I frequently make poor choices related to navigation. If there’s a fifty-fifty chance of making the wrong turn, I take it. Prior to heading out from my hotel early this morning, a colleague directed me to run up Broadway to 14th Street, take a right, and I would reach the lake in a few minutes. She is wiser than me and an experienced runner. I trust her judgment. I am in Oakland, California attending the Community Food Security Coalition’s annual meeting, and I don’t know my way around the block, much less the city.
So I proceeded to exit the hotel lobby, run to the corner where I took an immediate left on 11th Street. Hmmm. A bit later I realize that not only I am not heading toward the lake, I’m not even on the right road. Only ten minutes into the run, I’m too embarassed to ask for directions. I completely disregarded my colleague’s instructions. I have no idea why I do this. This sense of something that feels like intuition often causes me to make unfortunate choices related to travel, whether on foot or in the car.
It’s a genetic problem. There are other members of my family who also experience this lack of navigational understanding. I won’t name them publicly here.
Eventually, I turned around, ran to 14th Street, circled round the Occupy camp, and made it to the lake. I got a little lost on my way around the water because the running path was partially under construction, which is confusing. But I made sure the water remained more or less on my left, and I kept a look out for landmarks that would help guide me back to the hotel five miles later. Returning to the lobby floor, warm and red-faced, I felt great.
In the elevator, I said good morning to a young woman. “Are you with the conference?” I inquired. “No, I’m occupying Oakland today”, she said pleasantly, “but there aren’t any bathrooms in the camp.” “Oh, well, have a good day”. “You, too!”
This post could explore a variety of themes related to the Occupy Movement, but I’ll just mention those that reflect much of the food justice work going on at the conference. I am meeting, listening and presenting to food organizers, planners, advocates and change-makers from across the country. Participants represented at this important meeting create farmers markets, form food policy councils, and advocate for safe and healthy food and farming jobs. They design well crafted school wellness policy for introducing nutritious food into school lunch programs. They work in communities of color and low income populations to create urban gardens, motivate change, and build local economies. They do all this and so, so much more. I am humbled and I am grateful to be a part of this movement.
The Occupy protest began 51 days ago. While the message of the Occupy movement is focused on economic justice and calls specifically for debt forgiveness, tax reforms and other special amendments to US and international finance law, the message of the food security movement shares a commitment to building strong, sustainable, healthy economies through the mechanism of food. Food is a central and powerful component of our lives. Occupiers have to eat, too. Moments after meeting and exchanging well wishes with the protester in the elevator, I regretted not engaging her in conversation. Why is she camping out? What is her motivation and what part of the message inspires her? How long will she continue to participate? Perhaps she would ask me what I am doing at a food justice conference. Perhaps she and I could have a conversation, and see where our interests and values align. Surely we may find we have differences, and I anticipate an informed dialogue between two women commited to justice in many forms.
I wish I had taken time to talk to the woman occupying Oakland this morning. Certainly we have many things to discuss. I believe that our agendas for the day were not so different.