As the garden and the day to day activities begin to slow down and we tuck in for the coming winter, I am grateful for the breathing room and the ability to reflect on the abundance of Summer and Fall of this year. The people and places that I saw, including Chef Lauren Von Der Pool who blessed Awali with her presence. The meetings, reunions, events and new experiences that shaped my time. From the green beauty of upstate New York with Soul Fire Farm, to the massiveness of Mexico City, and all the spaces in between. I was able to grow and stretch in my perception and perspective of food, culture and love for this Earth based work.
Early July, I found myself At Soul Fire Farm (SFF) for the first time, as a co-facilitator in their F.I.R.E. Immersion offering. I didn't know it at the time, but this week would serve as a catalyst to a major shift in my life. What I pulled from my experience at SFF, was the importance of healing spaces within our movement. So often we are not able to get to the necessary work in our food and community movements, because we have not made space or time for the imperative, preliminary, healing work that so many, if not all of us in our communities need. In that same vein, not only healing spaces but safe spaces that hold our stories and our intentions. Something or someone(s) to observe and acknowledge who and what we are, where we have come from and where we can and are willing to go with a bit of work. We are not at a time where we can skip steps or rush through the process. However, we are also not in a space where we have a lot of time to move the tide and prepare ourselves for what is on the horizon. So many questions came up for me during this time period. Let alone my role and purpose within this work, but more than that, do we have the space and time to develop our resilience in loving, cooperative ways? Or is this a luxury we can not afford in the trenches of a movement?
Mexico brought friendship, closure, ancient beauty, luxury, history and a new perspective of the vegan movement. I’m always seeking to understand how people in other cultures and places approach veganism, the plant based lifestyle and the so called Animal Rights Movement. Mexico City was abundant with vegan restaurants, including hotel dining and room service, an amenity I have been hard pressed to find in hotels in the US. Besides, an abundance of plant based mexican food, that was honestly the best I have ever had (and that says alot, being that I am from Southern California aka Mexico; argue with me if you want), there was a different appreciation for agriculture and amongst the vegan movement a genuine alignment with the movement, engaged in compassion towards animals. It was not seemingly for commerce, or popularity, it was far less political than what we see in the States. What I saw expressed, was a real desire for allyship and love for all living things.
The beginning of Fall caught me in NY and DC respectively. In Brooklyn, I had the opportunity to attend the Sacred Herbal Protection Conference, facilitated by Karen Rose Mason, a noted herbalist. It was the perfect opportunity to not only explore all of the vegan restaurants that New York had to offer (well all that I could), but to strengthen the relationship that I, as an Awali representative and so vicariously Awali, INC’s relationship with the herbal community. It was a joy to support our elders and teachers in holistic, Earth-based health and absorb/observe the knowledge they had to offer, in real time, face to face. Washington DC, brought me back to the Animal Rights Conference, re-named and re-branded the Animal and Vegan Advocacy Summit. It was great to see familiar faces, to be amongst colleagues and friends and to see the up and coming activists of color. It was important to our goal and mission at Awali to see where the conversation is headed and even the places where it's grown stuck. Where are the spaces for renewal and innovation in the AR and Vegan Movement? How do we make shifts and valuable change/growth in how we approach the work and advocacy? How do we refresh the conversation and actually make real traction?
All in all this time period has shown me the importance of consistency and reflection. The consistency to keep moving in spite of and despite any obstacles or resistance. Reflection on the work thusfar and how we can continue to push the work forward in ways that are inclusive, restorative, efficient and effective. If not, what are we really doing it all for?