doors of the Co-op, it must spill into every school, every neighborhood and household, every institution and small business. Food sovereignty is what built the very first village in mankind. Let us always remember that.

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