Cooking Up Racial Justice is a summer program for youth ages 8-12 that explores concepts of identity, solidarity, and cooperation through cooking, gardening and art. It takes place at C2C’s community garden on East Bakerview Road and at First Christian Church. Kelly Shilhanek, the program's coordinator, offers the following on the program's background and current direction.
I grew up in Bellingham, and never realized the work of C2C existed (or was needed, for that matter) until 2011, when I learned about the Las Margaritas women’s cooking cooperative, which inspired me to connect with C2C. I was lucky enough to intern for two summers, in which I worked with the youth cooperative and Raices Culturales at their former garden site on Loomis Trail. This experience, and others, reshaped my life and led me to anti-racist organizing, cooking and gardening-themed youth work in Seattle Public Schools, and reimagining my relationship to money and organizing towards wealth redistribution and racial and economic justice with Resource Generation in Seattle. I moved back to Bellingham at the end of March after several months of travel, and sought to reconnect with folks in the movement in Bellingham, including C2C. I feel so grateful for the opportunity to coordinate this amazing project!
Cooking Up Racial Justice is the summer program of Raices Culturales, C2C’s historic youth program that originally began as a safe space for children whose families were impacted by immigration raids in 2006 and 2009, at Northwest Healthcare Linen, an industrial laundry business in Bellingham, and Yamato Motors. Raices Culturales (cultural roots, in English) served Latinx youth, predominantly from immigrant farmworker families and other low income working class backgrounds; it became a critical space to explore their identity and build community as Latinos and/or as undocumented youth, as well as participate in fun activities and field trips in the area. After a four-year hiatus due to C2C’s support of the farmworker-led strike and boycott of Sakuma Brothers Berry Farm and organization of the farmworker union Familias Unidas por la Justicia, Raices Culturales is back, with the launch of our summer program Cooking Up Racial Justice (Cocinando con Justicia Racial).
Cooking up Racial Justice centers the experiences and the participation of youth from farmworker families but is open to young people from communities of color and low-income backgrounds in Whatcom and Skagit County. Cooking and gardening are used as vehicles to explore campesino agro-ecological knowledge and connect with cultural foods, and as opportunities for the group to practice upholding community agreements and cooperative decision-making. The broader, long term goals are for youth to understand their relationship with each other and with the land as a relationship rooted in care and dignity and in which farm work and the labor of producing food is valued and important!
An important component of Cooking Up Racial Justice is the leadership of the Food Justice Fellows, a group of young women from different high schools in Whatcom County that mentor the 14 participants and assist with the coordination of the project. Many were part of the C2C community as youth and are now sharing their knowledge and experience with the younger participants in the program. Additionally, several past participants of Raices Culturales have recently returned to C2C and are now working as promotoras (community health educators) in the farmworker community.
We have met twice as a group, and in that short two week span the youth of Cooking Up Racial Justice have collectively drafted and agreed to a set a of community agreements, which includes tenets such as: include others, respect the youth, and treat others with kindness. These tenets reflect C2C's vision that society should arrange its relationships so that everyone has equitable access to the fundamental democratic processes affecting their everyday lives and are antithetical to the many injustices happening nationally and locally, including the separation of families and children by ICE at the southern border and the Supreme Court upholding the racist Muslim Ban, the Bellingham City Council continuing to allow ICE to profile, detain, and terrorize members of our community, and the State of WA’s Dept of Labor and Industries granting Sarbanand Farms a fine reduction, despite finding them guilty of denying their workers meals and rest breaks, which led to the death of guest worker Honesto Silva Ibarra last summer. Last week, participants used these values to create four incredible pizzas, a recipe they voted on to make, using their community agreements to guide them through the process of choosing ingredients, designing the pizza, and selecting names (which included “Basil Flower,” “Family Pizza,” and “Cheesy Pepper Pizza”) as a group. No easy task, considering all of their different taste buds and opinions, yet the result was absolutely delicious pizza, courtesy of the collective vision of 14 young chefs. (Special thanks to Rudy's Pizzeria who generously donated additional pizzas to make sure all program participants were well fed).
Cooking up Racial Justice will culminate with two events organized by the youth, one for their families and one for the community. Throughout the program, participants are encouraged to bring knowledge from their families into the learning and conversations we’re having together. The events give youth the opportunity to honor their family traditions and present new learnings.
Cooking Up Racial Justice will meet through August. If the youth want to keep gathering, Raices Culturales will continue into the academic year and beyond, with winter programming! Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to learn more, donate to support this important program or sign up your child.