by Kay Cuajunco

It’s the first day of the California leg of the Food and Freedom Ride and I feel so inspired and humbled to be on this ride with such amazing people committed to food and freedom. I also feel especially thankful for the opportunity to visit my hometown of San Diego through new eyes since becoming immersed in the movement for food justice.

I have a lot of friends and family I grew up with in San Diego who tend to associate healthy, organic food with the Bay Area -- some of them tease me, some of them still don’t quite get it, but I’m glad most of them will at least hear me out. Sometimes I say it’s as if I lead somewhat of a double life, torn between two communities, but after today, I’m beginning to see two worlds converging. San Diego is down with food justice -- there is SO much going on! 

Today we joined a food justice bike tour organized by Food and Water Watch with stops at farmers markets and community gardens around the city. My favorite site we visited was the campus garden at San Diego City College, a large well-maintained garden on a slope overlooking Downtown San Diego. In Oakland, I help coordinate the “Scraps to Soil” composting project at Laney College with Bay Localize. I think it’s so awesome that at community colleges, where most students only attend part-time and for a few years before moving on to a university, that the students truly are still building community through these spectacular gardens.

Returning to San Diego today has made me think a lot about the idea of transience. I love avocados, but when I think about planting an avocado tree in my yard, the first thought that crosses my mind is if I’ll even be living in my house long enough to enjoy the avocados. But I’ve realized that’s actually kind of selfish, isn’t it? Why not grow any and all trees for any and all to enjoy, now or years from now? The campus gardens springing up at community college campuses show us that people are transcending transience because they care about providing local, healthy food to as many people as possible.

In a lot of ways I’ve adopted the Bay Area as my home, partly because I’ve grown a lot in my time since moving there, but also because I felt really disconnected from a lot of people in San Diego. After spending the day here, I hope to rekindle the love for my roots down here and stay connected to allies working for food justice in San Diego.
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