Thank you for following and contributing to Courtney Oats, her family, and her community of social change agents in Eupora, Mississippi.  A community of 35 people across the country helped raise $1140 in the last two months to pay a lawyer and fine.  With your help, she is starting nursing school at a local college, growing winter greens with her community, and continuing to fight for justice.

A note of thanks from Courtney:

"I would like to thank you for your support and generosity.  Thank you for caring for someone who's faced racism and discrimination and trying to do something positive for their community and youth.

I think it was something great and positive to be able to tell my story and know that I'm not alone.  You heard my cry.  I'm very grateful that you were able to give out of your pocket and support young people whose lives are being suppressed.  I'm glad to come to that part of my life where I can teach younger youth how to grow food and eat well.  I will always be grateful.

It means a lot to me that I can continue to organize and work with the next generation.  For me to be able to do what I do, organizing, especially with youth, it's a gift.  I appreciate the support that you've given me.  I'm so grateful to continue working with youth and the [Real Food] fellows."

Again, we thank you.  Please continue following the stories of the Real Food Fellows and act on the Bring Healthy Back and Farm Bill campaigns.

Chat between #foodandfreedom riders Vanessa Bourgeios (V) & Hai Vo (H)

V: hi hai vo

H: hey v. so how're you feelin' after our first 1st f&fr day in bessemer/birmingham alabama?V: I am feeling energized & even more fully prepared for the days ahead. Birmingham is a really amazing city filled with passion & integrity. I'm grateful for our time here.

H: this morning, i'm bringing with me the words and wisdom of the reverend we met at kyoka's local church, hopewell baptist church. it was really cool starting off our journey being blessed by him and his congegration.
  what's one favorite moment you had yesterday?

V: That congregation was amazing. It was really great to have a positive experience in the church as, so often in our lives today Christians get a bad rap for being intolerant & ill informed about real issues. It was really great to see a church so in touch with their community's needs.

One of my favorite moments was meeting with some of the foot soldiers from the 60's civil rights movement here in Birmingham. Their encouragement to us & passion for change was really encouraging.

H: i'm also bringing with me the words of the four amazing children's crusaders that we met at the civil rights institute. my favorite was one of them sharing with us, "We started feeling the power of an idea whose time had come." gah, they were so young. 10, 11, 12 year olds. also i remember them sharing, "the civil rights movement would have ended if not for the childrens crusade." (!) makes me feel pumped about our time as young people. like i have no hesitation. bravery. courage. all with honesty and truth.
  i know! why do they get such a bad rap?

V: I know, they were all so vibrant in their own way. It was one of those "goosebump" moments. realizing we can do anything.

H: that congregation showed me, and i know a lot of us, that there are solid folks out there.
  tell me the story again about one of the young boys you met during the food tasting.
  that was dope.

V: I was just reading an article about the reputation of Christians in today's society. And, a lot of it comes from the fact that the only media coverage many Christians get is of very outrageous preachers doing not so nice things.
  Oh! yeah! So, yesterday I gave a short cooking demonstration. Mostly to high school age boys. I was teaching how to make a healthy pickled veggie mix & also a healthy snack.
  I really didn't expect them to be that engaged in a cooking lecture but they were awesome. When I closed & asked if anyone had questions one boy immediately asked "When can we taste it??"
  It was really amazing to see them not only interested but also coming back for seconds!

H: :)
  it was cool to see you be open with them.
  the group was primarily african american.
  and them to be open with you.

V: Definitely. They were great.

H: how did you feel about that?
  having the food context made me feel comfortable. like we can bring anyone to the table with food and talk about it.
  i had some interesting conversations with folks there, including the childrens crusaders, about food justice.
  they wanted to learn about it.
  one of them said, "i'm here to learn from you. what makes you work for food justice."
  it made me feel alive, liberated, surprised that some of the foot soldiers of the civil rights movement wanted to learn about me, us, and the food movement.

V: Food is such a common denominator. There isn't anyone in the world who doesn't eat
  All cultures use food as a way to socialize & come together so I feel like its an easy platform to reach others.

H: whats your hope for today?

V: To carry the energy & positivity from yesterday into today and arrive in Mississippi with a lot of hope for Courtney & her family.

H: i had a hard time initially getting to sleep last night. thinking about the needs and strength of the rest of the world. thinking about where the food justice will go. thinking about and really starting feeling like this is bigger than me. feeling nervous that i don't have the full support of my parents. they had another dream for me here - a steady job, education, marriage, etc. so far, i've been assured that making sure everyone has basic needs, staying true prevails.
  had to write a little bit.
  you fell right asleep! shoot.

V: Haha yes, yes I did. I knew I would feel better & more clear headed today if I just slept.
  I certainly understand what you are saying about the "American Dream" and the pressure you might feel from others to conform. But, I fully support that feeding people in a way that honors their body & honors those growing the food is the most important way we can take care of each other & the earth.

H: word.
  ok. gotta clean up b4 we roll to europa.
  make sure to bring your frozen ice water!

V: yes!

Day 1's Pictures | Pictures of our ride so far (via Flickr)
Twitter @liverealnoworg #foodandfreedom