Since we are committed to Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation, these pages will highlight how we and our colleagues, associates and students are living out our call to justice.
These stories can inspire and encourage others,
so please share your stories with us.
At the Border
Ursuline Srs. Maria Teresa de Llano and Karen Schwane volunteered at La Frontera Migrant Shelter in Laredo, Texas:
Day after day, we meet families who are dropped off at La Frontera shelter by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement after being granted temporary asylum. This is their last stop before heading to those who will sponsor them.
From the moment they step out of the white bus until they are taken to the bus station, they are in our care. Their hearts are full of faith, hope and trust that we, the staff and volunteers, will guide them step by step through the last leg of their journey. All along the way, they have been misled, taken advantage of and, in some cases, kidnapped for ransom, but their faith and hope do not waiver. Their resilience and desire to have a better life for their children pushes them forward.
They come from as far as Venezuela, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. They are given false promises by the coyotes who tell them they will not go hungry or thirsty; they will walk only a few miles; they will get to the other side safely; that now is the time to leave their country of origin, family members, the only life they have ever known and head to El Norte. They sell the little they have and begin a long and treacherous journey of thousands of miles with faith in their God and hope in their hearts. And they do it all for their children in hopes of a better life for them, a place they can settle in peace, work very hard and get an education so they do not have to go through what they, the parents, have experienced.
For some of them, the journey began weeks, months, even years before. But it does not matter to them how long and hard it will be. The only thing that matters is that their children will no longer have to fear the gangs, drug traffickers and the daily struggle to eke out a living. They know their chances of making it to el otro lado, the other side, are slim, filled with danger, and in the end, they may be deported shortly after they arrive. None of these matter to them: Their children are worth it.
They come to our shelter, trusting in the goodness of others to guide them through this final leg of the journey. They trust us with their lives and, most importantly, with the lives of their children. They trust us to give them water, food, a place to shower, clean clothes for the journey, and needed supplies such as snacks, water, diapers, wipes and formula for the little ones. They trust that we will help them and accompany them every step of the way as they contact their sponsor family. They trust us. And we, for our part, do everything we can because we hold that trust sacred.
The chance of meeting them again in this lifetime is very slim, but we know we have done our best to get them to their destination.
LCWR (Leadership Conference of Women Religious) challenged us all to take a deeper look at racism and take action. Here is an example of something happening and some Ursuline Sisters participating in the action:
WHAT SOUL FIRE FARM ACCOMPLISHES
Soul Fire Farm works to end racism in the food system by these strategies:
End inequity in access to land, sustenance, and power in the food system. The food system is built upon land theft and genocide of indigenous people and the exploitation of Black and Brown labor. Black farmers currently operate less than 1% of the nation’s farms, having lost over 12 million acres to discrimination, racist violence, and legal trickery. 85% of the people working the land in the US are Latinx migrant workers, yet only 2.5% of farms are owned and operated by Latinxs. People of color are disproportionately likely to live under food apartheid and suffer from diabetes, heart disease, and other diet related illness. Labor laws continue to permit the exploitation of farm and food workers.
Reverse industrial agriculture’s damage to the planet and harm to vulnerable communities. Industrial agriculture is responsible for 24% of climate change, 70% of water use, and 37% of land use. Environmental impacts of climate change, pesticide exposure, et. al. harm communities of color disproportionately. Sustainable farming practices rooted in African-Indigenous wisdom are part of the solution to feeding the world without undermining its ecology.
Heal from a history of oppression that has disconnected our communities from land. A history of land-based oppression and forced migration have resulted in a concentration of people of color in urban environments, often devoid of the psycho-spiritual and somatic benefits of connection to the earth. “Nature deficit disorder” can lead to ADHD, anxiety, depression, poor eyesight, and lower achievement in school. Lack of access to quality food and outdoor play is putting youth at higher risk for early onset diabetes and learning challenges, and later in life, heart disease, sleep apnea, psychological challenges, stroke, and cancer.
Feed people and soil – survival programs. We provide weekly doorstep deliveries of in-season, farm fresh, certified naturally-grown vegetables, herbs, eggs, and poultry to hundreds of individuals living under food apartheid and targeted by state violence. We provide this produce at subsidized rates and accept SNAP so that no one is denied access to life-giving food due to their economic status. This food is intensively cultivated on 5 acres using exclusively organic and ancestral practices that increase topsoil depth, sequester carbon, and increase soil biodiversity. The buildings on the farm are hand-constructed, using local wood, adobe, straw bales, solar heat, and reclaimed materials.
Train Farmer-Activists – “skill up” programs. Through our BIPOC FIRE (Black-Indigenous-People of Color Farming in Relationship with Earth) we annually train over 100 adults to take leadership as farmers and food justice organizers in their communities and 300+ youth to heal their relationship with earth and imagine new futures. Using land as a tool to heal from racial trauma, we work to reverse the dangerously low percentage of farms being owned and operated by people of color and increase the leadership of people of color in the food justice movement. Our graduates receive ongoing mentorship to access resources, land, and training and are invited to join our speakers collective so they can amplify their voice in the food system.
Build the movement – systemic change. We collaborate with regional and national food justice networks to advance reparations, establish action platforms, and work on campaigns to shift unjust systemic practices. Each year, we inspire thousands of community members though speaking at conferences, publishing articles/book chapters, and facilitating workshops for activists to share tangible methods for dismantling racism in the food system and increasing community food sovereignty. We also host on-farm educational and community-building events for hundreds of participants and organize with our sibling farms in Haiti and Puerto Rico.
Soul Fire Farm, The First Organization in our Reparations Effort
On Saturday, November 9th, Jeannie Humphries drove May Sullivan, Jackie DaSilva and Alrie Giordano up to Soul Fire Farm in Grafton, New York. Founded in 2011, this farm seeks to end racism in the food system and reclaim ancestral connections to the land. We were greeted warmly and invited to help a group in the barn, cleaning garlic that had been harvested.
When the lunch bell rang, we all gathered in the house to share a huge feast of food that had been brought by the participants. We met people who had come from as far as California, from the Troy area and from New York. A teacher from the Emma Willard School for girls in Troy brought a van full of his students.
When we gathered in the house, we were greeted by a young woman who welcomed us and spoke about giving thanks before we ate the food taken from the earth. She invited all to say one thing that they were grateful for and asked the whole group to repeat what was said. The feast was plentiful and replete with wonderful aromas and tastes.
One of the co-founders, Jonah Penneman, led a short tour of the farm helping us to see that the house that had been built by the community used local wood and ecologically sound methods in its construction. On the south side there were huge windows to catch the warmth of the sun, and the garden by this side was for medicinal plants.
The plants on the side of a slight hill were arranged to stop soil erosion and use the water flow efficiently. There was a huge garden containing a mix of plants, some meant to attract pollinators and some to deter rodents. There were also a variety of various fruit and nut bearing trees.
Jonah spoke of the community’s relation to the Mohican Indians who had been removed from this land. They had offered to give the Mohicans a part of the land but what they wanted was to be able to use the land for Native American gatherings and ceremonies.
The community at Soul Fire Farm helps people of color learn ancestral methods of farming. They provide food to over 100 families in the Troy and Albany regions, delivering it each week. They also work to advocate for people of color with great sensitivity to gender respect.
Let’s join together, making whatever sacrifices we can in order to send Soul Fire Farm a contribution for their amazing effort to restore health and opportunity to people of color in the Albany/Troy area.