FEATURED BLOG POSTS - WEEK 2

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AWOENAM MAUNA-WOANYA | BLACK CHURCH FOOD SECURITY NETWORK, ORITA'S CROSS FREEDOM SCHOOL- WEEK 2

New week. New challenges. New learning opportunities. New questions.

This week, instead of just working for the Black Church Food Security Network, I was given the opportunity to broaden my horizon and work also with the Orita's Cross Freedom School. I spent the majority of the week however, working with the later.

Before getting to the main story of this week's post, here is what I did for the Food Security Network. So the BCFSN is a network of churches. We organized all the churches onto a google map so that it would be easier for others to see our reach. In order to better promote the network and spread the reason for the network, I have been travelling around to all the churches part of the network and making videos of a spokesperson for that church's garden. You see, each church is a part of the narrative we're trying to tell and what better way to do that than for them to speak for themselves.

Now, back to the Freedom School. A freedom school is a school which primarily highlights and teaches African-American history to young students (aged 3-12 years). The point of this is for the next generation to not lose a sense of their background and for them to understand what their ancestors went through for them to be where they are today. Orita's Cross does not stop there however; students are taught to also look through the various persepectives of which information is presented in order for them to stand up and fight for what they believe in.

When I first heard of the freedom school, I thought "wow, what a great idea" but with some skepticism followed up with "would these 'kids' really care?"

Boy, was I wrong.

These students are straight-up so woke about their ancestry and culture. On Wednesday, we did an activity where the students answered the question "why do I love my melanin?" Here are a few of their responses: I love
-my hair
-our energy
-that I get to be a part of this community
-our heritage
-being black because black is beautiful
I was genuinely so shook and impressed with the students. They really come to learn and it is something I sorta wish I grew up with. As young as they are, they seem prepared already to face the harsh world. For them to have this opportunity to be aware of racial issues will have a lasting impact on their lives.

I spent the majority of my free time the last few days really thinking about race: what it really means to be not white in America. During our Bites session, someone brought up how their mom packed their lunch as a child to be just like American kids out of fear of being isolated for being different. While I completely understand that (in fact, I am guilty of doing the exact same), in hindsight, I am realizing that we were basically saying that "white is normal" and "white is right". This action can definitely be seen as attempting to assimilate into a culture, however this inherent fear of being different culturally has in a way contributed to systematic racism in this country. I know that's a bold statement to make and I definitely jumped a few hoops to reach this conclusion but hear me out. Think about this, the simple act of adjusting our lunches to fit the "white way" in a way not only diminishes our culture and origins, it also validates and reassures the belief that "white is right". Throughout history, people fought SO SO HARD to become a part of this nation- to be considered "white" in the eyes of the law. Let's keep going with the established idea that "white is normal." Anything that deviates from this norm is met with vary levels of curiosity, some of which leads to a positive sharing of culture or other times leads a from of ostracization. Even at my age, it is as if non-whites must act white to earn a certain level of respect. Micro-aggressive statement like "you're so nice for a black guy" or "you're so well behaved!" While I do not personally deny being genuinely nice and decorous, I find it interesting that we come to associate these perfectly normal traits to "white traits". Often times in middle school, I was isolated for being "too white for the black kids" yet I was not "white enough" for the white kids simply because of my skin. The more adult version of "not being white enough" becomes apparent in police-on-black violence.

I am beginning to wonder a few things: how does knowing our ancestry and culture really help us in today's world when it seems the only way to save your life in is to act white? In what ways does this form of education help usher in a change for a better world when even being a model citizen still doesn’t save your life? I ask these questions in wake of the verdict for Jeronimo Yanez, the man who shot Philando Castile. This honestly opened my eye and shifted my perspective. I now have so many questions and I don’t know if they can be answered.

For now though, I am signing off, hoping to continue this conversation next week.