On Friday, February 10th, 2017, Herban Garden’s first installment of their three-part series, Herban SOAPbox, took place at the Sonja Haynes Center for Black Culture and History. The lively night started out with food catered by Vegan Flava Cafe and some mingling amongst various food justice groups. People also got henna art done at one of the tables. We then got down to business. By business, I mean an amazing ear and mind-opening performance from Tha Materials. The Durham-based band opened with their new song, “Layers”. Their soul-filled music sheds light on issues affecting the black community while also highlighting positivity and black culture. The main speaker of the night, Kamal Bell, built upon these themes as well.
Bell has many diverse roles he plays in his community that allow him to speak on a wide range of issues. As an entrepreneur, he faced difficulties in starting up his own farm business, from securing a loan, to being discouraged by an academic advisor. His academic advisor’s idea of farming having “no money” in its future is not uncommon. Bell strives to dismantle this stigma around agriculture, as farming is a way of self-sufficiency and ensuring the health of our future generations. He mentions how this stigma plays into the reason our current society does not raise another generation of farmers, creating a rise in urban food shortages. So he targets the future generation directly as an educator and as an activist. Bell’s small agriculture academy at Sankofa Farms is a program where urban youth learn and grow together. Not only is it an opportunity for them to gain farming and leadership skills, but it is also an opportunity to tackle systemic barriers that work against African American youth. The kids come from areas of food deserts where healthy alternatives are not widely available or affordable, but to get them to Sankofa, they are in need of a new van. A Kickstarter campaign was made to fund needed transportation and to expand their vision, which you learn more about here!
Overall, it was an amazing experience hearing Bell talk about what he does and what he sees. It truly made me more passionate about increasing food access and community involvement. If you want to join in on this event, come out on Feb. 17th at the Genome Sciences Building, G100 Auditorium, and on Feb. 24th in the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History at UNC. The event takes place from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM and is free for all!