WILMINGTON – Locals interested in building a more just community gathered for a farm-to-table lunch followed by a lively discussion that provided food for thought.
Featuring locally grown dishes, the lunch was part of the annual Westheimer Peace Symposium this week at Wilmington College.
The direction of the dialogue was set in part by Art Brooks who asked to say something in terms of the black community in Wilmington.
He thinks there is an invisibility for the black community here.
âWe look outside most of the time on activities. We’re always like an afterthought when there are projects, âBrooks said.
As an example, he said he tends to be late in the process of planning festivals and other events when someone brings up a need for entertainment related to the black community.
The local black community will feel more integrated into the wider community once there is proactive planning to include them in community events and projects, Brooks said. He called it a big deal.
Brooks also made a second recommendation. Local organizations can âauditâ themselves on racial lines to see if there are any disparities.
âDon’t assume because there is no noise, there is no problem,â he said.
An example of such an audit can be found with the Wilmington City School District (WCS), said Brooks, chair of the WCS diversity committee. A school audit can look at the graduation rate of young people of color, the retention rate, how many go to college or further training, who won’t go to college, who is suspended, etc.
For organizations wanting to take a look at themselves, it’s a starting point, he said, “and seeing what happens.” The question âAre we inclusive and diverse? can be requested by anything ranging from social service agencies, the business community, town hall, real estate agents, civic groups, churches and school districts, according to Brooks.
Bob Henson of Henson Family Farm LLC in the New Vienna area followed up, saying there was a real life example right there at lunch – of the four people who brought food, three are “old whites.” said Henson, including himself in this Category.
“Where’s the African-American farmer?” Where is the African-American farmer? Where do they have access to capital and land so that they can do what I have the advantage of being able to do? He asked.
Henson said that “white economic privilege is so pervasive in our culture and I am guilty of it because I am a local landowner.”
The topic of agriculture played a big part in the discussion.
Cassi DeHart Carter, who heads the local community garden project, agreed with Henson that opportunities in agriculture are limited.
She spoke to 10 farmers and “it’s almost impossible to rent a few acres of land to do what I want to do because they are monoculture and it’s written in stone.” Monoculture is a form of agriculture based on the cultivation of one type of crop at a time on a specific field.
Lucy Enge brought up the prospect of “incubator companies” in agriculture, “something I think could happen here”.
This could involve “allowing small farmers to come in, have an acre or two and really understand what it looks like and have a support structure, and then come out and keep growing.”
Brooks encouraged individuals to ask their own contacts about diversity.
âSometimes it can be uncomfortable because they don’t talk about diversity in your group. You could be the fly in the ointment that says, âHey, you know, can we do things differently or should we do things differently? Or, can we connect with another group and we can have a coalition. ‘ I’ve heard coalition talks here, âBrooks said in response to a question.
Brooks continued, âYou have the homeless situation here. You can ask the question “How does this help the homeless?” “” How do we help the homeless? Â»’How do we help Sugartree [Ministries]? ‘ âHow do we help the homeless shelter? Ask these questions because, I think if we were honest the status quo wouldn’t work for everyone. “
After this comment, the presenter of the peace symposium Amaha Sellassie who was at lunch began to snap his fingers, his way of showing his agreement.
Brooks mentioned that a few decades ago, many Hispanics, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans worked at Wilmington Air Park, “and they were probably more ignored. [by the wider community] than the black community.
âLook at your demographics. Who do we have now, who can we include that we haven’t included? “
Contact Gary Huffenberger at 937-556-5768.
The presenter of the Peace Symposium, George Lakey, displays his easy laugh.
Left at lunch are Art Brooks and Taylor Stuckert.
Cassi DeHart Carter, who leads the local community gardens project, attends the college’s Peace Symposium Luncheon Dialogue.