The recently published Food Power Politics: The Food Story of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement by Bobby J. Smith II spotlights the role of food as a political weapon and tool for resistance in the context of the Civil Rights Movement.
Building upon his dissertation at Cornell University, Food Power Politics sets out to understand the importance of food in the strategies used by activists in the Civil Rights Movement, Smith tells Food Tank. He explains that when communities use food as a tool of resistance, it grants them the agency to feed themselves on their own terms. By exploring power struggles over food, the book envisions a future where these communities have autonomy in creating and sustaining a self-sufficient local food system.
The book also highlights how present-day Black youth in the Delta are continuing this fight for food justice, addressing ongoing inequalities. Smith draws connections across disciplines, linking civil rights activism to contemporary food justice movements in Black communities.
“Bobby’s Food Power Politics tells a history that has often been overlooked or perhaps intentionally swept aside to show the ways in which Black communities fought for food access in the past and links these historical connections to contemporary struggles for food justice in Black communities,” Hanna Garth, co-author of Black Food Matters: Racial Justice in the Wake of Food Justice, tells Food Tank.
Food Power Politics marks the first installment in the University of North Carolina (UNC) Press’s “Black Food Justice” series. Ashanté Reese, Associate Professor of African and African Diaspora Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, and Garth created the series to explore the intersection of Blackness and Food.
The Black Food Justice Series shows that there are so many layers to the way eaters think about food, Smith tells Food Tank. “The series marks a shift in how we think about food,” he says, “not only are we thinking about food in terms of justice and systems, but we’re also placing food at the center of Black life.”
The books published in the series are also intended to foster discussions that redefine the boundaries of “food justice,” according to Garth.
“Food justice is one of those terms that is used a lot, but what does it mean to define it through the lens of the lives of marginalized peoples—those who need justice to get food,” Smith tells Food Tank.
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