At the Table
At the Table
At the Table
– gospel song by Richard Smallwood
It’s time in the United States. Our senses are teased with images of feast tables laden with delectable foods, encircled by loving family. Thanksgiving. This is arguably my favorite community holiday.
My small-scale farming and community arts and spirit life has drawn me into stewardship of micro-farm Diaspora Gardens, into the Planting Connections, Planting Hope program, and into service of the Giving Garden, a new urban food access and racial justice/racial healing communal garden in Duluth, Minnesota. This is a collaboration between a historic Black Church and an African Heritage community health organization. As I write, we harvest and empty gardens before the northern winter freeze. We prepare for the nourishment of soil in the cold season. Shelves overflow with gathered seeds, herbs, ripening tomatoes, drying mushrooms, potatoes, squash. Once-bright flowers cut and brought in at frost, bow and drop dried petals.
Food everywhere! But there are tables empty of food, as well as tables filled with foods that harm. And there are those with no tables. There are tables with plenty but surrounded by humans anxiously or resolutely avoiding divisive topics—eager to push away from the table and its tensions. There are tables with exclusions. Not everyone is invited to the table.
Then there is the shimmering Hebrew scripture vision of a rich table spread for everyone (Isaiah 25:6-7). Or the stories of how my sharecropper Grandma Connies would feed anyone at her door—Black or White. Or how every Thanksgiving in my small community, tables are spread with bounty shared by a generous Ojibwe farmer. The irony of his feeding of a predominantly Euro-American community on this holiday signaling historical loss and decimation for his people is not lost upon him. He believes food and the common table will heal and repair what has been sickened and broken.
The Ancient Hebrew agrarian worldview and scriptures hand down the understanding that when the people are healed, the land is healed; when the land is healed, the people are healed. The land, sunlight, waters through the miracle of life, death, and transformation become the food on our plates, which become the strength or brokenness of our beings. The African Heritage traditions we work with are similar.
Each bite of food might point to Christianity’s sacramental communion meal or table. There we enter full-bodied into the experience that the body of God, the body of Jesus, the body of earth, the body of humanity and more-than-human creation somehow integrate into our own personal body/beings. Sacred interrelationship is reinforced in the Jewish Sabbath meal, in many Indigenous American feasts offered, in each meal gifted at times of birth, death, and tragedy.
Each bite of food might point to infinite creativity, passion, possibility, and Love’s longing in the beginning.
Each bite of food might point to ancestors’ interconnectedness with, awe of, and reverence for land, seed, air, light, water, life. It might point to ancestors’ faith in, and care for, the future (us!) enough to carry forward seed and wisdom.
Each bite of food in much of our world might point to human and more-than-human loss, genocide, theft, destruction, and unchosen sacrifice. In the U.S., Indigenous North American, African Heritage, and Immigrant and Refugee human populations most often carry these wounds … centuries after this country’s power and food system were built on enslavement and brutal removal, the generational fallout remains: the sad gap in life expectancy, health, education, wealth, and dignity of Black and Brown people … and the trauma to the soul of our entire nation.
Each bite of food might point to an industrial agriculture system. Our food industry is the largest and most indispensable (Ellen F. Davis “Scripture, Culture, and Agriculture”). Not surprisingly, with its conventional corporate methods, it is one of the largest contributors to carbon emissions, soil loss, water contamination and degradation of the nutritional value of food.
Each bite of food…
Thus each bite of food warrants thanksgiving … and awareness. Yes, words and knowledge of thanksgiving impact our cells and mood, and our spiritual stance and posture in the world (Thomas Thangaraj). But living out of this humbled awestruck stance moves our gratitude into actions of repair (Diane Butler Bass; “Gratitude”).
Allow food to heal you
Eat well, thoughtfully, slowly, reverently as often as possible. (And prepare and handle your food likewise.)
As you are able, select healthy foods that have been grown with as few chemicals as possible, that have traveled as little as possible.
A mealtime practice: Slow down, notice the aroma, set your silverware down between bites of food, savor the flavors and textures of the food in your mouth. Turn your thoughts to the history and unbelievable creative forces at play in all food. Be aware of the human dedication and work and sacrifice that dwell in most food. Imagine life moving from the food into and throughout your body. Give thanks.
Heal the disconnection from land and food
- Purchase some of your food from a farmer you see face to face.
- Take a field trip to a farm and touch the soil, listen, smell, see …
- Grow some of your own food—even a single pot of herbs.
Heal our food system
When possible purchase food which is fair trade or grown by a small farmer.
Heal our communities
- Gather people at common tables for shared meals. (Rumbidzai Masawi, Lead Gardener at the St. Mark Giving Garden declares that each time we break bread together a bond is grown.)
- Support gardens for children, especially in areas and schools that serve children of color. Children learn better, are more self-regulated, and develop healthier eating habits when connected to food gardens outdoors.
- Support gardens for elders and communities of color which have at our historical core intergenerational land-based connection. Elders live longer in better health with a garden in the backyard (Dan Buettner, ”Blue Zones”)
Heal our nation, heal injustice
Participate in and support reparative actions to reconnect communities to land and food who have been dispossessed by agricultural policies and a history of racial terror and violence. Land, funding, and healing educational programming empower us to repair land and food, and ourselves.
These actions related to each bite of food gather all of us around the visionary table of Beloved Community sung forth by Creator and prophets.
Healing Food efforts you might choose to support …
Where I live out my repair work:
- Diaspora Gardens on Madeline Island
- Planting Connection, Planting Hope Program
(DG & PCPH come together as a resource and healing food/art/spirit space for
communities of color, justice workers, and my geographic community.
Support these programs by joining my Seeds of Repair community, or with a
tax-deductible contribution to PCPH at Echoes of Peace
- The St. Mark AME Giving Garden (a communal food access, racial justice/racial healing urban garden)
Other healing food spaces of repair to support:
- SoulFire Farm programs and reparations map
- Check for Tribal farms in your area.